Last week I had the honor of attending a last minute show by Syrian-American hip-hop artist Omar Offendum. In my humble opinion to call Omar Offendum just a hip-hop artist would be to take away from the richness of knowledge and talent he brings on stage. During the intimate one-hour and a half show we got lessons on Arab and Western history, culture, art, politics, poetry, and humor. But more importantly for me I got a view into the man behind the artist, what he stands for, his views on work and life, and his hopes for the Arab world. So here is what I took away.

Lesson 1. We Are All The Same

I start of with this lessons because of how obvious it is, but how often we forget it. To start the show Omar Offendum continued to reference “his people”, and when he later defined what he meant by “his people” it consisted pretty much of everyone in this world trying to make it a better place, regardless of race, religion, or background.

Imagine if we all as a people were able to completely look past our differences, and celebrate our similarities. To see that we all have the same hopes of a better life, that we all feel the same pain, that we all just want to be loved, and that we all want to live in peace and harmony.

It is important that we continue to remind each other of this lesson every time we interact with someone, maybe then we can start to build the bridges that connect us, and tear down the walls that divide us.

Lesson 2. Master Your Craft

Omar Offendum is a man on a journey of mastering his craft, the way he flipped between Arabic and English, rap and poetry, culture and politics, was as fluid as water streaming down a river. It was beautiful to see, and pretty clear after he rapped one song with words in sequence with the alphabet, from front, to back, then to front again, that he had spent hours researching, practicing, and performing to make it as near perfect as possible.

We all have many hopes and dreams of what we want to become in life, I feel the first step to achieving your dreams is getting started, and the second step is building a mentality of being a master of your craft. I feel that is the only way that you can take yourself seriously, where people start to notice you, and when you take things from just a dream to becoming a reality.

Lesson 3. Don’t Give Up On Your Passion 

Omar spent 10 years of his life as an architect, while he continued to work on his music and poetry, only recently has he dedicated himself full time to his music and tours. Dedication is probably one of the biggest factors that separate the people who are doing the things they want to do, from the ones who are doing the things they have to do.

Over the course of 10 years I am sure it could have been pretty easy for someone in Omar Offendum’s position to simply tell themselves it’s not worth it. That they have a stable job, a comfortable life style, and could spend their time doing others things.

But people who make it don’t give up, they keep going, they keep growing, and when the time is right they take the dive into doing what they love full time. He likened his position right now to “Standing on the edge of a mountain and not knowing what is going to happen next”, but at least it is a mountain he wants to stand on, an edge he is brave enough to find balance with, and a future that is he prepared to take advantage of by consistently shaping what happens next through hard work and dedication.

Lesson 4. Share The Good

Omar stated several times “The Arab world needs more good news”. Although what is going on in almost every part of the Arab world is pretty painful and heartbreaking to watch, there are little rays of hope. “Baraka Bits” an online platform that aggregates positive news from around the Arab World were present in the audience and proud.

I believe a platform like Baraka Bits play an important role in balancing what we hear on a day-to-day basis. It is only natural that if we surround ourselves with more positive content, as much as we do negative, that we can start to feel empowered to make a difference. Furthermore people then start to help empower others, rather than sit back and think that anything they do is hopeless in the face of so much pain and suffering.

So if there is good happening around you, shout it out, share it, and use it to inspire others.

Lesson 5. Help Others

Towards the end of the show Omar hosted a short Q & A with members of the audience. We all got to ask him questions on his life and his work. It was then I got the chance to ask him a question related to how he got started in music. Before answering the question he said “ By the way this is Khalid Al Ameri, a writer from the UAE, and congratulations on graduating from Stanford”.

Now sure I was blushing on the inside, but in that statement he said more about himself that he did about me. He had the mic, he had center stage, he was the star attraction, but he took time out to acknowledge others in the crowd, such as an Iraqi DJ he interacted with on social media, the Baraka Bits team which promoted positive Arab news, and the Impact Hub Dubai team that were providing a platform for social entrepreneurs in Dubai. It was truly humbling to see.

We are at a time where we all need to stand together to create the change we want to see in the Arab world, and around the globe. By helping someone shine as you are shining you bring more light to a world that feels like it constantly falling into darkness, and it takes seeing a world beyond your own to do that.

So those were the lessons I learned, and I am sure everyone that attended took away something beyond the actual performance that changed the way they think, or reminded them of a way they used to think. As Omar Offendum continues to grow as an artist I only see his influence and inspiration touching so many more lives, which is something special to watch. This is not to hype the artist and performer we are all coming to know as Omar Offendum, but to commend the man who is bringing a ray of hope to the Arab world. Much respect.

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