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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Little Amal, a Symbol of Refugee Rights, Partners with Georgetown for D.C. Performance

Georgetown’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (The Lab), hosted 12-foot Little Amal, in Washington, D.C.’s Freedom Plaza Sept. 19.

Little Amal has traveled over 6,000 miles and visited 15 countries, including Turkey, Ukraine and Poland, since August 2021. She is now touring the U.S., stopping in 40 towns and cities, with more than 100 public events, most of which feature musical performances and art showcases. 

Made of carbon fiber, cane and other light materials and designed to look like a ten-year-old Syrian refugee, Amal is the centerpiece of a performance art project, “The Walk,” which takes Amal around the world to raise human rights’ awareness for refugee children. The Lab hosted Amal in an event called “Little Shoes, Big Journey.”

A major goal of the event was to highlight the importance of refugee children’s voices around conversations on migration policy in Congress, according to Gillian Huebner, the executive director of Georgetown University’s Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues, The Lab’s partner in planning the event. 

 “Whether you’re at the United Nations, or you’re on Capitol Hill, or even if you’re at a conference at Georgetown, first of all, rarely are children discussed. And if they are discussed, it’s even more rare that they’re part of the conversation,” Huebner said. “Because children who have migrated know a lot, they really are experts, and we can serve them better when we listen to them and understand what their needs are and priorities are.”

The event included a walk from Freedom Plaza, at 14th St. NW and Pennsylvania Ave., to the Capitol, where co-director of The Lab Cynthia Schenider, multimedia artist Ifrah Mansour, artistic director of The Lab Derek Goldman, and two members of the House of Representatives — Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) — spoke to a large crowd, made up of Hoyas, children and D.C. residents.

Twelve-foot-tall puppet, Little Amal, came to Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C., Sept. 19 for an event hosted by Georgetown’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics. The event was to raise human rights’ awareness, particularly for refugee children.

Amal was a natural partner for The Lab, according to Goldman. Goldman said hosting Little Amal aligns with the overarching values and goals of the organization, which aims to humanize international politics and spark change through art and activism.

“In terms of The Lab’s mission of humanizing global politics through performance, [we were] thinking about both how to artistically shape the event for her, but also how we could create an occasion where we would invite congressional representatives and others to sort of speak to them all, which was not easy but sort of natural for us in terms of mission and relationships,” Goldman told The Hoya. 

At the “Little Shoes, Big Journey” event, Georgetown students from Black Theatre Ensemble and Department of Performing Arts, partnered with local professional musicians to form a band performing Go-Go music — a funk genre created in the District and D.C.’s official music — as Amal arrived at Freedom Plaza and walked towards the Capitol. Throughout the march, volunteers in the crowd gave out silver emergency blankets and shoes to various crowd members as part of Little Amal’s message. 

Huebner said throughout Amal’s performance, shoes represented the individual stories of children who migrated. 

“She stumbles across a shoe. And she picks it up, and she listens to it, like a shell, like a kid would listen to his shell,” Huebner said. “And then she bumps into many more shoes along the way. And she’s like, ‘Oh, my God, every one of these shoes has a story of a child who’s migrated.’”

Katherine Martinez (CAS ’25), a member of The Lab’s “Politics and Performance” class, said the positive atmosphere touched her most despite the haunting issue of migration. 

“I think that the amount of festivity around Amal was the most enjoyable,” Martinez told The Hoya. “The most important thing is not to remove the joy out of a child that is experiencing this disaster.” 

Goldman also expressed how Amal’s movement and active engagement with the crowd sparks interest in her. 

“I think it’s just moving for people, and joyous and playful. People get so excited. I mean, she’s dancing, like it’s not a heavy symbol of oppression. She’s a girl. She’s a beautiful girl in the world about a journey.”

Huebner hopes that Amal will inspire Georgetown students to enact positive impacts on the world through creative and nontraditional paths.  

“You don’t just have to sit behind a desk. You can create change in a gazillion ways. And it’s so inspiring because I see people doing that with such passion. And you can see that they’re building that passion and other people as they go. So who knows what our Georgetown students will do with our great education?”

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