He returned from the war to find most everything gone except for this one musical instrument.

When Medhat Al-Emawi returned from the war in Syria, his Gaza home had been destroyed.

As he picked through the ruins to see what could be saved, he found something surprising. A video from AJ+ tells his story.


His qanun zither — the video spells it “qannon" — had somehow survived.

Distress over the war in Syria had been keeping the Syrian-born 19-year-old from playing the zither much before he left. But now, pulling notes from the instrument struck a profound chord inside.

It wasn't something literal or even explainable, but the ancient sound and sensation of playing his zither took him out of the ruins to a stronger place.

It made him feel like maybe there was a way back.


And so he plays and plays, each note sending up a clear message from the rubble that “I'm still here — we're still here" to anyone making the mistake of thinking that war had broken, or silenced, his spirit.

Bet you're eager to hear his music.

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Davina Agudelo was born in Miami, Florida, but she grew up in Medellín, Colombia.

"I am so grateful for my upbringing in Colombia, surrounded by mountains and mango trees, and for my Colombian family," Agudelo says. "Colombia is the place where I learned what's truly essential in life." It's also where she found her passion for the arts.

While she was growing up, Colombia was going through a violent drug war, and Agudelo turned to literature, theater, singing, and creative writing as a refuge. "Journaling became a sacred practice, where I could leave on the page my dreams & longings as well as my joy and sadness," she says. "During those years, poetry came to me naturally. My grandfather was a poet and though I never met him, maybe there is a little bit of his love for poetry within me."

In 1998, when she left her home and everyone she loved and moved to California, the arts continued to be her solace and comfort. She got her bachelor's degree in theater arts before getting certified in journalism at UCLA. It was there she realized the need to create a media platform that highlighted the positive contributions of LatinX in the US.

"I know the power that storytelling and writing our own stories have and how creative writing can aid us in our own transformation."

In 2012, she started Alegría Magazine and it was a great success. Later, she refurbished a van into a mobile bookstore to celebrate Latin American and LatinX indie authors and poets, while also encouraging children's reading and writing in low-income communities across Southern California.

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