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Headshot of Rana standing in front of a white wall. They are wearing a button-up shirt and have their curly medium length hair down.

Rana Fayez

CPI brought me hope. CPI brings hope in the sense that it presents you with all the potential solutions that are available to you.


February 27, 2023


Fall 2016

Rana, former Spruce Hill resident, is, among many other things, an activist, cultural producer, software developer, DJ, writer, and Citizen Planner. They are the Founder of Yalla Punk, a community-centered organization dedicated to highlighting and supporting queer and Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) immigrant artists. 

Before joining CPI, Rana was working as a journalist and musician interested in social impact and community building. They were deeply involved in a coalition of contributors to the nightlife economy working for a safer and more equitable nightlife in Philadelphia, including writing an article about the need for a Night Mayor in Philadelphia. Rana’s work as a journalist is what motivated them to join CPI.

Post-CPI I decided to take a different approach to what community is. The idea of community to me became more of a gendered community, an ethnic community, identity-based community. My outlook on community was less bounded by geographic location and more of collective identity. Rana Fayez

Around the time Rana completed CPI and was rethinking what community meant to them, there was extreme anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arabic sentiment nationally and locally. Rana, who is from the SWANA region themselves, had experienced and witnessed xenophobia and Islamophobia personally.

“I felt like I needed to do something for the SWANA community in Philly, especially those who also come from a queer background. It felt like a cross-section that has not gotten a lot of attention. Especially because Philly is a place where a lot of immigrants are settled.”

Rana created Yalla Punk, and when thinking about a first project, they knew a music festival was needed. They saw this time of heightened Islamophobia and xenophobia as an opportunity to change the narrative about people from the SWANA region. They pulled the festival together in just a few months. It was held between Johnny Brenda’s, Crane Arts, Icebox Project Space, and The Barbary in Fishtown during the Labor Day weekend of 2017. “It was mostly a music festival, but it also turned into a multidisciplinary arts collective experience of music, art, film, and comedy. The entertainment piece is just a part of it, we have workshops, panel discussions, and talks…I want people to walk into a room and people to be laughing because I think that really disarms the idea that people of my background are violent or backwards or unfriendly.”


Image from the YallaPunk Festival 2019. A singer in loose jeans and a t-shirt and dark hair in a ponytail is standing with a microphone in focus in the center of the frame. Behind her to the left is someone is playing an electric guitar. Her hair is long and she is wearing shorts. In the back right of the frame there is a drummer in a baseball cap. There is a dark curtain behind the band and a pink glow from the stage lights.

Photo Credit: Shaina Nyman

Image from the YallaPunk Festival 2019. A singer in floor-length robes and a fez is leaning to the left with his right arm out singing passionately into a microphone in the center of the image. He is surrounded on all sides by four bandmates who are in shadow. The stage lights are creating pink highlights and blue shadows.
Image from the YallaPunk Festival 2019. The image is from the back of the stage, looking at a DJ performing from behind, with the side-stage curtain on his right, and the audience on his left. He is wearing a t-shirt and glasses, and his hair is short and dark. Next to him on a small folding table is a large amplifier/speaker with many cords tailing out from the back. There is a pink stage light creating a beam that is hitting the front of the DJ, and the shadows are cast in blue light.

The festival continued annually on Labor Day weekend until 2020 and has been on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During 2021, Rana and Yalla Punk experimented with new projects and ideas. These projects included a language conversation group to connect people outside of the festival and create a safe space for people to practice their cultural language. Yalla Punk also started a fellowship program to help artists develop their work.

“2021 gave us a lot of time to experiment and try new ideas. Our goal for this upcoming year is to secure funding to see which programs we can have year-round.”

CPI helped Rana see the many different moving parts associated with planning and community projects. “You need to do community research and be in the field asking people questions about what they need. A lot of the conversations we had at CPI in the breakout sessions were really critical. During CPI was the first time I thought about all these different priorities competing.”

Currently, Rana is serving as the Technical Project Manager at the New York Public Library, using their software engineering skills to increase accessibility and work with the community.