October 17, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

AAANY and the Candidates' Forum

On Thursday October 11, the Arab American Association of New York, in collaboration with Make the Road New York, held a Candidates’ Forum at which prospective politicians representing District 10 spoke and answered questions regarding their policies. Because AAANY partnered with several organizations to register over 2100 voters, it was necessary to proceed and educate potential voters about the candidates and their platforms, particularly regarding their stances on issues that are important to the Arab American community.

As a voter registration fellow, I was able to take on an important task at AAANY this summer: making sure we accomplished our goal of registering one thousand new voters in our community, one that has experienced many trials and tribulations. From police surveillance and harassment, tough immigration laws, unlawful persecution, protests around religious centers, and more, our community has faced the manifestations of xenophobia and Islamophobia in the post-9/11 era.

As one of the coordinators of our voter registration initiative, not only did I organize, but I had the opportunity to do some on the ground canvassing with our interns and volunteers. Together we traveled to different religious centers, college campuses, shopping centers, parks, and more, and met people of all different ages and backgrounds that make up the diverse fabric of the Arab community in South Brooklyn. Each individual I met while canvassing taught me something about our community: about our psychology, our desires, our needs, our reservations, and our frustrations.

Many political analysts and journalists have speculated about the role Arab American voters will play in the upcoming elections. Regardless of all of their “official” statistics, polls, and surveys, the conversations and stories that I heard while doing grassroots work better reflect our narrative than assumed facts and numbers. Their interests were reflected in our Candidates’ Forum, where local candidates such as Senator Marty Golden, Nicole Malliotakis, Andrew Goundardes, and more were questioned about relevant and pressing issues such as Stop and Frisk, the Dream Act, the practice of fracking, unemployment, and more. Our community was searching for a candidate who identified with our values, supported us, and would act as a leader in ridding the government of the corruption and insensitivity that has disheartened and frustrated us.

After a long and busy summer, we surpassed our goal of registering one thousand voters in our community; we, with the help of other members of our coalition, registered 2100 new voters in South Brooklyn. The process was truly encouraging, and I believe that our community is on a trajectory that will only bring about success. We are ready to stand up, we will not be silent, and we are moving to create change. This is our time to reclaim our history and our narrative, to unapologetically declare our presence, and to work together to build political power.

-Aber Kawas

Voter Registration Fellow
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