This past Sunday, June 14th, the AWAL Women’s Advocacy Group organized and hosted the Bay Ridge Community Drug Forum at AAANY. At the forum, attendees voiced their concerns regarding the prevalent and systematic drug abuse within the Bay Ridge community, especially after the recent deaths of two Arab youths as a result of drug overdose. The forum began with a moment of silence and prayer for all people lost to drug overdose, and provided community members with space to talk about drug addiction as well as the importance of communal unity and support in tackling this matter.

The forum featured guest speakers Sandy Lulu from NYU Lutheran, Donna Mae DePola from the Resource Training Center, and Council Member Vincent Gentile. Community members were able to engage in a dialogue and Q&A with the experts about the impact of drug addiction as well as resources available for those seeking support. The speakers highlighted the significance of supporting someone with a drug addiction by providing them with the help they require rather than enforcing the addiction by staying silent. The forum provided a safe space where multiple community members disclosed their experience working with a loved one who has an addiction. Ultimately, the group concluded that the safety and health of individuals is more important than the sense of shame and embarrassment the community may feel in regards to knowing someone with a drug addiction.

·         Drug addiction is a mental disease that anyone can suffer from regardless of religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. We need to drop the idea that drug abuse happens to “bad people” or people from “broken families”.

·         Prevention starts at home. Start talking to your children at a young age about the negative impacts vs. positive impacts of prescription drugs and appropriate usage.  

·         Always keep the door open for conversations with young people regarding drug use. Do not create a sense of fear, paranoia or alarm when discussing this issue.

·         You cannot force someone to seek help. This approach does not allow someone to fully rehabilitate.

·         Some of the signs of drug addiction include lack of sleep, becoming less sociable, irritability and drowsiness, and small noticeable changes in personality.

·         Do not be afraid to speak up. It is not shameful or “haram” to seek support. There are people who can support you and keep everything completely confidential.

If you have questions regarding drug addiction and wish to seek additional support, you can reach out to these networks, where all information will be kept strictly confidential:

Advocacy & Civic Engagement Department at the Arab American Association of New York

Zeinab Khalil (

Aber Kawas (

(718) 745-3523

Donna Mae DePola The Resource Counseling Center of Bay Ridge

(718) 871-7433    

Sandy Lulu at NYU Lutheran Medical Center

(718) 437-5236

Turning Point Brooklyn

(718) 360-8146


The Arab Women Activists & Leaders (AWAL) Program is a women’s advocacy class and support circle organized by the Arab American Association of New York. Through this space, women build strong bonds of sisterhood, practice personal healing and self-love, and mobilize around pressing issues in their community. More information at