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March 25, 2013 Posted by admin in Blog, Media

My experience at AAANY

“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” the notorious maxim purportedly first said by Mahatma Gandhi, should be the motto of the Arab American Association of New York. Each employee that works there embodies a sense of social justice that drives him or her to create positive change for one of the most marginalized communities in America. And they do it well. I had the privilege of interning at the AAANY during my Winter Trimester, a time when my college requires students to find an internship.

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Comprehensive Immigration Reform NOW

We need comprehensive immigration reform now. That’s the message we are hearing across the country from community members, faith leaders and immigrant rights advocates. AAANY in partnership with the New York Immigration Coalition and other allies recently launched “New Yorkers for Immigration Reform” . Together, we are working to ensure that 2013 is the year we pass common sense and meaningful reforms that create a pathway to citizenship, reunites and keeps families together and safeguards civil rights.

Pressure from communities is intensifying and as a result, momentum for comprehensive immigration reform continues to build amongst our elected officials. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama and the Senate “Gang of 8” led by Senator Chuck Schumer of NY released two sets of principles to guide the legislative process. To learn more about the proposal and how they compare, click here. As the legislation is being drafted, we must continue to build political power through organizing and list up stories of families and community members that have been victim to unfair policies and a broken system.

We need you to join the movement for comprehensive immigration reform! Here’s how you could get involved:

Join our voter registration team! Our communities made a huge impact at the polls last November and we’re not going to stop building our political power. To sign up as a volunteer for voter registration, email with “2013 NYC Vote Volunteer” in the subject heading.

Sign up to be a part of “ New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform.” Join thousands nationwide in support of immigrant rights and reform. Click here to sign up today!

January 25, 2013 Posted by admin in Blog

English through music

“Why does everyone like music?” asked Katie, AAANY’s Adult Education Coordinator, to the class of adults who had just listened to songs by Fairuz and Cheb Khaled. “Because music always makes you feel happy,” answered one of the students. A discussion ensued about whether or not music always makes you feel happy, which concluded in the idea that whether the resulting feeling may or may not necessarily be “happiness,” listening to music definitely triggers some sort of emotional response, regardless of what language the listener might be accustomed to. Music is the language that goes beyond linguistic barriers.

By using music as the medium through which to teach English, Daro Behroozi, a new volunteer, is revolutionizing the Adult Education classes offered at the Arab American Association of New York. In the first class, he taught vocabulary related to music, such as names of instruments, elements of music like rhythm and melody, and different ways of describing songs. After this vocabulary lesson, the students listened to Arabic songs and were asked to discuss what the instrumentation was and what they liked about each song. Daro’s goal is to simultaneously teach English and improve the students’ close listening skills. In future classes, Daro plans to play English songs for the students to enhance their listening ability and make the conversations more challenging. Eventually, as a final project, the students will be given the opportunity to write their own songs in English.

Daro Behroozi grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He began taking piano lessons at the age of 5. He attended LaGuardia Arts High School where he studied music. As an undergrad at Columbia University, Daro studied Anthropology with a focus on Music and graduated in May of 2012. In addition to working on various music-related projects at Columbia, he was an organizer in Students for Justice in Palestine. He is currently pursuing various musical endeavors as a performer, composer, teacher, and researcher.

We are all very excited to have Daro Behroozi working with us to offer such a fun and educational class.

-Chelsea Estevez

AAANY provides free assistance with Deferred Action

Since August 15th, the Arab American Association of New York has been assisting eligible individuals with Deferred Action. Please tell anyone who is interested in this process and needs free legal assistance in this matter to come to our office Wednesdays 12-5 PM.

What is Deferred Action?
Deferred action is a kind of administrative relief from deportation that has been around a long time. (“Administrative” relief is relief that may be granted by DHS, without the person necessarily having to go to immigration court.) It allows a non-U.S. citizen to temporarily remain in the U.S. with legal immigration status. The person may also apply for an employment authorization document (a “work permit”) for the period during which he or she has deferred action status. Deferred action will be granted on a case-by-case basis. Even if you meet the requirements outlined below, DHS will still have to decide whether to grant you deferred action. A grant of deferred action is temporary and does not provide a path to lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.

Deferred Action Criteria:

To be eligible for deferred action, you must:

1. Have come to the United States before your sixteenth birthday.
2. Have continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, and up to the present time.
3. Be present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for deferred action.
4. Not have lawful immigration status on June 15, 2012. This means you must have entered the U.S. without papers before June 15, 2012, or, if you entered lawfully, your lawful immigration status must have expired as of June 15, 2012.
5. Be at least 15 years old, if you have never been in deportation proceedings or your proceedings were terminated. If you are currently in deportation proceedings, have a voluntary departure order, or have a deportation order, and are not in immigration detention, you may apply for deferred action even if you are not yet 15 years old.
6. Be 30 years old or younger as of June 15, 2012 (a person who had not yet turned 31 on that date is also eligible).
7. Be “currently in school,” have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or U.S. armed forces. If you are enrolled in school on the date that you submit your deferred action application, that will be considered to “be in school.” The USCIS defines “currently in school” to include various types of programs such as certain education programs that Prepared by The New York Immigration Coalition 8/15/12 Page 2 assist students in obtaining a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent under State law or in passing a GED exam or other equivalent state-authorized exam. Note that not all GED programs will automatically qualify as meeting the “currently in school” requirement.
8. Have not been convicted of a felony offense. A felony is a federal, state, or local criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
9. Have not been convicted of a “significant misdemeanor” offense or three or more non-significant misdemeanor offenses.
10. Not pose a threat to national security or public safety (DHS is still defining what these terms mean but has indicated that they include gang membership, participation in criminal activities, or participation in activities that threaten the U.S.).
11. Pass a background check.
August 24, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Eid Toy Drive 2012

As part of giving back to the community, the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) hosted its 4th Annual Toy Drive on Friday, August 17th 2012 in a partnership with The Muslim Bar Association of New York. Our waiting room was buzzing with families and eager children, most of who were coming in a spirit to also to celebrate Eid. Around 16 volunteers and I successfully wrapped and distributed over 180 gifts to low-income families in the Bay Ridge area. As a volunteer handing out gifts, I had the joy of seeing the happiness of many little boys and girls when they received their presents, and the thankfulness of their mothers and fathers. Some of the toys we gave out were board games, princess wands, action figures, coloring books, and teddy bears. As the toy drive was going on, we had some volunteers wrapping up last minute gifts from last year’s pile since we gave away every single toy that we wrapped. It was fun to see the ‘behind the scenes’ process. ‘Hurry, hand me the tape!’ came a shout. ‘We are the worst wrappers ever’, one girl joked as more eager children rolled through the doors.

Every time another family would enter the office, all the volunteers would get excited. There was a greeter at the door, who would lead the family to the back hallway, where our table pilled with toys was set up. When the child would appear, all the volunteers would say ‘Hi!’ and we’d ask the child what their name was. The loud kids would shout their names beamingly, but the shy ones would just grin and look at us. ‘Come on,’ we’d urge them with a smile.

I remember there were two young boys that came in with their mother. We welcomed them and handed them their gifts. One of the brothers opened his gift. Then came the shouts, ‘Spiderman! Spiderman! Woo-hoo!’ All of the volunteers smiled, but we overlooked his younger brother who was about to cry. ‘What’s wrong?’ we asked. He shook his head and pointed at his brother’s gift. ‘You still haven’t opened your gift!’ someone noticed. ‘Yeah!’, we all agreed, urging him to open his present. The boy looked up and decided to open it, and out came 4 dinosaurs. All the volunteers started saying, ‘Woah! I wish I had 4 dinosaurs!’ The little boy beamed, and we knew we had done a good job.

As the day went on, we noticed the pile of toys on the table continuing to recede. At one point, there were no more presents to hand out. And as I learned, turning people away is the hardest thing to do. Telling them, “no, we don’t have any more,” is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever done. Then, as the denied families started to walk away, there came a cry, ‘Wait! We might have more!’ One volunteer ventured into the basement, and everyone in the lobby was crossing their fingers. Suddenly, a large box came into view, and carrying it was the volunteer with a victorious smile. ‘Yalla, wrap these!’ she said.

I’ve learned that a major part of community organizing is understanding our community and its needs. I believe it’s necessary to give back to your community. And this toy drive was a perfect way to bring out all the different types of people from the neighborhood to learn about each other’s differences and make people feel welcome. Encouraging people to forget their dividing differences and come together as one big community is essential if you want to be recognized by society. As a part of AAANY’s Youth Community Organizing Interns, I have learned that the first step to change is being united. A broken community is a weak one, and as simple as it may seem, a toy drive in Southern Brooklyn helped many as a whole come together as one for a common interest to spread joy.

Check out some of our pictures here.

Fatima Irfan, 13 Community Organizing Intern
August 14, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Memo from the AD

Wow. What an incredibly busy summer we have had at AAANY. We just completed our first audit – having made just shy of 350,000 in 2011. We look forward to only expanding to do more of the work we are so well positioned to do. Youth Programs, ESL, Naturalization Assistance, Deferred Action, Voter Reg? You name it, when it comes to empowering new Arab and Muslim Americans, we got it.

We are pleased to find out from the Proteus Fund that we will be able to hire a full time community organizing and advocacy coordinator. This will only add to the already incredibly strong team. We are also fortunate to have been able to hire Zayd as a voter registration fellow.

“Zayd Sifri grew up in the United Arab Emirates. He studied history with a focus on the Middle East at Columbia University in New York City. He likes working at AAANY because he believes in the transformative potential of organising with the Arab community in Brooklyn. Some of his interests are global movement building, community empowerment, journalism and cooking.”

On top of all that, he is a dynamic player who is the first line of attack for the times when we don’t have enough caseworkers at the time.  Aber Kawas, a seasoned community organizer who was an early mentee of Linda, and NYU student, is organizing a Community Empowerment Fellowship. For any high school or college students, this is an excellent opportunity to gain substantial experience and earn a stipend of $250. Click here for more information – email to apply. Please pass on this opportunity to anyone you think would be interested.

This is our final push to register 1000 new voters – 3,500 with the “Verrazano Coalition” in a partnership with Make the Road-NY.

  Mohamad Ismail and Kitaab Camp Coordinator, Kayla Jackson have run an incredibly successful program. Read our blog to find out more. On Thursday we will have a ceremony for all our 9 SYEP Participants(Summer Youth Employment Program).

Ayisha Irfan has been crushing it; building a street team of community organizers of over 10 and inspiring youth. We are happy welcome both Roweida and Katie back from their vacations. Their combination is undoubtedly Katie was an AmeriCorps member, doubled the size of our program, and there is no current funding to support this Click this link to donate (or buy a cookbook for $20 -- made by her class with recipes spanning the Arab World, 80 pages Arabic/English). If funding an incredibly competent person who plans on teaching English to over 150 students isn’t worth supporting, I don’t know what is.

Mark your calandars for November 9th, which will be our Gala at Grand Prospect Hall. Tickets will be on sale soon.

Peace be upon you,

July 3, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

AAANY's family growing and about to get a lot bigger!

virginia lottery
We are so glad to have additions to an amazing team, the vast majority of whom has started with us since June. Ayisha, Aber, Zayd, Nourah, Omar, Katie, Kayla and Mohamad have all been constructing or strengthening programs that are about to start -- or just took off. On Monday, 9 Youth Community Organizers (YCO) worked with Ayisha, getting to know each other and discussing identity, getting inspired about the "why." It warms my heart to know that they visited Brother Cyrus up at CAIR today in what I have no doubt was an informative to hopefully transformative workshop. This program will culminate with these youth putting together the second annual youth summit in the end of August and empower the ongoing "AmplifYour voice" campaign.

On Thursday, July 5, 9 more youth will begin working with us for the next 7 weeks. The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) participants will range in age (14-20), race and languages --including Spanish and Urdu. Thanks to the Department of Youth and Community Development's SYEP program over 30,000 youth are able to be hired in NYC. Our SYEP's will have a variety of tasks: whether as camp counselors, administrative assistants, caseworkers, accountants, or doing voter registration, we are pleased to have a lot to do, teach, and produce! One of the major programs they will help with is Kitaab Camp; a 6 week summer camp that is fun, innovative, and geared to teach ELL (English Language Learners) or other at-risk youth ages 5 to 12.

The fabric of the community that we seek to empower needs your generosity to continue to grow. I could say, Click this link to donate. But more importantly, spread the love.  Come to the Bazaar this Sunday and make sure to invite your friends. This is our sixth annual Bazaar and each year it gets bigger and better.

-Christophe Jospe
April 18, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

AAANY Youth Spend Day at Columbia University

Brooklynat - April 10th, IUME Teacher's College, Columbia University April 10th was a very exciting day for Brooklynat, the AAANY's female empowerment group! From 10 AM to 9 PM we were at Teacher's College, Columbia University attending a workshop put together by IUME (Institute for Urban and Minority Education) staff members who assist with various youth groups at AAANY. Throughout this day I was given the chance to explore, learn, and participate in various enriching activities that sent me home with a both a headache and a desire to know more about everything that I had encountered that day.

Thanks to Dr. Arshad Ali, Katharine Vincent and Sarah Brandt, and the Institute of Urban and Minority Education at Teacher's College, we were able to use the resources of the university to prepare a presentation for the upcoming Teenage Identity and Diversity Education (TIDE) 2012 Wave Of Change Conference that will be held in late May at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Our presentation, titled "Security, Suspicion, and Surveillance: Growing Up As A Female Arab American In New York City," seeks to educate about the daily obstacles that young Arab American women face while looking at the positive impacts that we are making on our communities. The concluding segment of our presentation, "Hope For The Future," explores the different ways in which we are taking action. This segment of our day was full of trial and error, as well as laughs and frustration. In the end, the effort paid off because I can say that I'm ready and can't wait to actually present on the day of the conference! Later that day, we were given the opportunity to attend a panel discussion regarding the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act is proposed to grant undocumented students with access to average instate tuition rates and opportunities for scholarships, loans, and financial aid. Several assemblymen and dreamers were present to advocate for the legislation and encourage its enactment. Having taken several pages of notes, I was able to go back and reflect on what was said during the discussion and bring it back to the other youth at AAANY, as the DREAM Act is a rising campaign amongst them.

To conclude the amazing experience, Professor Carine Allaf invited us to attend her weekly course, "Women and Education in the Middle East," held from 7 to 9 PM. Having just attended one class session, I walked out with a better understanding of the connection between education and culture. What made the course all the more interesting was that it was half of what I considered my own culture that was being discussed, yet I was learning so much new information, or at least making connections that I had never thought to consider in the past. The nature of the course was very fascinating. It wasn't one of those classes where the professor is just standing up at the front giving a lecture; it was one big discussion, led by the graduate students themselves in which they were learning from each other. It was a learning method that seemed to be highly effective, as I certainly took away a lot from what was being said - and I was only an observer.

-Yasmina Ibrahim, Editor-in-Chief, Amplifyer
March 5, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

South Brooklyn Comes Through on Community Survey

  Thanks to some amazing hustle by our community, we have completed our survey collection for our Community Needs Assessment! This needs assessment is the first ever to be conducted in the Arab American community in New York City, and AAANY is proud to be working with New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. AAANY’s grassroots credibility and outreach, coupled with NYU Wagner’s technical skill, analysis, and dedication, are moving us forward in capturing demographic and needs data for the Arab American community.

Our high school students made the survey a competition among themselves, using a big poster to track how many surveys they had filled out with community members. Youth Community Organizer Kareem Meawad won, with 60 surveys – nice work, Kimo! We collected 415 surveys in total, in three weeks.

The surveys are currently being analyzed by our team at NYU Wagner, who will present a report of their findings in April 2012. They are running regressions to identify possible trends among the community, and to study what community members identify as their greatest needs. We look forward to this data on language access, experience with government offices, employment status, household size, and much more! Creating a clearer picture of the Arab American community will help AAANY and our partners do a better job of providing the services and programs our community needs to become independent, productive members of society.

-Jennie Goldstein


Who's behind the desk at AAANY?

There are many faces, many services, and many programs at the Arab American Association of New York. We are a staff of eight, three being part-time. But working with our family of volunteers, interns, and professionals, we are able to provide a service and an exponential capacity. So as a kick-off to our blog, let’s answer the question, who are some of the people who sitting behind the desks at AAANY beyond our staff?

Liz has been with us since December as a Learning Leader Volunteer, and she brings her expertise in helping students apply to college -- from how to fill out the FAFSA to think about choices of where to go --and is a great addition to the AAANY family. She’s here every Wednesday 3:30-6, taking walk-ins and scheduled appointments.

We are also thankful for pro bono legal assistance. Tahani will stay late with clients on Wednesday nights even after we put the gate down. As a Lawyer, she sees cases from racial profiling to immigration. She is also an activist for the Arab and Muslim community, helping and supporting the stop NYPD surveillance campaign. Feras, an immigration lawyer, also comes on Tuesdays.

Kathy Khatari, Elizabeth, and Mary are all representatives for the District Attorney’s office. Kathy is a staple of and strong advocate for the Arab, Muslim, and Brooklyn community. On Wednesdays, she and Elizabeth assist clients with legal concerns and provide sound advice. Mary comes on Friday, and adds to the dynamic wealth of experience these women have to offer.

Every day of the week there is a native Arabic speaker available for providing access to health insurance. Their compassion for helping people is great. Noha is with Americhoice on Mondays and Tuesdays. Zeinab is here on Wednesdays, seeing clients for Health Plus. Manal, also with Health Plus, comes on Thursdays and Fridays. Together they help over 100 clients a week.

And this is just a slice of what we do! One of many reasons why to support the Arab American Association of New York. With only 18 days left for the month of February -- also known as Love Your AAANY month -- where we have a challenge grant that matches every donation, now is the perfect time to give. It’s online, simple, and we’re far short from our $15000 goal. If not, spread the love by subscribing to this new blog with AAANY and sharing this.

  By Christophe Jospe