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Tag: Bay Ridge

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
October 10, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

My Trip to Bay Ridge!

Since I have been in the US, I have developed wonderful relationships with my roommates, dorm mates, professors, and new friends at Bard College, something that has helped me fit into this new environment. Still, at times I feel overwhelmingly like an outsider.

After two months in the US, the mayor of Mas’ha, my village in Palestine, Nedal Amer, came to my college to reaffirm Mas’ha’s relationship with Red Hook, the town where Bard is located in upstate New York. Mas’ha and Red Hook are sister towns, so Nedal decided to come to New York when Red Hook was celebrating its bicentennial.

I had a remarkable time translating for the mayor, but this pleasure was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gave me the opportunity to be a part of the important relationship between Mas’ha and Red Hook, but on the other hand, it opened a forgotten wound in my heart, and made me miss home more and more as I escorted the mayor of my village around the town.

All of this instantly changed when I took a trip to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to visit the Arab American Association of New York. The Arabian hospitality I encountered, the Islamic traditions, the Mosques, the Arabian shops, the konafa, and the kebab we had at dinner made Bay Ridge like my very own paradise in America. My feelings of isolation disappeared as I learned that there is a place in Brooklyn that I’m part of, that I belong to: Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge.

While I was in Bay Ridge I was lucky enough to have a wonderful tour guide. Doctor Ahmed Jaber, the Board President of AAANY and a retired Palestinian-American physician who has converted his former office to house AAANY, showed us around the neighborhood, introducing Nedal and me to other Palestinian immigrants, including someone from Mas’ha! It was a real treat to meet so many fellow Arabs, and I truly felt welcome and at home on the streets of Bay Ridge.

The Arab American Association has a great story itself. Finding people who dedicated their lives and their time to help Arab immigrants to live, flourish, and overcome the hardships they face in the US was extraordinary. The effort the AAANY puts forth for Arab society in Bay Ridge is definitely one of the main reasons why the Arab population in Brooklyn grew and maintained its genuine traditions. The AAANY helped keep personalities alive in a different culture and community, one that is very liberal compared to Islamic communities.

Now I know where I’ll head when I feel homesick: Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, first stop AAANY, the friendly and welcoming home of Arabs in New York State.

-Ameer Shalabi

July 17, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Celebrating Culture and Building Political Power at the 6th Annual Arab American Bazaar

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On Sunday July 8th, over 4,000 people flocked to Brooklyn’s Shore Road Park to enjoy a day of live music, food, dancing and celebration at the 6th Annual Bay Ridge Arab American Bazaar. For the past six years, the Arab American Association of New York has hosted a summer festival celebrating Arab culture. This year we had beautiful summer day for our biggest bazaar yet. Click here to see a video of one of the debkeh performances or look through our photo album from the day.

The main stage drew enormous crowds as Bazaar attendees danced to music by local singers representing an array of countries across the Arab world and two debkeh (palestinian folk dance) performances. Food and craft vendors formed the perimeter of the bazaar, allowing people to enjoy the show while receiving a henna tattoo or indulging in a falafel sandwich. In between performances, politicians were given the opportunity to speak to the community, including Congressman Michael Grimm, Senator Marty Golden, Assemblywoman Nicole Maliotakis, City Council members Vincent Gentile, and Leticia James, as well as NYC Comptroller John Liu and Candidate for State Senate Andrew Gounardes.

This year we had an impressive number of volunteers help out at the event. Many of them set up kids activities, painting faces and helping children make paper flags, while others concentrated their efforts towards registering new voters. With the guidance of our voter registration staff, volunteers stressed the importance of giving political voice to the Arab American community. Members of our female empowerment group, Brooklynat were responsible for running our voter registration table, while AAANY’s Street Team interns, Omar Al Khalili and Nora AbuSha’ban worked tirelessly to stress the importance of mobilization. By the end of the day they helped to register over 100 new voters! The bazaar was a great opportunity for us as an organization to reach out to our community and supporters and reiterate the importance of voting .

Undoubtedly, civic engagement was an overarching theme of the day. Along with voter registration, crowds of youth showed up to represent their cultural pride. Two AAANY youth volunteers raised over $700 for Syria in cupcake sales and donations. Read a write-up about their efforts in the Brooklyn Daily. As a community we demonstrated our growing political presence and goal to represent the Arab and Muslim community on both a local and national level. Each year our Bazaar is an opportunity to mobilize and celebrate our community.

***AAANY is working to build community power though voter registration. We hope to register over 1,000 voters by the November elections. In addition to registration, we are striving to provide newly registered voters with the resources to lead them to become more informed voters. If you are a U.S. citizen and would like to register to vote, please stop by the Association to see our voter registration fellows, Aber Kawas and Zayd Sifri. We here at AANY believe that voting is power. It is a way for our community to demand respect, appreciation, and attention which will provide future generations with more opportunities.***
April 23, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

AAANY’s English Students Step Out On The Town

If you walked into the Capitol One Bank on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge this past Thursday, you may have seen the women of AAANY’s English program participating in our first ever financial literacy workshop!

A group of about 25 students met at AAANY and walked across the street to Capitol One to attend a lecture and demonstration given by the bank’s Branch Manager, Aneta Dowlatram. Ms. Dowlatram gave up her morning to do a presentation on the different services offered at the bank and give a tour of the bank’s safety deposit boxes. Each student received a folder with literature about Capitol One’s services as well as example deposit slips and savings account forms. The trip ended with several group practice sessions at Capitol One’s ATM machines.

For the past month, AAANY students learned about all aspects of the banking system. The classes covered a wide range of terms, skills and topics, ranging from writing checks to debating the finer points of Islamic Law and its analysis of interest (all in English of course). AAANY’s Adult Education Coordinator, Katie McCulloch, worked with the other volunteer teachers, Amida Alessandrini, Loren Diesi, and Megan Tribble, in order to make sure that students in each level of English received a solid foundation of bank vocabulary that they could put into practice in their everyday lives. Students did numerous conversation drills, a variety of readings, and even made individual presentations in front of their classmates about specific banking concepts. Before the big outing, Katie brought all of the classes together for a large group discussion so the more advanced students could help the beginner students practice conversations.

AAANY’s students arrived at the bank Thursday morning having previously addressed a number of important subjects, including how to teach a child about handling money responsibly, how to open a college savings account and how to wire transfer money to one’s family in another country, and so were well prepared to ask many questions of Ms. Dowlatram.

But by far the highlight of the day was the ATM lesson. Using a loud, beeping machine in a language that is not your first can be intimidating, especially because of the stress that any money transaction involves. But by the end of the trip, students were able to navigate through the most important functions of the machine. The donut breakfast everyone shared afterwards wasn’t too bad, either. This next week’s lesson plan is inspired by the ATM excitement; we are going to conquer the subway system and the metro card machines!

-Megan Tribble