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Tag: Voter Registration

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

Building Community Power, One Vote at a Time

Arab society in the United States has regularly been labeled a “one-issue” voting bloc.  Unsurprisingly, this epithet comes from the familiar notion that when it comes to national politics our people formulate their electoral engagement—or lack thereof—purely according to issues of American foreign policy. During the past few months, AAA-NY has displayed its intention to bury that reputation, embarking on a voter registration project that aims to build community power by getting people in our neighborhood prepared vote on the local issues that matter.

The month of July proved to be a strong kick start, the Annual Arab American Bazaar being a primary point of success. On the 8th of July volunteers and canvassers managed to pull in over one hundred votes in just a few hours, proving that there are people in our community who do want to take part in the electoral process.

Whether or not Arabs are “one-issue” voters has arguably not stood the test of time. Like other recent immigrants to the United States, Arabs are often least likely to make it to the polls. In response to this reality AAA-NY has teamed up with other community organizations in Congressional District 13 to form the Verrazano Coalition. By collaborating with Make the Road Staten Island, Project Hospitality and El Centro, AAANY will be able to increase its capacity and effectiveness.

Voter registration canvassing teams have been hitting the streets of Bay Ridge with regularity. Youth energy has propelled these efforts, with our primary canvassing team being composed of keen and knowledgeable high school students. The evidence of their abilities can be found in the numerous videos and photos our Community Organizing Interns have taken and distributed through social media. Without their enthusiasm and commitment, our achievements thus far would be substantially more modest.

As a final part of our voter registration drive, look forward to our candidate’s forum on the 11th of October. People from the community will be able to directly address our representatives and understand their platforms and intentions. All in all, the entire project has been an illustration of this organization’s resourcefulness and tenacity.

And if you’re not registered to vote please come in today and ask to be registered. We’re all looking forward to seeing you at the polls!

Zayd Sifri, Voter Registration Fellow
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,

August 7, 2012 Posted by admin in Blog

Voter Registration: A Perspective from a Youth Community Organizer

Since I became a volunteer at the Arab American Association, I have gained many valuable skills, including community organizing. The most important part of my job as a community organizer is registering voters. One of the Association’s many goals is to register members of the Bay Ridge community, especially Arabs, to vote. We want to empower our community and register people to vote because we believe everyone’s voices should be heard.

As community organizers, we meet at the Association almost everyday, except for the weekends and usually we canvas the area at least a few times a week. We go out into the community in groups of two or three or sometimes even eight. As teams we establish an objective for the number of forms we want completed that day. In addition to canvassing the neighborhood, we travel to Manhattan and meet other organizations that are working against practices such as Stop and Frisk, deportation, and racial profiling. Our meetings there help us learn how to organize communities by hosting events that encourage others to come and listen to issues that affect the community. One of these events was the 2nd Annual Iftar held at the Association on Friday, July 27th where we provided food and games for everyone to take part in, while informing them about our efforts in the community. The Arab American Association is now establishing a connection between diverse groups of voters in Brooklyn and Staten Island as part of our goal to achieve over 3,500 newly registered voters between the two boroughs. I am proud to be a part of this effort.

I was surprised to discover how simple it was to fill out voter registration forms. All I have to do is ask people if they are registered to vote, and if they are not, I encourage them to fill out a form. I establish trust between the potential voter and the Association and allow them to fill out the information required. I will walk in any weather to any street in Bay Ridge to find new voters, but alas, the weather is not the hardest part of my job. As it turns out, most people in the Bay Ridge community seem like they do not want to vote. They avoid registering despite the positive change their voice could make.

Though this month of Ramadan should be a time when the Arab community amplifies their voices, many still do not recognize the importance of voting. I noticed that many people are too busy with their daily routine and do not realize the change they could make by simply filling out a short form. Though many might complain that they are tired or cranky from fasting all day, or simply too tired from their daily activities in this hot weather, there is really no excuse not to register. I am also fasting for Ramadan, and yet I am still out working to register voters.

Even though this job has been tough and we are not always successful in our canvassing efforts, I think we can still register about more than 1,000 people in the future. I know that if we become more persistent, develop our spoken Arabic and connect to our community, we can reach our goal. We are a strong Arab American community and we need to show our local politicians that we are a powerful force. If we raise our voices as registered voters, we can choose who we want to represent us on a political level. I feel that this is important because the politicians, who currently represent this district, don’t reflect the true nature of our community. We need to inform people about the importance of voting because our voices are important. We need to show people that this hits home.

RAMA ALHERISH, 15, Student at Brooklyn Technical High School, Youth Community Organizer
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.***