The Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) was founded in December 2001 by a number of prominent Arab immigrants residing in Brooklyn. At the organization’s inception, its founders were deeply concerned about what they described as “the heightened sense of fear and the acts of blatant discrimination aimed at the Muslim community” in that immediate post-9/11 period. Co-founder and …
The Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) was founded in December 2001 by a number of prominent Arab immigrants residing in Brooklyn. At the organization’s inception, its founders were deeply concerned about what they described as “the heightened sense of fear and the acts of blatant discrimination aimed at [the Muslim] community” in that immediate post-9/11 period. Co-founder and current board president Ahmad Jaber recalls that “instead of social services, we had to move into empowering the community, defending the community, and supporting the community.”
Today, AAANY’s mission is to: “support and empower the Arab Immigrant and Arab American community” by “providing services to help them adjust to their new home and become active members of society”; “serve as a bridge between the Arab community and the greater New York City community”; “foste[r] more understanding of Arab culture and immigrant issues”; “serv[e] as a liaison between schools, government and other institutions and residents”; “address issues of discrimination”; and “provid[e] a variety of culturally sensitive social services.”
AAANY’s major programs currently include the following:
1) Adult Education: This program provides Arab residents of New York with one-to-one instruction and preparation for the United States Citizenship Exam. It also offers classes in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).
2) Advocacy & Civic Engagement (ACE):
- A major initiative of this program is the Law-Enforcement Accountability Campaign, which seeks to prevent New York Police Department (NYPD) personnel from secretly monitoring the activities of mosques, businesses, and organizations suspected of promoting Islamic jihadism. Particularly troubling to AAANY was a leaked 2013 police document indicating that confidential informants had tried to infiltrate the Association’s board of directors. In an effort to “end discriminatory policing practices impacting people of color and religious minorities,” AAANY has also fought against so-called “stop-and-frisk” policing tactics that allegedly “target communities of color.” And the Association played a key role in helping to pass the Community Safety Act, which expanded New Yorkers’ ability to sue the Police Department on racial profiling charges.
- Another major ACE project is the Muslim School Holidays Campaign, which in 2015 successfully persuaded the New York City Department of Education and Mayor Bill de Blasio to designate the Muslim holy days of Eid Ul-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha as official holidays in the public-school calendar.
- The Arab Women Activists & Leaders initiative is an organizing collective that “connects Arab women and other women of color in New York City,” on the premise that all nonwhite females share, to varying degrees, common experiences as victims of what AAANY views as a racist, sexist, Islamophobic society. This project also “trains women to become organizers in their communities who raise political consciousness and mobilize around issues important to them.”
- The Immigration Reform Campaign promotes the creation of “a pathway to citizenship” for illegals in the United States, and calls for policies that would “reunite” those illegals with their families by permitting their relatives abroad to join them in the U.S.
3) Social Services: AAANY provides Arab Americans with a host of Caseworker Services including: bilingual case management; access to healthcare for “low-income, documented and undocumented individuals”; public benefits eligibility screening; translation and interpretation services; job application and resume assistance; referrals for services related to mental health, child therapy, and substance abuse; and referrals to other networks and agencies as necessary. The organization also provides Legal & Immigration Services that include: free legal consultations; citizenship classes and mock citizenship interviews; referrals to AAANY’s network of lawyers, doctors and affiliate organizations; assistance in filling out applications for permanent residency or naturalization; and help in obtaining work authorizations and affidavits of support (documents by which an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for another person, usually a relative, who is coming to live permanently in the United States).
4) Youth Development:
- AAANY’s Youth Racial Justice Program was launched in the spring of 2016 to help young people recognize and combat the “increasing repression” allegedly “suffer[ed]” by “our marginalized communities.”
- The “Brooklynat” project trains young Arab-American women (ages 15-25) in New York City to “discuss issues that are specifically relevant to our community,” and teaches them “how to recognize systems of the patriarchy working within our cultures and communities and how to sensitively combat them.”
5) Mental Health Services: AAANY’s Connections to Care (C2C) program aims to “serve low-income and at-risk populations struggling with unmet mental health needs” by helping them access “culturally and linguistically sensitive” through “community outreach and psychoeducation.”
Following the 2016 presidential election in which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, AANY launched its so-called “Accompany Project” to “train thousands of New Yorkers to disrupt violence – particularly against Arab, Muslim and undocumented residents” – on the premise that “hateful speech and actions” were “on the rise” as a result of Trump’s election. A core part of the Accompany Project curriculum is “Bystander Intervention and Organizing 101,” which aims to help people “organize to combat racism and Islamophobia where they live.”
Further Reading: “About Us” (ArabAmericanNY.org); “Mission Statement” of AAANY (ArabAmerica.com); Overviews of AAANY’s Adult Education Program, Advocacy & Civic Engagement Program, Social Services Program, Youth Development Program, and Mental Health Services Program (ArabAmericanNY.org); “The Accompany Project” (ArabAmericanNY.org).