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.”
Linda Sarsour has been the executive director of AAANY since 2005.
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):
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:
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).