Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Blog
By Nasser Siadat
2012 Summer Intern
A recent Congressional race in New Jersey’s 9th district and a newly-filed federal lawsuit challenging the NYPD surveillance programs testify to a new political reality – a growing cohort of Arab Americans are burying feelings of political marginalization and establishing themselves as a community of engaged and strategic voters.
In keeping with the momentum, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s National Convention (considered to be one of the largest political and social gatherings of Arab Americans in the country) could not have come at a more pivotal time. The convention began this morning at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill and will continue for the next three days, featuring an array of renowned speakers and panelists.
The convention, held annually for the last 32 years, offers an array of interactive workshops and programs for attendees of all ages to learn and better understand ways to defend civil liberties, mobilize communities, and engage in the political process on both the local and national levels. With a significant number of Arab Americans living in critical swing states this election year, it is more important than ever for members and supporters of the community to press elected officials, Democrat and Republican alike, to weigh in on the issues facing one of the fastest mobilizing demographics in the country.
Abed Ayoub, ADC’s Legal Director, could not stress this message enough. After welcoming attendees to an Advocacy & Lobbying workshop early this morning, Ayoub wasted little time in emphasizing the urgency of Arab American political engagement.
“This is a pivotal moment. The results of this election season will determine the direction of our country for years. The anti-Arab and Islamophobic rhetoric and legislation from the Republican Party is no secret, but when we turn to the other side of the isle to put the Democrats first, they put us last. The political climate as a whole is burning a negative light right now, which is why we need to become more active and engaged to have our voices and concerns heard.”
Though at the convention attendees will have the opportunity to meet and speak directly with high ranking representatives from the White House, the Department of Treasury, and the Department of Commerce, the ADC convention will not feature representatives from law enforcement agencies this year.
After revelations of bigoted training materials and racial profiling of the Arab American community at the hands of law enforcement agencies this year, ADC decided to focus on other issues. “We need to have our voices heard in the big discussions on the economy and education like the rest of America,” said Ayoub.
Armed with maps, booklets highlighting the etiquettes of speaking with elected officials, and having interactively reviewed key pieces of legislation and matters of concern in both domestic and foreign policy, attendees will spend the remainder of the day visiting their respective congressional and senate offices on Capitol Hill.
For those wanting to wind down after a long day of workshops, the ADC convention will feature an array of cultural events celebrating the rich musical heritage of the Arab world. In addition to live musical performances from three of Morocco’s leading artists, attendees are encouraged to take part in Saturday night’s Layali Arabia – a dance party planned to run into the early hours of Sunday morning. And in the spirit of the Arab American community making noise this election season, attendees are encouraged to bring their own drums.
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