Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Blog

By Johara Hall

2012 Summer Intern

Devon Abdallah, an influential civil rights activist in her home state of Washington, will be attending the 2012 Democratic National Convention, along with two other Arab Americans, Majid Al-Bahadli and Gus Mansour. Abdallah, who will be on the Standing Committee, says, “It’s an honor to have been selected. It’s pretty amazing. It’s also great that the other two delegates will be attending the DNC. It’s an honor and I’m glad that I got this opportunity.”

“Right after 9/11,” said Abdallah, “I was a founding member of the Arab American Community Coalition, an organization that formed due to hate crimes against Arab Americans. We do a variety of work that includes placing Arab Americans together with immigration attorneys as well as helping individuals raise money for immigration purposes, primarily. We also direct our community members toward other necessary resources. In addition, we have a 24-hour hotline with Arabic and English speakers to help community members.” Today, the help line is still active thanks to the work of Arabic and English speaking volunteers and continues to provide much needed services to its community.

As the Co-Chair of the Immigrant & Refugee Commission, Abdallah is a representative of the Arab American community in Seattle and voices its concerns and issues. She insists that the larger community “needs to understand our needs and the only way they can is if we speak up. We are really trying to get people aware of our community. The Arab American Community Coalition conducted an assessment survey on Arab Americans in Seattle. It turns out that much of our community didn’t realize how many Arab Americans live here. People don’t recognize that many of us are US citizens that were born and raised here and that a significant portion of Arab Americans are educated and affluent. We are an important constituency. And our job as a community is to make ourselves heard.”

Abdallah has a history of civil rights activism and was a past Advisory Board Member of the Iraqi Community Center as well as former Community Organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. Currently, Abdallah is a member of the Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable.

When asked what advice she had for fellow Arab Americans who are interested in becoming politically active, Abdallah said, “Vote. At the very least just vote, get involved, read different newspapers, see different sides of every story…I read from a variety of different sources, some of which I disagree with, this way I gain perspective and familiarize myself with the different sides of every story.” For Abdallah, “the important thing is not to be scared to get involved. A lot of people think politicians are too busy, but they are elected to serve us. This is why it’s important to make yourself known. Don’t be afraid to complain. The issue with the Arab American community here is that only a subset of us is heard. Politicians do not hear from the majority of us.”

Abdallah followed with encouragement for Arab Americans to “be proud of who you are. A lot of times, Arab Americans hide their culture and differences out of fear. For me, being an Arab American is a source of pride. I am lucky to be Arab American. I mean, Lebanese food is the best in the world!”

Abdallah received a B.A. in Psychology and Business Administration from the University of Washington, an M.S. in Social and Organisational Psychology from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from Alliant International University.

*Devon is just $250 away from her fundraising goal to get her to the DNC! If you're able to contribute any amount to help her reach her goal, you may do so by clicking here.

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