Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Blog

On the one-year anniversary of the Arab Spring, AAI hosted a roundtable discussion with Syrian democracy activist Rami Nakhle, Al Jazeera’s “The Stream” co-host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, a select group of journalism and communications students from all across Egypt, and Arab American students and activists. The purpose of the discussion was to connect agents of change from the Arab World with Arab American activists to exchange experiences and learn how best we can bring change about here at home. The event was part of Yalla Change, a national campaign to energize and empower Arab Americans and their allies in the lead-up to the 2012 elections.

Rami Nakhle opened the discussion with an inspiring account of how he became an activist, noting that he had been completely apathetic and unaware of his power until the killing of a close friend, which changed his whole outlook on the power we all have to change the way things are around us. When his political activities resulted in the issuing of his arrest warrant by the Syrian authorities, Nakhle decided to leave the country because he “didn’t want to spend the Arab Spring in jail,” and continued his advocacy abroad. Ahmed Shihab-Eldin talked about the synergy that exists among activists, bloggers, and journalists, and how they collectively can bring about shifts in societies’ discourses.

The Stream’s social media expert Rami Khater and Pita Policy founder Mehr Qayyum were also in attendance. Khater noted the power of social media as a tool for activists, citing the speed with which activists were able to organize a response to Lowe’s advertising withdrawal from All American Muslim, saying it would’ve taken far longer to organize a response had the incident unfolded 10 years ago. Qayyum acknowledged the power of social media, but cautioned against abandoning traditional forms of organizing, like meetings and town halls.

Altogether, it was an empowering Yalla Change event, a worthy Arab Spring anniversary, and a great beginning for national 2012 Arab American organizing. Click here to watch the video of the event, and here to visit (and join) the Yalla Change campaign.

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