today’s post is in the form of a press release. a local friend and media worker, mona, is receiving an award tonight at brooklyn borough hall’s annual ramadan dinner. which is notable, because she’s usually on the receiving end of misunderstanding and “misunderestimating” (c/o george bush). the award comes from the office of brooklyn borough president marty markowitz, and is going to mona and the organization she founded, arab women in the arts and media (awaam). awaam was mistakenly used by the local press to catalyze the ousting of gotham’s most visible muslim woman leader, debbie almontaser, from her former position as principle of nyc’s first arabic dual-language public school.
it is rare that leaders in the muslim community get positive vibes from anywhere these days, much less from a city official. congratulations mona and awaam and all the leaders getting some love. savor this moment, draw strength from it for the future, draw salve from it for the past.
AWAAM: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media
FOUNDER OF ARAB WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION HONORED BY BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT MARTY MARKOWITZ
Mona Eldahry receives Citation for her Leadership in Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media (AWAAM), Lead Member of Communities in Support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (CISKGIA) At Brooklyn Borough Hall’s 5th Annual Iftar Dinner
[Brooklyn, NY: SEPTEMBER 24, 2008]
After being targeted by the media in an attempt to shut down New York’s first Arabic dual-language public school, and after a year of fighting the appropriation of their “Intifada NYC” t-shirt, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media’s founding director, Mona Eldahry, is honored by Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, at annual Ramadan event.
Brooklyn Borough Hall’s 5th Annual Iftar dinner, at Borough Hall Courtroom, Wednesday (6:00pm), honors a handful of Muslim community leaders during the holy month of Ramadan. “Positive recognition from an elected official in this time of growing anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment is an important gesture of affirmation and solidarity,” says AWAAM Media Mentor, Roopa Singh. “With this citation, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and the Iftar Committee are sending a positive message to our embattled communities, the message that we should continue to strive for fair media coverage and equal access to education, public safety and civic institutions,” Singh concludes.
In August of 2007, AWAAM found itself at the receiving end of a smear campaign designed to shut down New York’s first Arabic language dual language public school. T-shirts that AWAAM had created to celebrate community empowerment were falsely associated with the founding principal of KGIA, resulting in a dual targeting of KGIA and of AWAAM. At the height of the attacks, parents were uncomfortable allowing their children to be identified in AWAAM’S media work. As a result, AWAAM cancelled a screening and a youth-organized event for the Musilm Holidays Coalition and continues to remove last names from youth media pieces. “The ability to speak out and to take action around events affecting one’s life is essential to adolescent development. AWAAM’s programs have a tremendous impact on young people at risk of developing low self-esteem and a sense of hopelessness about the ability to affect social change,” explains Kelly Sykes, Child Psychologist and Program Evaluator.
In an effort to protect AWAAM as a safe space for young women who are Arab, Muslim and from communities of color, AWAAM launched their iWord Campaign, aimed at humanizing their membership’s communities and asserting their right to use their languages and to discuss their struggles. “Because of AWAAM, my daughter is comfortable speaking to adults and expressing herself in public,” says Naima Remmak, “She has serious career aspirations, and she has a much higher level of analysis when it comes to politics and social phenomena. Arab mothers are so happy to see a program dedicated to women of minority groups.” In an effort to ensure that KGIA received the support it needed to be successful AWAAM helped to found Communities in Support of KGIA. “The work that AWAAM did with teachers and parents at KGIA last year was essential in helping us to get our stories out,” says Maysa Jarara, KGIA parent. AWAAM and CISKGIA continue to work to ensure that the Department of Education and New Visions support the school.
“This citation offers AWAAM and the communities they serve a chance to celebrate the facts about their organization: that they provide underserved communities important media training and the tools they need to tell their own stories accurately,” says Abdeen Jabara, civil rights lawyer. By empowering young women to become radio and video producers, writers of poetry, T-shirt artists, bloggers, DJs and community organizers, AWAAM shows them how they can have an active voice in the media and create positive change. Even in the face of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, AWAAM mentors and youth continue to produce personal and socially relevant art.
Stay tuned for more.