By Chandler Gibson
May 09, 2013
Arab American Advocacy Week
For a moment, upon hearing of the sickening events in Boston, I teetered on the edge of losing faith in humanity. The idea of someone intentionally harming, purposely killing another human almost caused me to give up hope. Almost.
Until I looked around the room I was in. A conference hall at the Community College of DC, filled with directors and employees of nonprofit organizations, all working to better the lives of those around them. These are the people who have taken it upon themselves to increase awareness about life as an Arab American, the people who have decided to raise their voices for those who can’t across the country.
One of the biggest surprises for me while attending the National Network for Arab American Communities’ Arab American Advocacy Week was the number of young representatives. I suppose in my view of the world, I’d always pictured society being changed by only those who are older. Coming together with our member organizations showed me though, that wisdom need not be merely correlated with age. There are so many amazing young people in this network who are extremely talented, educated, and effective in bettering their communities. They have truly inspired me to continue my education and to keep working to ensure equality between all people. I now realize that there is no age too young to stand up for justice.
Voicing the need for comprehensive immigration reform on a national level was very empowering, especially since we were lucky enough to be in D.C. at the same time the immigration reform bill was released. Attending a White House briefing for Arab American community leaders was unbelievable, as I was mere feet away from people like Valerie Jarret, Senior Advisor to the President.
Surrounded by all of these amazing people, who have done so much in their lives to help others, it was impossible for my faith in humanity to fade. There are people in the world who take, and people in the world who give. Throughout the events of Advocacy Week, I was inspired to become a giver, too. I learned so much from the members of the National Network for Arab American Communities, as well as the events we participated in. Meeting with the offices of senators and congressmen was an extremely important insight on how citizens can call for change in America. Voicing the need for comprehensive immigration reform on a national level was very empowering, especially since we were lucky enough to be in D.C. at the same time the immigration reform bill was released. Attending a White House briefing for Arab American community leaders was unbelievable, as I was mere feet away from people like Valerie Jarret, Senior Advisor to the President. Listening to Christiane Amanpour and Ralph Nader speak at the Khalil Gibran Sprit of Humanity Awards Gala was very moving as well. But perhaps my favorite part of the entire week was during our meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, when a group of about twenty Palestinian girls, newly immigrated, were being given a tour of the capital. They were brought into our meeting, and the awe on their faces as they saw such a large group of Americans who were able to speak Arabic with them was amazing.
Throughout the entire conference, all I could think was that I had been so blessed. The phrase usually used to describe the feeling of leaving a beloved place is “I left my heart,” but leaving D.C. after Arab American Advocacy Week, I was carrying a heart twice as full back home. Being with such an amazing network of people and organizations has given me a renewed hope for the future. In my future, I now know without a doubt that my Near Eastern Studies major will be used to better the lives of others, no matter what city, state, or country I end up in. In the future of our country, I have hope that people (like those in NNAAC’s member organizations) will continue to advocate for justice, and raise their voices for those who are not in a position to speak up. In the future of our world, I have hope that change will continue, and the number of people willing to give will outnumber those who are willing to take.