Bab al-Markaz

Newsletter of the Arab American Action Network

Issue 14      
June 2010
Arab American Action Network
3148 W. 63rd St. Chicago, IL 60629
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
AAAN Updates
Feature: U.S. Social Forum
Quick Links
Join Our List
Join Our Mailing List

Hatem Abudayyeh
Executive Director

Rasmea Yusef
Associate Director

Zaineb Abdulla
Southwest Community Coalition Youth Organizer

Suha Abuosba

Case Manager

Samira Ahmad
Lead Case Manager

Gihad Ali
 Youth Organizing Program Coordinator

Halima Bahri
Youth Services
 Program Coordinator
  Muna Hammad
New Americans Initiative/ Citizenship Project
Nadia Musa

AmeriCorps Members
Nazly Damasio
Aaisha Durr
Tahany Elian
Besan Quran
 Arasele Robles
 Muhammad Sankari
Shira Tevah
Laila Younes

Put Illinois to Work
Amal Abdellatif
Medinah Abdelmuti
Kholoud Abusalem
Inas Affaneh
Yasmeen Affaneh

Mahmoud Alshaikh
Nuer Alshaikh
Aris Cervantes
Ramzy Elian
Veronica Garcia
Hanan Ghanayem
Ayah Hassan
Remal Hindi
Amany Hussein
Widad Hussein
Heba Matari
Rowaida Nofal
Asma Razik
Donia Razik
Fatmah Tabally


Lamees Talhami
Ali Hussain
Vice President 
Louise Cainkar-Mashrah

Widad AlBassam
Omar Bishtawi
Laila Farah
Ahlam Jbara
Mona Khalidi
Souzan Naser
Ora Schub

AAAN Teacher Training Featured in Tribune!
The AAAN gave a 4-hour workshop on Arab history and culture to a group of 24 Chicago Public Schools teachers on June 22. The teachers also received training from other cultural and community organizations in the city. The Chicago Tribune covered the story.
Fresh Faces
The AAAN welcomes new staff through Put Illinois to Work, in partnership with Instituto Del Progreso Latino: Amal Abdellatif, Ramzy Elian, Nuer Alshaikh, Fatmah Tabally, Rowaida Nofal, Kholoud Abusalem, Hanan Ghanayem, Asma Razik, Donia Razik, Inas Affaneh, Yasmeen Affaneh, Amany Hussein, Widad Hussein, Aris Cervantes, Ayah Hassan, Veronica Garcia, Heba Matari, Mahmoud Alshaikh,
Medinah Abdelmuti, and Remal Hindi

Put Illinois to Work is supported by the State of Illinois and the federal government's Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Youth Leadership Team member Souhyb Algholeh is the new AAAN computer technician and technology expert.

The AAAN is also proud to announce the election of its new Board President, Ms. Lamees N. Talhami.




Ms. Talhami began her relationship with the AAAN in 1998, a master's program internship, providing individual and group counseling to women, youth, adults, and the elderly.  She also coordinated the AAAN's summer youth program for two years, providing political education, and developing and facilitating leadership and social development workshops for Arab, Black, and Latino high schoolers.


Ms. Talhami has been a member of the AAAN's Board of Directors since 2000, and has focused her work with the organization around social services and youth and women's programming.  She has also previously served as a supervisor for the AAAN's counseling program, and has conducted numerous parenting classes for our clients and program participants, as well as through Chicago Public Schools (CPS) projects.  She is currently employed as a bilingual (Arabic / English) school social worker for CPS.


Ms. Talhami is the daughter of Palestinian refugees, and has a Bachelor's Degree in French Literature and a Master's Degree in Social Work, both from Loyola University in Chicago.  She replaces Ms. Widad AlBassam, who served the AAAN admirably as Acting President for close to a year, and still remains an at-large board member.

Web Site Makeover!
We've re-designed our Web site. Check it out here. Let us know what you think here.
New Direction
Nadia TonovaThe National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) welcomes Nadia Tonova as director of the National Outreach Department at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS). Tonova, who has worked at ACCESS since 2006, will oversee all aspects of NNAAC's programming, including advocacy and civic engagement efforts.
Suburban Expansion
The AAAN has opened a satellite office in Bridgeview, IL

7208 W. 90th Place
Bridgeview, IL 60455
Phone: (708) 576-8025
Monday-Friday 9 AM-2PM
(Please note: Monday, July 5th the office will be closed.)

We provide assistance with
    Public Aid Benefits Applications
   Immigration Services, including Permanent Residency,        Visa, and Naturalization Applications
    English Language / Civics / Citizenship Instruction

Upcoming Events


Rhythm of the Streets--Taste of the Southwest Side

Wednesday, June 30th
6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Martroy Parking Lot, 63rd & Troy
(Rain location: Southwest Youth Collaborative, 6400 S. Kedzie)
Join us for the Southwest Side's first completely free, multi-cultural, Dance-Off / Pot-Luck Event!
Don't miss this night of free food and dance as performers from all around the city perform Aztec Dance, Arab Debkah, Breakdancing, Footwork/Step and more!!
Bring your family and friends!
Free Arab and Mexican food will be catered from neighborhood restaurants.

AAAN Updates
End of Year
The after-school program celebrated the end of the school year on June 3rd. Around 20 students from the program at Stevenson are participating in the summer camp, which started June 28 with over 50 children participating.

========================================== Chicago Fire

The after-school program went on a field trip June 9 to a Chicago Fire soccer game through Kicks for Kids. Chicago tied with the Colorado Rapids, 2-2, but the group had to leave early because it was a school night! Many of them had never been to a game before, and Kicks for Kids has invited the students back for another one in July. A large number of the youth, says program coordinator Halima Bahri, want to be professional soccer players.

Site Visit
The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP)honored the AAAN with its first-ever organizational site visit June 11. The CAAP advisory board also hosted a reception in Burr Ridge for Arab community members across Chicagoland, where they presented goals and objectes and galvanized support for the Center.

Read more here.
Streets Festival
The AAAN social services staff went to the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)'s "Takin it to the Streets" festival on June 19th, where they helped community members sign up for social services like food stamps and free cell phones.

                   CPS Training       
Chicago Public School teachers came to the AAAN office on June 22nd for a four-hour multi-media workshop on Arab culture and history and ways of incorporating both into school curricula. The teachers were very positive about the presentation, and some even requested that presenter Muhammad Sankari come to their schools as well. "I learned so much from this and can't wait to bring it into my class," said one participant. Another noted that it would help them teach "empathy and cultural diversity" to their students, and many said the presentation gave them a better understanding of both the Arab world and culture and the experience of Arab Americans in the U.S.

Read the Chicago Tribune story about this workshop.

What do internet, coffee, and heroin have in common? They are all addictive, says Afaf Rabee, who presented to the Arab RabeeWomen's Committee on June 29. Rabee, who has counseled drug addicts for 15 years in Palestine, spoke to the women about what to look for and how to help their children stay away from drugs. "Good communication," she says, "is important." It enables parents to cultivate an atmosphere in which children are less likely to turn to drugs, and also to help their children more quickly if they do. Helping your children build self-esteem and confidence is also a good prevention method, she says.
United States Social Forum 2010
Thirteen AAAN youth and staff build movement across sectors

Raia Hamad, left, and Nuer Alshaikh, right, at Cobo Hall in Detroit
Raia Hamad

"I felt inspired," says Raia Hamad, "by seeing so many people at the United States Social Forum [USSF] who do activism around Palestine, even if they are students and don't have much time." Hamad was one of the 13 delegates from the AAAN that attended the forum. The group arrived Thursday during the day and stayed through Saturday, experiencing a number of workshops, talks, people's movement assemblies, concerts, and more. Although the youth had different individual experiences, a common theme was the need for social change in the United States.


Hamad--who will be starting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall--focused her time on Palestine-related workshops. She met people involved in Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel around the country and learned creative tools like de-shelving Israeli products from stores or labeling them with boycott stickers. Hamad, who was born in Gaza, says she's not sure if U of I has a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, but if they don't, she'll "find a way to start one." She'll be working as a youth organizer at the AAAN this summer. Because of the prestige that the U.S. has around the world, she believes, the country should "use their power to be involved" in situations like Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land.


Veronica Garcia, a member of the AAAN's Youth Leadership Team, who recently joined the youth services program staff, also attended the forum. She went to workshops on topics ranging from Palestine to homeless issues to artists. "I was really surprised," she said, "by what we learned about what homeless people go through. It changed my mind and gave me a whole new point of view." The authorities, she says, "should be helping the homeless instead of fighting them and trying to kick them out."


Though the Social Forum may have been an overwhelming experience, it was also an exciting and inspiring one. And the work has only begun.


Read live tweets from The "War on Terror" & the "War on People of Color": Muslims, Arabs, South Asians Build Movement as Black & Brown U.S. Struggle, a workshop that AAAN Cultural Outreach staffer Muhammad Sankari participated in, along with AAAN friends and allies Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) of New York and South Asian Network of Artesia, California.

(To read the rest, click on the AAAN logo and read from bottom to top.)

Read live tweets from the Arab Youth Organization of the Bay Area's Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) workshop, Tellin' It Like It Is:" Arab Youth Organization Confronting Racism and Islamophobia in High Schools.

(To read the rest, click on the AAAN logo and read from bottom to top.)

Read live tweets from the opening march!

(To read the rest, click on the AAAN logo and read from bottom to top.)


Read the Palestine Track blog.

See blogs from organizations and individuals at the forum.


Finally--Council of Arab Organizations established in Illinois


After many years of discussions and relationship-building, thirteen Arab institutions, including the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), in greater Chicago formed the Council of Arab Organizations of Illinois (CAO), dedicated to the civic participation and empowerment of Arab Americans and Arab immigrants across the state.  The council will establish criteria and an application process for others to join, in hopes that it will soon become representative of a large and diverse range of Arab organizations in Illinois. 


Thanks to the leadership of many community leaders, but especially Mr. Bilal Almasri of the Arab-American Association of Engineers & Architects (AAAEA), and the hospitality of Dr. Anton Fakhouri, who generously provided a regular meeting space, CAO was officially founded on April 19, 2010.  Besides AAAN and AAAEA, the other founding organizations are American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Arab-American Bar Association of Illinois, Arab-American Business & Professional Association, Arab-American Democratic Club, Arab American Family Services (AAFS), Chicago Commission on Human Relations-Advisory Council on Arab Affairs, Illinois chapter of National Arab-American Medical Association (NAAMA), Islamic Community Center of Illinois (ICCI), Mosque Foundation, Network of Arab American Professionals (NAAP), and St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church.  


On June 7, 2010, the CAO's Board of Directors appointed its first Executive Committee: Almasri-President, Vivian Khalaf of ADC-Vice President, Robert Sweiss of St. George Church-Secretary, and Miriam Zayed of Arab-American Democratic Club-Treasurer.  CAO participated in Arabesque, Chicago's Arab Festival, this past week, and has begun discussing the organizing of community events and projects, as well as coordinating the already strong work of its constituent institutions.  Stay tuned for more exciting news from the Council of Arab Organizations of Illinois.

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AAAN LogoThe Arab American Action Network (AAAN) strives to strengthen the Arab community in the Chicago area by building its capacity to be an active agent for positive social change. As a grassroots nonprofit, our strategies include community organizing, advocacy, education, providing social services, leadership development, cultural outreach and forging productive relationships with other communities.