Positioning Arab American Identities Within the Nonprofit Sector

This fall season has and continues to offer me valuable experiences. Joining Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture as a NNAAC Transformative Leaders Fellow in early September and learning how matters operate behind-the-scenes of community events and educational sessions that Al-Bustan hosts has truly amplified my appreciation for the nonprofit sector.

An important part of the Transformative Leaders Fellowship involved a recent orientation in Dearborn, Michigan. The orientation was an incredible opportunity to network with inspiring mentors including Mike Corbin, Amer Zahr, Rachid Elabid and Asha Noor – to name a few. Meeting other NNAAC fellows across the States was also a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, as well as enhance my and their knowledge as to how we can become effective members in our respective organizations and the nonprofit sector as a whole.

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Front entrance design of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

As we learned new skills to help us navigate through our present and future goals, we were frequently reminded of how important the voices of Arab Americans, along with the voices of other people of color, not to mention Millennials, with an emphasis of how much stronger our social responsibilities are than our predecessor’s given the current state of Arab American issues. We were encouraged to think critically about the roles we play in our communities as individualistic Arab Americans, and how we can bridge socio-political gaps between ourselves and other identity groups around us. In addition to challenging ourselves and thinking outside of the box, we learned more about grant writing and devising work plans that will be of use not only in our respective organizations, but also for accomplishing personal future goals.

Within the span of our two-day orientation, we held meetings at the Arab American National Museum and ACCESS, both locations which are apt environments for the themes we were discussing and learning about. We also had some time to explore Dearborn quite a bit, which truly felt akin to familiar cities I have been to when I lived in the Arabian Gulf region. The proliferation of Arab restaurants, halal options and shisha lounges did make Dearborn stand out to me next to other cities I have been to in the States.

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NNAAC Transformative Leaders Fellows 2016-2017

Having gained a new set of skills and an expanded perspective of how grand the nonprofit sector is, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been accepted into this fellowship and the chance to work alongside Al-Bustan, whose work I had been impressed with the minute I learned about them earlier this year. I have always been an advocate of identity inclusivity and intercultural exchange, but I find myself reiterating that now, more than ever, the need for comprehensive compassion and deference can make a world of difference in creating and sustaining a safer America that encompasses diversity the way it was always meant to.

— Bushra Alfaraj, Transformative Leaders Fellow

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