Saturday, July 14, 2007

Politicians, entertainers, and FBI agents at ADC convention


With Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)

Members of Congress, Presidential candidates, Arab diplomats, activists, entertainers, and Hip Hop artists all spent the weekend speaking with, and listening to the 2,400 attendees of the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee’s (ADC) national convention entitled “Toward A More Perfect Union” last month in the nation’s capitol.
The Message was brought home by the first Muslim to be elected to congress, Keith Ellison (D-MIN) during the Capitol Hill luncheon with Presidential candidates and public officials. Congressman Ellison brought the crowed to a standing ovation when he implored them with passion to be proud of who they are, saying “This is not the time to duck down or hide… This is not the time to go from Samir to Sam.”
"We kind of feel like we live a dual life," said Lena Seikaly, a 21-year-old Jazz musician during a workshop titled “Growing up Arab American.” She explained that though she has always been proud of her Arab heritage, at one point her interaction with people varied depending on whether she’s in public with her colleagues and non-Arab friends or at home with her family.
The panelists shared their experiences as young Arab Americans struggling to balance between the lifestyle of the society they live in as Americans and the one that their immigrant parents brought with them from the motherland.
In addition to Seikaly, the panel included George Selim, a Policy Advisor at the Department of Homeland Security, Salah Husseini, a law student activist at American University, and Rana El Mir of ACLU-Michigan.
The convention was covered by CNN, C-SPAN, The Washington Post, and news outlets from around the country and the world.
With the cameras rolling the ADC also proudly released its Landmark report based on extensive research and a month long fact finding mission titled “Eyewitness Lebanon: July-August 2006, an international law inquiry.”
The report seeks to serve as “a comprehensive resource and an educational reference targeting the legal and academic communities,” including first hand accounts backed by a variety of documented sources evaluating last summers Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The release was followed by a panel discussion that was heavily attended.
The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour also performed ironically while being sponsored by the FBI, which paid $10,000 for sponsorship privileges.
“It's so nice to be standing in front of the FBI and not be handcuffed," said Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed.
Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani also played off of the irony with thunderous applause as he pointed his camera at the two tables reserved for the FBI and said "I just want to take a picture of you.”
Palestinian-American comedian, whose mother is Mormon, Aron Kader said "I hope they tap my phone. I have a lot to say.”
ADC communications director Laila al-Qatami said the FBI-sponsored comedy show was the highlight of this year's convention. “The community saw the irony, saw the inherent joke in it," Al-Qatami told the Associated Press
The FBI sponsored the event because it says it is seeking agents who speak Arabic and understand the Muslim culture, citing numbers as small as 12 Muslim agents in a force of around 12,000. Al-Qatami said having the FBI sponsor the show also helped bring the community and the FBI slightly closer in an unprecedented yet fun way.
Throughout the convention many of the high profiled names led and listened to workshops that covered the ongoing war and crises in Iraq, discrimination against Arab Americans, Islamophobia in the media, the realties of Palestine under occupation, federal employment, as well as a luncheon celebrating and honoring the achievements of Arab American women.
The event placed the Arab American community shoulder to shoulder with such people as Presidential candidate and congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of UAE Vice President, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, Arab-American Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), former Member of Congress and author of They Dare to Speak Out Paul Findley, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Journalist Helen Thomas, Homeland Security Chief Juliette Kayyem and Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
The ADC also premiered Jack Shaheens documentary “Real Bad Arabs.” The 50- minute documentary revealed and challenged the long history of negative stereotypical portrayals of Arabs, from the silent film’s beginnings to the modern day blockbusters.
The Arab Summit, a group of four Arab Hip Hop artists, rocked the crowd and promoted their new CD Fear of an Arab Planet. Narcissist, Mr. Tibbz, Omar Offendum, Excentrik, and Iron Sheik performed twice during the convention’s weekend. The first was on Friday night hosted by comedian Ahmed Ahmed, and again at the large rally and march from Capitol Hill to the White House on Sunday evening.The
ADC joined the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and more than 300 other organizations to host a large national demonstration against the Israeli occupation. According to the US Campaign, more than 5,000 attended the demonstration that attracted participants from all over the country. The event marked the 40th Anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
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