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Nonprofit's gala will celebrate Arab American Heritage Month

Nonprofit's gala will celebrate Arab American Heritage Month
The Arab American Civic Council organized a No Muslim Ban march and rally last year in the wake of President Trump’s travel ban of certain Muslim-majority countries. The group will hold a gala in April to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month. (Courtesy of Rashad Al-Dabbagh)

An Orange County nonprofit seeking to empower Arab Americans will hold its third annual gala to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month.

The Arab American Civic Council will honor activists and a Jewish group advocating for Palestinian equality at the April 21 event.

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Arab American Heritage Month is a national recognition of the societal contributions of Arab Americans that was adopted by California last year.

The Los Angeles-based chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace will receive the Solidarity in Action Award at the gala for its collaboration with the Arab American group.

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Both have worked together on lobbying and advocacy efforts with the goal of increasing equality for Arab Americans. The Jewish group supports “an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.”

Jewish Voice for Peace began in Berkeley in 1996 and went national in 2005.

“It’s an enormous honor for us to be acknowledged in this way by friends and allies,” said Estee Chandler, one of the leaders of the Los Angeles chapter and a member of the legislative leadership team for the national organization.

Chandler said the two groups have most recently been working on lobbying against the national Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would make it illegal for Americans to engage in certain boycotts against Israel.

Members of the Arab American Civic Council pose with Estee Chandler of Jewish Voice for Peace, which will receive an award from the council at a gala in April. From left are Rashad Al-Dabbagh, Monica Brascov-Curca, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, Estee Chandler and Johanna Mustafa.
Members of the Arab American Civic Council pose with Estee Chandler of Jewish Voice for Peace, which will receive an award from the council at a gala in April. From left are Rashad Al-Dabbagh, Monica Brascov-Curca, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, Estee Chandler and Johanna Mustafa. (Courtesy of Estee Chandler)

The Arab American Civic Council was founded by Rashad Al-Dabbagh in 2012. The group does grassroots organizing in Orange County such as leadership development, voter outreach and cultural events with the goal of empowering the Arab American community.

While the group is regional, it partners with out-of-state organizations, like the Arab American Institute in Washington D.C., to help with lobbying efforts.

It’s also part of the National Network for Arab American Communities, an umbrella organization that has 26 member nonprofits in 11 states.

Since the ascendancy of President Trump, the group has ramped up its efforts to combat perceived anti-Muslim sentiments that they say have escalated.

“Our work is not new, but at this point in time, our efforts are critical because our current president is taking steps that will have consequences on our community,” Al-Dabbagh said.

Early last year, the Arab American Civic Council took part in various protests around the region, including one against Trump’s travel ban of select Muslim-majority countries.

Also at the gala, Samar Aziz and Dr. Musa Nasir will receive the Spirit of Service and Lifetime Achievement awards, respectively.

Members of the Arab American Civic Council went to Standing Rock in November 2016 to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Members of the Arab American Civic Council went to Standing Rock in November 2016 to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Courtesy of Rashad Al-Dabbagh)

Aziz has been aiding refugee communities in Orange County through the nonprofit, Sabil USA, since she co-founded it in 2012. The organization provides assistance to hundreds of families, including weekly groceries, furniture, financial support and assisting with job training, among others.

Nasir has worked for years with Arab American organizations and in 1991 co-founded the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, which provides medical and humanitarian aid to Arab children.

If You Go

What: Arab American Heritage Gala

Where: Great Wolf Lodge, 12681 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove

When: 6 to 10 p.m. April 21

Cost: $75 for general admission and $65 for early-bird until March 31

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