On Thursday, June 21, 2012, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) will hold its annual Convention in the heart of Washington, D.C., the nation's capital. Members and friends from across the United States will attend and participate in the four-day event. Convention goers attend each year and are expected to get involved in a number of activities including panels, discussions, and dinner galas. The Convention offers something for everyone. There is time to voice strong opinions and discuss concerns, as well as join in laughter, dancing and cash bars.
Each year since its inception in 1980, ADC has been advocating on behalf of the Arab American community. While they fight discrimination and racism towards Arab people, they also combat negative stereotypes about Arabs in the media. Perhaps the best work ADC accomplishes comes from their established network with federal agencies and departments, which helps ADC address issues of concern to the community. They have developed a close relationship with the Department of Justice, Treasury Department, and Department of Homeland Security. Members of ADC's legal team are well regarded in those offices and are often times responded to regarding grievances from the community.
Key government officials often take part of the ADC Convention. They use it as a forum and a platform to reach out to the community regarding issues of mutual importance. While certainly all Arab Americans are concerned with domestic policies that affects their daily life, many of them also look outside of America and worry about the countries of their heritage. Therefore, ADC holds a number of panels on foreign policies and current events. Members and activists from the East Coast, Texas, California, Illinois and many metropolitan areas attend and bring their concerns. ADC has always been a microcosm for America, where everybody is welcome to pitch in with no regard to faith, ethnicity, or orientation.
One of the most influential activities that take place during the Convention is ADC Advocacy Day: During the first day of the Convention, attendees call for Congressional meetings on Capitol Hill to allow community members to have their voices heard. No one makes his voice heard as much as author and filmmaker Michael Moore -- who will also be speaking at the convention.
Arab embassies in Washington, D.C. also attend various events, namely the Saturday dinner with the keynote speaker. There is also time fund raise and ask attendees to open up their checkbooks for a great cause. Convention goers can also visit the exhibitors and merchants at the souk offering a variety of goods.
Do not let the busy schedule intimidate you, there's plenty of time for schmoozing and enjoying the great offerings of Washington DC. Later in the evening, men and women change their formal attire and slip into something more festive as they hit the late night parties. Another fascinating thing about the conventions is the age disparity in attendees. On the one hand you have the 70 year-old retired Arab-American physician who has attended each convention since they began. On the other hand, you will find that sharply dressed, yet clueless, summer intern and their twenty-something friend who is active on his or her college campus.
As someone who has worked for ADC in the past, I can tell you that ADC is not without controversy, but that comes with the territory. If you do not get criticized, then you are not doing anything worthy. We may disagree on the politics, but at the end of the day, ADC is needed as it serves a great purpose. I know this because ADC helped change my life. When violence in Gaza increased, it was the ADC staff that helped me navigate the tiring immigration process that would allow me to stay in the States legally. I know I am not alone. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee stands in a unique place as it helps bridge the gap of distrust between the government and the community. This is something, various U.S. departments and community leaders are grateful for.
ADC needs you to attend its convention this year. The theme of this convention, "Taking Charge. Moving Forward: Decision 2012," is more important and pressing than ever. The Arab American community needs your voice. There is power in numbers, and your presence makes all the difference.
For the complete program for the convention please visit here.