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Arab-American Women Celebrate International Women’s Day

posted on: Jun 3, 2018



The National Arab American Women’s Association (NAAWA) held its annual International Women’s Day dinner at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel in Virginia on March 25. NAAWA’s mission is to empower Arab-American women of all ages to voice their views and to stand up for issues that impact their community.

Organizers invited an inspiring young Latino-Arab-American man, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a candidate for Congress in California, to address the dinner. Raised in San Diego, his family spent four years in Gaza getting to know their Arab family until war broke out. His mother returned to California with her two sons and struggled to make ends meet. Campa-Najjar worked as a church janitor and soon became a youth leader in the church while he attended college. After volunteering for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, Campa-Najjar served on a team that selected the 10 letters the president read every night. Reading thousands of letters from citizens, he learned about the hopes, fears and daily struggles of the American people. Campa-Najjar said he hopes to make a difference and help America become more fair, just and inclusive.

Next to speak was Maya Berry, executive director of Arab American Institute, who travels the country speaking out against Islamophobia and the Muslim ban, and works to improve human rights and international relations. Berry started her career in public service working for ACCESS, and went on to become legislative director for House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI).

Candace Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and “We Save Lives,” which seeks to put a stop to distracted driving, described her Lebanese-American mother, another strong woman. Despite her pride in her Arab roots and the fact that she was president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) from October 1994 to March 1995, Lightner’s Arab-American heritage is rarely mentioned in press reports.

Arab-American women artists exhibited their work and donated artwork for an auction to raise money for the education of refugee children. The dinner concluded with music by acclaimed Syrian opera singer Lubana Al-Quntar.