The Arab-American Association of New York’s 17th annual gala was a fun-filled evening but one that also had a serious message at its core, according to organizers of the dinner.
The Bay Ridge-based association celebrated the accomplishments of individuals and organizations that work to ensure the rights and dignity of immigrants and the other groups.
The theme of this year’s gala was “Solidarity.”
The AAANY presented the Freedom Fighter Award to Shaun King, the well-known writer and civil rights activist. The group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice received the Community Champion Award. The Community Defender Award was given to representatives of the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Representatives of the Beit Hanina Cultural Center, a new center in Bay Ridge, picked up the Basemah Atweh Legacy Award. “It is a new center that opened and we very much want to work with them,” Enas Almadhwahi, the human resources manager for the Arab-American Association of New York (AAANY), told this newspaper.
The center is named after Beit Hanina, a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
The AAANY Gala, which took place at the Widdi Catering Hall, 5602 Sixth Ave., drew a large crowd, according to Almadhwahi, a Yemeni-American.
“Every table was filled. We had 25 tables. We were happy to see so many people come,” she said.
The decision to honor political activism and human rights workers was a deliberate one, AAANY leaders said.
“We felt that this year was different. We wanted to honor people and groups that work for human rights. We usually honor people for the community work they do,” Almadhwahi said.
The dinner took place two nights after Election Night. Andrew Gounardes, the apparent state senator-elect in Bay Ridge, was among the political leaders who came to the event to congratulate the AAANY.
The AAANY, which operates out of offices at 7111 Fifth Ave. in Bay Ridge, was founded in 2001. The organization, which primary serves the immigrant population, offers a wide array of educational and social service programs.
The programs include English classes for those wishing to learn the language, preparation for the U.S. citizenship test, legal assistance, job application and resume help, eligibility screenings for public assistance, teen discussion groups, and advocacy and civic engagement activities.
“We also have a women empowerment program. We are always trying to create awareness. We try to help people to know their rights. That is a very important role we have,” Almadhwahi told this newspaper.
For more information on the AAANY, visit the organization’s website at: www.arabamericanny.org.