“INTIFADA NYC” T-SHIRTS: AWAAM RESPONDS
Teenagers and Volunteers Respond to Misinformed Media Spin
New York, NY, August 8, 2007– A group of New York teenagers are shocked to find themselves at the receiving end of attacks by anti-Arab bloggers and press who are using a t-shirt to try to aggravate hysteria against Arab and Muslim communities. These hateful attacks are in response to the opening of an Arabic language public school in Brooklyn this September. In addition to being incorrectly labeled a “Muslim group” and “pro-violence” in the mainstream press, the youth organization has sustained an illegal attack by hackers on its website.
AWAAM: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media members are now speaking out to address reports about a t-shirt they produced bearing the slogan, “Intifada NYC,” displayed at an Arab heritage festival last month. AWAAM does not have its own office space and runs one of its youth programs out of the office space of Saba: The Association of Yemeni Americans, where the school’s principal is a board member. Although AWAAM is not associated with the school, they are sustaining an onslaught of attacks aimed toward the school.
“As the present controversy makes clear, [Arabs and Muslims] are either portrayed as religious fanatics or, at the other extreme, we are viewed as voiceless women…”
As for the meaning of the term, “Intifada NYC,” AWAAM’s official statement is:
Intifada is a word that literally means “shaking off.” As AWAAM provides young women with opportunities to become active as community organizers and media producers, “Intifada NYC” is a call for empowerment, service, civic participation and critical thinking in our communities: a ‘shaking off’ of discrimination and prejudice and an embracing of our roles as producers rather than simply objects of the mass media and public discourse.
Since its inception 4 years ago, AWAAM has run programs and campaigns for and by young women and girls. By providing training and experience in media production, campaign building, public speaking and collective decision-making the organization provides young women of color with the skills necessary to take leadership in their communities.
“This controversy has really affected the way we work,” says AWAAM video mentor, Devorah Hill. “We were planning to launch a video blog next week premiering a piece about the interface between our youth and pop culture, but now it looks like it will be just audio; we’re worried that our youth producers might be harassed. We’ve also held off on publicizing upcoming events on our website because we don’t want disruptors or unfriendly press there.”
“I am in AWAAM to learn about being active in the media,” said a 16 year-old youth video producer, “The fact that a t-shirt is being portrayed as a terrorist uprising makes me scared about what else could be used against us.”
“As the present controversy makes clear, we are either portrayed as religious fanatics or, at the other extreme, we are viewed as voiceless women,” said AWAAM founding director, Mona Eldahry. “Who should have the right to define our words and tell us that our call for community empowerment is actually a call for terrorism?”