Press Release – AAFSC Celebrates Arab-American Heritage at Borough Hall

March 27, 2019


The Arab-American Family Support Center is proud to partner with the Brooklyn Borough President and local community based organizations, including Arab-American Association and Salaam Club to present the annual Arab-American Heritage Celebration on Thursday, April 4th at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Hosted by the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, this event is part of an annual Embrace Your Hyphen campaign which seeks to celebrate and honor the diversity of Americans and their many distinct ethnicities that make Brooklyn a cultural mosaic. Brooklyn is home to one of the largest Arab-American populations in the United States, and April is designated as National Arab-American Heritage Month. This year, we are recognizing immigrants and allies who strengthen cross-cultural ties, which make our city the vibrant place it is.

The Arab-American Family Support Center is steadfast in celebrating the diversity of Brooklyn which is reflected in the communities we serve at our Center. While we support anyone who walks through our doors, over our nearly 25 years of experience, we have developed expertise in serving the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) immigrant and refugee communities. As a settlement house, AAFSC is geographically embedded in the communities we serve and the majority of our staff are members of those communities. Through our comprehensive framework, we ensure that we provide culturally and linguistically competent services to all, including the many Arab-Americans who have utilized our services since 1994.

“The Arab-American Family Support Center is proud to celebrate the richness and diversity of Arab-American culture across New York City. At AAFSC, we strive for an equitable society where all immigrants, including those who identify as Arab-Americans, can fully partake as Americans. We recognize our neighbors’  leadership and solidarity in shaping Brooklyn and confronting xenophobia, racism, and all forms of oppression.” said Rawaa Nancy Albilal, President and CEO of Arab-American Family Support Center.

The celebration, which is expected to draw 200 people, will honor the cultures and accomplishments of Arab-Americans and those who actively support Arab-Americans in Brooklyn. Remarks will be provided by Brooklyn Borough Hall President Eric L. Adams and President and CEO of the Arab-American Family Support Center, Rawaa Nancy Albilal. Honorees include Citi Private Bank Managing Director, Randa El-Sayed Haffar, Barnard College Assistant Professor and Staff Attorney at the Arab-American Family Support Center, J.C. Salyer, and President and CEO of the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Cecilia Clarke.

A dynamic cultural performance will be led by professional Palestinian-American group Freedom Dabka, along with music selections from a variety of Arab artists. The event will also host cuisine to showcase cultural dishes and desserts from a variety of Arab vendors in Brooklyn, including Yemen Café, Damascus Bakery, Oriental Pastry, and Nablus Sweets.

The general public is invited to enjoy this exciting celebration in honor of Arab-Americans and learn about these distinct communities that make Brooklyn vibrant. To register for the event, please visit


Randa El-Sayed Haffar – Managing Director, Citi Private Bank

Randa El-Sayed Haffar has served as a trustee of several charitable organizations dedicated to improving the well-being of New York’s most vulnerable populations. Ms. El-Sayed Haffar is the managing director at Citi Private Bank. She previously worked for the Private Bank of Chase Manhattan Bank, Coutts Bank, and the Bank of New York. Ms. El-Sayed Haffar is a trustee of the Elmer and Mamdouha Bobst Foundation and has been involved in the Worldwide Alumni Association of AUB (WAAAUB) as a member-at-large and a member of its Strategic Planning Task Force. A trustee of the American University of Beirut (AUB) since 2011 and an AUB graduate (BA ’90), Ms. El-Sayed Haffar is also the past vice president of the New York Metropolitan Chapter of the AUB Alumni Association of North America. Across all these roles, Ms. El-Sayed Haffar has been instrumental in promoting the wellbeing of Arab-American immigrants in New York City. She is a graduate of New York University (MPA ’95).

J.C. Salyer – Assistant Professor, Barnard College and Staff Attorney, Arab-American Family Support Center

J.C. Salyer is an anthropologist and a lawyer whose work focuses on law and society, immigration law, climate change, and social justice.  He is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Anthropology Department and the Human Rights Program at Barnard College  He is also the staff attorney for the Arab-American Family Support Center, where he runs the organization’s immigration law clinic.  He is the co-organizer of “Migrant Personhood and Rights: Crises of Recognition,” a three-year symposium at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Social Difference, which explores ways academics and community-based organizations can collaborate to counter anti-immigrant policies and discourses.  In addition to work on U.S. immigration law and policy he has had a multi-year NSF-funded research project focusing on issues of migration, human rights, and sovereignty relating to the Australian government’s policy of placing asylum seekers in a detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Mr. Salyer has demonstrated commitment to and solidarity with immigrant communities over his decades-long role at the Arab-American Family Support Center. He was one of the attorneys stationed at JFK airport supporting immigrants in light of the Travel Ban.

Cecilia Clarke, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Community Foundation

Cecilia joined Brooklyn Community Foundation in September 2013, leading a holistic transformation of its strategic grant-making, community leadership, and asset building activities. Her first signature effort, Brooklyn Insights, engaged more than 1,000 Brooklyn residents and leaders in conversations about the borough’s future and the Foundation’s role in bringing about needed change. She has since overseen the development of several strategic initiatives, including a resident-led grant-making model in Crown Heights, a Restorative Justice pilot in four Brooklyn public schools, and an institution-wide commitment to racial justice. Prior to joining Brooklyn Community Foundation, Ms. Clarke was the founder and Executive Director of the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, an innovative educational leadership program for low-income young women from New York City and Newark, New Jersey. She was also the Executive Director of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, was Associate Director of The Drawing Center, and was responsible for government fundraising at the Brooklyn Museum. She got her start as a social worker, counseling women at Fountain House, a “clubhouse” program for the mentally ill. Ms. Clarke’s commitment to social justice has been truly impactful in responding to the needs of immigrant community members.

About the Arab-American Family Support Center:

The Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization created in 1994 to provide culturally and linguistically competent, trauma-informed social services to low-income immigrants and refugees throughout New York City. AAFSC’s mission is to empower new immigrants with the tools they need to successfully acclimate to the world around them and become active participants in their communities. AAFSC initiatives operate across four priority areas–promote, prevent, get ready, and communicate–to promote wellness, prevent gender-based violence and child abuse, prepare family members to lead productive lives, and communicate community needs to partners and policymakers. While services are open to anyone in need, AAFSC has gained expertise in providing culturally and linguistically competent, trauma-informed services to marginalized and under-resourced Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian immigrant and refugee communities. First established in Brooklyn, AAFSC opened a second center in Queens in 2013 and since 2017 has offered services at Family Justice Centers across all five boroughs. AAFSC is also a founding partner of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a New York City public high school dedicated to fostering intercultural understanding.