How we’re honoring our commitment to community
By Maha Freij, President and CEO, ACCESS
April is Arab American Heritage Month – a time to recognize the contributions our community has made to this country and the world, and to continue our proud tradition of giving.
ACCESS has been giving back and taking care of our community for more than 50 years.
As the most comprehensive Arab American community nonprofit in the United States, ACCESS offers a broad array of social, economic, health and educational services to a diverse population in metro Detroit. We’ve also built four national institutions – the Arab American National Museum, the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), the Center for Arab American Philanthropy and the Center for Arab Narratives (CAN) – that exponentially multiply the impact of our work.
As we celebrate our heritage this month, we can also celebrate the great strides we’ve made in gaining recognition for Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) communities. Thanks to the work of NNAAC and its member organizations, several agencies have now established a MENA category and, most significantly, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has committed to revising the data standards to include MENA by the summer of 2024. This is a significant step in ensuring that MENA populations are counted in the 2030 Census. We are collecting public comments to support this initiative, so make your voice heard here by April 27.
ACCESS and our national institutions are celebrating Arab American Heritage Month in a number of other ways. Our biennial MOVE summit, April 26-28, is a gathering like none other of its kind that unites Arab American leaders and changemakers, along with allies from across the country. We’ll engage and collaborate on solutions to challenges facing all communities of color. MOVE brings together attendees and speakers from a diverse array of perspectives and disciplines including philanthropy, advocacy, arts and culture, behavioral health, research, public policy, civic engagement and more, all of which will be topics for lively discussions. For more information, click here.
And, of course, there is our 51st Annual Dinner on April 27, where we will honor our 2023 Arab American of the Year, Michael Farah, for his tireless dedication to philanthropy and pride in his Arab American heritage. He has dedicated his energy and his vision to improving lives and communities and reminds us all that we must always cherish our heritage – and one another.
Our celebration of Arab American Heritage Month will continue with our annual National Arab American Service Day on Saturday, May 6. This event brings Arab Americans across the country together to volunteer and make a positive difference in our communities. Last year, more than 1,200 volunteers from 14 NNAAC member organizations nationwide participated. This year, we will be doing restoration projects with ACCESS’ Hope House and working with the City of Dearborn to complete service projects in local parks. If you would like to join us, please RSVP by April 30 here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maha Freij is the President and Chief Executive Officer of ACCESS and has been a leading visionary in the Arab American community for more than 30 years, building philanthropy and strong institutions to strengthen her community’s voice in American society. Freij has also been a key leader in growing ACCESS from its roots as a regional human services organization to what it is today — a community builder nationwide. Under her leadership, ACCESS has successfully raised tens of millions of dollars for endowment building and numerous brick-and-mortar projects, including the first-ever Arab American National Museum in the United States. Her solid experience in management and operations, combined with her inspiring approach to philanthropy and community, has positioned ACCESS as the leading organization addressing the many complex issues that face the Arab American community.