Immigration advocates win awards at AAANY dinner

November 22, 2019 Paula Katinas
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SUNSET PARK – Governmental experts who help immigrants make a fresh start in New York City were honored for their work by the Arab American Association of New York at the organization’s 18th Annual Benefit Gala on Nov. 14.

Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, was named the winner of the Get the Job Done Award.

“I am incredibly humbled and grateful to the Arab American Association of New York for this recognition from an organization and people that I have come to see as true colleagues, leaders, and community,” Mostofi told the Home Reporter in an email.

Mostofi also paid tribute to the AAANY.

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“The dreams and aspirations we and our families here and abroad have for an America that is just and fair, one that sees the contributions of and treats all immigrant communities with dignity and pride, is worth fighting for. I commend the Arab American Association of New York for showing us what leadership in that work looks like for the past 18 years,” she said.

The Courageous Advocate Award was presented to Aliya Latif, director of Strategic Partnerships for Comptroller Scott Stringer. Latif was instrumental in convincing the de Blasio administration to add Muslim holidays to the public school calendar, according to the AAANY.

Latif said it meant a great deal to her to be recognized alongside the other award winners.

“Courage is a verb. Being recognized alongside fierce women of color for it is something I don’t take lightly. It’s a reminder that we carry the trust of our communities and are accountable to them first. When the cameras stop rolling, we do not. Anything less is unacceptable,” she told the Home Reporter in an email.

The Community Veteran Award winner was Faiza Ali, co-director of outreach at the City Council.

The AAANY also recognized Sakibeh Mustafa, community outreach coordinator for the Brooklyn Hospital Center, with the Community Connection Award. 

The guest speaker at the dinner, which took place at Widdi Hall in Sunset Park, was Laith Alnatour, a participant in the AAANY’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

The AAANY was founded in 2001 and operates out of a headquarters at 7111 Fifth Ave. in Bay Ridge. The organization serves more than 6,000 people a year by providing English language classes, social service referrals, mental health programs and legal assistance for immigration issues.

The organization is headed by Board of Directors Chairperson Dr. Ahmad Jaber and Executive Director Marwa Janini.

The gala drew a large number of attendees that included several elected officials such as Borough President Eric Adams, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Councilmember Justin Brannan.

Brannan, a Democrat representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, said he is impressed by the work done by the AAANY.

“It was an honor to once again join the Arab American Association of New York in celebration of its work in the community, as well as the work of their incredible honorees,” Brannan told the Home Reporter.

Brannan pointed out that the organization has a wide reach and offers assistance to residents of all nationalities.

“AAANY has helped thousands of New Yorkers, whether Arab American or not, and it is a privilege to have them in our neighborhood. I have enjoyed watching the organization grow every year and look forward to everything they will accomplish in the future,” he said.

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