Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media

Launching the i Word Campaign

By Seth Freed Wessler Jan 06, 2009

When right-wing groups began attacking the U.S.’s first Arabic language public school, located in Brooklyn, they falsely accused its principal of being connected to a group that had printed T-shirts with the slogan “intifada NYC.” The principal lost her job and the New York City school is struggling now, but the group that printed the T-shirts—Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media (also known as AWAAM)—is not remaining silent in the face of accusations that they aim to incite violence.

They’ve launched the i Word Campaign—“i” for intifada.

The campaign, explains Mona Eldahry, one of the group’s founders, “is a campaign of self-defense. It’s to say, ‘this is AWAAM. This is what we are about. Yes, we can use our languages. Yes, we can talk about our people’s struggles.’”

The campaign includes videos produced by the group’s members, a poll that asked the public to think about the word intifada, which literally means ‘shaking-off’,  and a redrawing of the Handala, the iconic image of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, to show a girl holding a microphone.

The group was founded after Sept. 11 to give young Arab and Muslim women and other women of color opportunities to become community organizers and media producers. Conservatives who were trying to shut down the Arabic language school thought they could silence the group’s members by branding them as terrorists. But, says Eldahry, “we have gone out to tell our stories.”