Rashad Al-Dabbagh, an immigrant born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to a Palestinian father and a Lebanese-Armenian mother, is a passionate community organizer. He founded the Arab American Civic Council in 2011 and serves as its Executive Director. Rashad is known for mobilizing thousands of Arab Americans to vote and for his impact on Orange County, earning recognition as one of its 125 Most Influential People by the Orange County Register in 2022. In its annual People Issue in 2019, the OC Weekly recognized Rashad as ‘The Organizer’ for his work’s impact on Orange County. In 2022, he was recognized as one of Orange County’s 125 Most Influential People by the Orange County Register.
Hani Haidar, an immigrant from Lebanon and business IT grad., is driven by his own experiences to make a difference at the AACC. In his role, he manages personnel files, provides essential administrative support, and oversees project progress. Hani’s dedication extends to outreach, photography, website editing, and social media management. He passionately believes that the AACC’s work is not limited to the Arab American community but extends to uniting all Americans for equal opportunities and fairness. Through his unwavering commitment to social change, Hani serves as an inspiring advocate, integral to the AACC’s mission of creating a fairer, more just America.
Ayah is a passionate advocate for social justice and equality, driving the development of strategies to achieve program goals at AACC. She leads a diverse team and manages civic participation programs, including voter registration and education. Ayah’s artistic lens, fueled by her love for photography and art, fosters connections and inclusivity. Her unique Palestinian-Mexican background empowers her to unite communities through her advocacy, driven by personal experiences. If you have the opportunity to meet Ayah, prepare to embark on a journey that explores the profound impact of art and the vibrant tapestry of our world. Together, Ayah and her community are weaving a story of hope and progress, striving to build a brighter future for all.
Policy & Research Coordinator
Amin Nash, a PhD student at Claremont Graduate, specializes in diversifying America’s narrative. His research focuses on Arab and Muslim American authors, contrasting them with canonical American authors to uncover fresh perspectives. Responsible for leading a Little Arabia community and history needs survey during his tenure as the NNAAC Transformative Leaders Fellow. As an Iraqi American, he passionately advocates for Arab and Muslim communities, serving as a President of UNLV’s Muslim Student Association and actively participating in Southern California’s Shia’ community. Amin believes in the power of continued advocacy and the importance of preserving and expanding the community’s story and imagination in Southern California.
Hasan Ismail is the IMPACT intern working with the Arab American Civic Council in conjunction with the Middle Eastern Student Center at UC Riverside. He is a 4th-year Iraqi-American student currently working towards his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Hasan loves his work with the AACC, specifically the social justice and advocacy work that is done. He loves that the AACC works to bridge the gap in issues within our Arab American community. Whether it be through civic engagement or grassroots community building, there is a lot of work to be done to uplift the community. When he isn’t grinding away with school and work Hasan dabbles in a handful of hobbies such as snowboarding, riding fixed-gear bicycles, and skating.
NNAAC Transformative Leaders Fellow
She’s a fourth year political science student at Cal Poly Pomona, Raneen is passionate about making a change in marginalized communities and is excited to advocate for policy on behalf of Arab-Americans with the AACC. Her distinct background as an Ahwazi-Arab ethnic minority in Iran gives her courage to amplify voices to those who may not have one and to unify people from all backgrounds to better transform our society and quality of life. Raneen has worked with local leaders and government officials in Riverside to promote civic engagement such as the pre-voter registration initiative within the Riverside Unified School District and worked beside Assemblymember Jose Medina to implement the 2019 Ethnic Studies requirement within the California State Universities. She hopes to bring her knowledge and leadership to the AACC to make long-lasting impacts for Arab-Americans,
Board of Directors
Jose, a Department of Justice Accredited Representative with a decade of immigration law experience, has resettled over 600 refugees from around the world and represented numerous asylum seekers. As an advocate for vulnerable populations, he collaborates in refugee forums, serves on the Executive Committee of the State Advisory Council on Refugee Assistance and Services, and works to create inclusive communities in southern California. In 2017, Jose founded Little Brushstrokes – Refugee Kids Art Program, offering immigrant and refugee children a safe space for healing through creative expression. His passion is deeply rooted in his own immigration experience, which fuels his dedication to helping others navigate complex systems. Jose’s work is a testament to his family’s resilience and the love and compassion that have shaped his life.
Johanna Mustafa is a passionate advocate for civil rights and social, racial, and economic justice. As the Policy and Advocacy Manager at Poligon Educational Fund, she leverages her years of experience in national and grassroots advocacy, with a focus on the American Muslim community. Johanna’s commitment to social justice extends to her volunteer work, where she’s involved with organizations such as the US Palestinian Community Network, Yalla Indivisible, and Transforming Justice OC. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Law and Society from the University of Southern California, is bilingual in Arabic and English, and enjoys music, painting, and the beaches of Southern California in her free time.
Samera Sood is the immediate former President of the Southern California chapter of the Palestinian American Women’s Association (PAWA), with which she has been active since the association’s founding in 1986. In addition to her work with PAWA, she was a leading board member of Al-Awda and the Los Angeles chapter of ADC, representing Al-Awda at the UNESCO International Conference in Paris in 2008. In 2004, she participated in a fact-finding mission to refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon and in 2009, she was also a part of George Galloway’s trip to break the siege on Gaza. A native of Deir Debwan in Palestine, Ms. Sood is also a businesswoman.
Amani Barakat is a Palestinian-American Community organizer, a former fashion designer, and an activist based in Southern California. originally from the village of Tantoura, a beach town in the suburbs of Haifa. She is dedicated to advancing the unequivocal rights of all people, with a particular focus on refugees, the right to self-determination, and equality for the Palestinian people. She serves on several non profit organizations advocating for a Palestinian freedom. She’s currently the National Chairperson for Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition and the vice president of the Palestine Foundation. Amani is also a grassroots and campaign organizer in coordination with several coalitions in Los Angeles
Zeena has been an active community member in social justice organizing and Arab spaces since college. The experiences that come with being an Iraqi born and raised in the United States have greatly influenced her passion for advocacy, societal and community well-being, and making connections. As a social worker working in mental health, Zeena recognizes the importance of Arab and SWANA communities to receive culturally aware and dedicated services for vulnerable and marginalized communities through a holistic lens.