New York, March 2018
“The Afghan-American Conference is an annual nationwide conference for young community leaders to engage in meaningful dialogue, grow professionally and build relationships.”
This past weekend over 400 Afghan-Americans came together to build a stronger relationship with the community, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally. AAC provides a platform for Afghan-Americans to engage in conversations about careers, families, societal expectations, and aspirations. Often times we are disconnected from our own communities due to time, location, or being isolated from the community. Having a unique yet similar background, we need each other. We need to support our community because if we do not support one another, then who will? There is more benefit when we all come together and learn from each other.
Over the course of three days, we learned about the history of Afghanistan from Ali Olomi, inspirational speeches by resilient women speaking about depression and mental health, such as Neghena Hamidi. Hearing a strong and empowered voice about domestic violence from Arash Azizzada, just to name a few of the inspiring individuals. Afghan-Americans have a spectrum of talented and bright young individuals, the conference allows you to experience that in the span of one weekend. We bonded through our stories, experiences, discussions, music, laughter, and Attan (the native dance of Afghanistan). What makes AAC unique is the deep connections you make and the realization that there are so many others just like you.
After leaving AAC, I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion and love for my community.
We have more commonalities than differences, we all have similar insecurities and struggles. This was my third time attending AAC, but this year was different. I needed AAC more than it needed me. I have a renewed sense of appreciation and admiration for my peers. It opened my eyes seeing my community be raw and vulnerable enough to share their most painful stories. We listened together, we cried together, and we embraced each other. In those moments all barriers fell down and nothing but compassion came thereafter. It opens your eyes to see the real person and that they too struggle with their own battles. Once we realize how similar and vulnerable we really are, we feel less intimidated by those we may have thought superior. We have be to authentic with ourselves and with our community to be able to move forward. Breaking down barriers shows growth within ourselves and that is progress for our community. Any step you make to improve is progress, but remain consistent and persistent. Now that we have renewed our relationships, any step we take forward, we have the support of our community by our side. As long as you make an effort to do better and be better, that is a victory.
AAC Mehmaan Nawazi - Afghan Hospitality
The organizing committee continues to do an outstanding job by executing a seamless conference. This is a grassroots effort that is run by volunteers that are committed to helping serve their community. I think that is one of the special qualities of AAC, it makes you feel at home with 400 of your long lost cousins. Individuals that are passionate about bringing people together from around the globe that will hopefully continue for many generations to come. We hear our parents speak about the life they had in Afghanistan and all the amazing work they accomplished, now we have too that but for our generation.
It’s a beautiful blend of Afghan and American culture. The Afghan hospitality shines through and remains with us all. I loved that there were volunteers attentively waiting at every corner and every turn ready to guide you to your next session or to lunch. There was always someone available to help and ready to serve their guests. After you get over the initial fear of being surrounded by hundreds of Afghans, you see that they’re just like your cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. and you feel at home.
To end this reflection, I will share a response from my AAC application…
This past fall, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Rwanda with our team, which will probably be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. In Rwanda, I witnessed what it truly means to be a community. Once enemies and now trusted neighbors, everyone looks after one another, there is genuine concern for their fellow community members. AAC and Zam Zam both represent of this type of community, a place where we learn from one another and empowering our brothers/sisters to grow to their fullest potential. It has taught me the value of collectivity. We have to start at an individual level in order to make an impact on the greater community.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” —Rumi