Mayor Brandon Johnson entered Pazzo’s in downtown Chicago to a high energy reception for his first official appearance as Chicago Mayor with key leaders and supporters from the MENA/Arab American Community. The lunch gathering was initiated to give the mayor an introduction to our community and at the same time for leaders to learn more about Mayor Johnson’s position on key issues that matter to the MENA/Arab American Community and Chicago Residents. “The key purpose of our meeting with Mayor Johnson is to make sure he knows we are here and that we are counted, and our community has a seat on the table” says ABPA President Rush Darwish. “I can say with confidents Mayor Johnson hit all the notes to ensure his vision for Chicago includes us”. The event was MC’d by ABPA’s past Vice President Vivian Khalaf, special remarks were made by ABPA board member and AMVOTE PAC Chair Retired Judge William Haddad, and ABPA/CRA President Rush Darwish.
Mayor Johnson’s remarks touched on his vision for an inclusive Chicago which he stressed includes the Arab American and MENA Community. During a question/answer session with Mr. Darwish, he highlighted the long rich cultural history of Arab Americans and with a drop of humor talked about the importance of listening to folks who have been around “historically for a very long time”. ABPA Vice President Tayseer Doleh, who also served as event co-host felt confident after the lunch saying, “I believe our meeting with Mayor Johnson put our community in the right direction”. “I firmly believe this will be the first of many meetings with our mayor during his time in office”. The gathering with Mayor Johnson comes at a critical time for the MENA community. A city-wide disparity study is currently in motion with various stakeholders advocating for MENA (Middle Eastern-North African) to be included in Chicago’s Minority Business Program. Due to a lack of census data, Arab Americans have historically been left out of many resources and opportunities other Minority groups have access to. The belief from key orgs and leaders is to continue engaging the mayor’s office to help advocate to the city council in adding MENA as part of the MBE program.