The New Americans: Arabs in California

August 10, 2014 at 6:00pm
Levantine Cultural Center
5998 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
United States
Google map and directions

Refugees, exile, immigration, assimilation...

With Nahla Kayali, Anthony Saidy, Nagwa Ibrahim and Cheryl Faris and others, moderator Don Bustany. A panel on refugees, exiles and immigrants from the Arab world discusses integration and assimilation.

This two-part program features a discussion with an early generation of Arab Americans, Anthony Saidy and Cheryl Faris, talking about their parents and grandparents arrival in the United States, and the history of social and cultural contributions that Arab Americans have made, particularly in California (Cousins Club, ADC, KPFK, etc). The second half of the discussion will be with a newer generation of Arab immigrants to California. Nahla Kayali, Nagwa Ibrahim and others will talk about how they reinvented their lives in Southern California. This exploration of history, culture and identity intends to demystify Arab and Arab American society, defuse Islamophobia, and build new bridges among all our communities. The event is free and open to the public. Donations are welcome. Refreshments will be served.

RSVPs welcome, 323.413.2001. "The New Americans: Arabs in California," Levantine Cultural Center, 5998 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90035. 

Refugees, exile, immigration, assimilation...


About the Participants

Don Bustany (moderator)
Don Bustany has been an American radio and television broadcaster, known to Angelenos for his groundbreaking work on KPFK's long-running show, "Middle East in Focus." He was born in Detroit to Lebanese-American parents. He and Casey Kasem were co-creators of the syndicated radio program American Top 40 and American Country Countdown. In the 1970s, Bustany was camera coordinator of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and other MTM productions. Earlier he had produced local talk shows on several Los Angeles, California stations. He has a BA in Liberal Arts from Wayne State University and an MS in Communications from Syracuse University. From 1996 to 2013, he produced and hosted the radio program "Middle East in Focus" on KPFK, the Los Angeles affiliate of the Pacifica Radio network. The show's "mission is to fill the many gaps left by the mainstream media in their coverage" of the Middle East. He is a member of the advisory committee of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and, in the 1990s, served for four terms as president of the organization's Los Angeles chapter. Bustany is also a member of the board of directors of the Southern California Chapter of Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal political group. He has been an advisor to the Levantine Cultural Center since the early 2000s. In 2007, the Levantine Cultural Center presented Don with an award for his long service to the Middle Eastern community.

Cheryl Faris

Cheryl J. Faris is a native of Fall River, Massachusetts, and has lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years. She was a corporate Labor & Employment attorney for AT&T for 21 years, and currently teaches Law and Social Studies. As a Lebanese American, Cheryl has long been involved with the Arab American community. She sits on the National Board of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, as well as on the local Los Angeles Steering Committee. She was the first woman president of the Arab-American Lawyers' Association. For 16 years, she served on the Executive Board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). 

Nagwa Ibrahim

An attorney by training specializing in immigration law and criminal defense, Nagwa Ibrahim additionally worked as a civil and human rights attorney, handling Guantanamo cases and other prisoner rights cases. She also worked with the State of California Parole Advocacy Program to provide free legal representation for individuals who could not afford attorneys in their criminal parole proceedings. In addition she has traveled throughout the world on humanitarian delegations including Chiapas Mexico, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, South Africa, and Venezuela. Through her travels and work as an attorney, she learned about how extraordinary the human experience is through the stories of real people, which inspired Nagwa to become a filmmaker where such stories can be heard felt and experienced in one space that transcends borders. Whether as a lawyer or filmmaker, she genuinely loves people and learning about humanity through people's lived experiences. After writing and directing a series of her own short films for several years, she officially launched her production company, WitNas Productions, the purpose of which is to use visual media of all types, whether feature films, documentaries, web-series, etc., as a means of connecting humanity beyond borders by sharing the stories and lives of people around the world so that we may bridge the gaps, appreciate difference while also celebrating that which connects us all. WitNas Productions along with Lima Productions, is currently in post-production on the narrative feature film Woven, which Nagwa Ibrahim directed with Salome Mulugeta and served as one from among a team of producers. Woven is a film about an Ethiopian American family and a White American family whose lives are turned upside down after a tragedy strikes in New York and a web of secrets are revealed showing just how interconnected life and people really are when it comes to love, loss and forgiveness.

Nahla Kayali

Nahla Kayali once struggled as an immigrant and single mother of three, but 16 years ago she founded ACCESS California Services to help people new to the United States. In April 2014 she was named one of 10 community leaders from around the country that the White House recognized as a "Champion of Change" in honor of Cesar Chavez Day. She was honored for her work as the executive director of ACCESS, an organization dedicated to serving the Arab American, American Muslim and other immigrant communities. Kayali's path to the White House began in 1998 when she took her young daughter to a free clinic for a vaccine. There, she found pamphlets describing California Healthy Families, a state-sponsored insurance program for children. Kayali signed up her daughter, but she didn't stop there. "When I saw the program," she said during the awards ceremony, "I saw my community was underserved. Today, Access California serves 8,700 people annually and has a 30-person staff that speaks 15 languages. The office has grown to 7,000 square feet, offers English as a second language classes, citizenship classes, computer training, immigration assistance and other kinds of counseling.

Anthony Saidy
Anthony Saidy, a retired physician in California, sojourned four times as a chess master in the USSR. His classic work, The March of Chess Ideas, is now available as an app from He is also co-author of The World of Chess. Saidy is the son of playwright Fred Saidy, and was featured in a recent exhibit, Patriots and Peacemakers, about Arab Americans, at the Japanese American National Museum. He is the author most recently of 1983: A Dialectical Novel, set in the Soviet Union.

Will you come?