Flint, MI—A nationwide non-profit recently featured a Flint community leader in its list of 30 accomplished Arab Americans under 30.
Put together by the Arab America Foundation, the 2021 inaugural class of 30 Under 30 awardees features attorneys, CEOs, surgeons, musicians, activists and scientists. Among those listed is Devin Bathish, the executive director of Flint’s Arab American Heritage Council.
“I didn’t expect to get the award,” Bathish said. “You know, it was a self-submission process but there were so many overqualified people applying. And you know, sometimes when you’re honored like this, it tends to stay within the community but with this, you’re bringing some of that attention back to the community.”
According to the AAF’s website, “30 Under 30 is a celebration of accomplished young Arab Americans.… These young professionals have great achievements both in the workplace and their communities”
Bathish, who grew up volunteering and participating within the AAHC eventually came to be the youngest executive director in the organization’s 40-year history. Using his degree in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Michigan, Bathish has managed to grow and in some cases double the size of some of the AAHC’s programs. This includes expanding the organization’s immigration program, hosting diversity training workshops for local organizations and schools as well as making strides raising awareness and participation numbers for the 2020 Census.
Bathish, along with other AAHC staff and volunteers, has also organized protests to bring awareness to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as overseeing the management and distribution of thousands of dollars worth of scholarships given to local Arab American students.
Having grown up as an Arab American in a post-9/11 U.S, Bathish said he was driven by the need to reconcile his own views of the community he grew up in with the widespread and negative view of Arab Americans that quickly spread across the country during that time.
“A big part of my identity was not understanding why the external portrayal of my community and the way I was raised was so different from the community that I knew,” Bathish said.
Bathish also explained how even within his community, there were some changes he grew up wanting to see. Specifically, he wanted to challenge the notion popular within his community that success can only be achieved through certain careers or areas of study.
“Within the community, we had various, defined standards of what success means. You know, engineer, lawyer, doctor. You know we say that jokingly within the Arab community but it is still very much true. I asked myself, ‘how can I establish myself in a way that feels right to me, to be successful and feel good about myself while still representing the community well,” Bathish said.
When he took the job as executive director at AAHC, Bathish said he was not expecting to have such an impact on his community or end up being a role model.
“I think through the process of fighting for a community, or building up a community, you end up becoming a role model not by choice but by default. I just hope that I can make the community proud that has raised me … For me the biggest thing is hopefully serving as a role model for Arab Americans in the Flint area,” Bathish said.