Flint, Mich—Starting in January of 2022, the Arab American Heritage Council will be headed by a new executive director, Lucine Jarrah.
Jarrah spent the last three years working at the AAHC, with her most recent position being communications coordinator. Jarrah is a University of Michigan-Flint graduate with a degree in political science and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in social work at the University of Michigan. She is 24, making her the second-youngest executive director in the organization’s 41-year history.
Jarrah, who grew up in Grand Blanc, first got involved with the AAHC in 2017 when she attended the organization’s Arab American Film Festival. A film connoisseur and an advocate for arts and entertainment, Jarrah said she immediately knew she wanted to work with the AAHC after that night.
“I was super interested in the work of the organization. I knew I wanted to be involved in putting together the film festival the next year. You know, their emphasis on art and culture was one of my initial attractions toward the organization,” Jarrah said.
In the following year, Jarrah went on to join the AAHC as a fellow, where she helped organize that year’s film festival.
From then on, Jarrah began getting more involved with the community and social health-oriented projects. Throughout 2020 and 2021 Jarrah has been spearheading a project called the Middle Eastern North African campaign. The campaign is part of a larger nationwide effort to more accurately count the country’s Arab American population.
During the most recent rise in tensions between Israel and Palestine earlier this year, Jarrah helped organize and lead a peaceful protest in defense of Palestine through downtown Flint. Jarrah also oversaw a large voting rights campaign in 2020 for Flint’s Arab community.
Jarrah said having spent the last three years working for the AAHC as well as serving in other roles like Vice President of Student Government at UM-Flint has brought her close to the city.
“I think over the years I’ve developed this understanding of the nonprofit sector, the challenges of this work. … We’re really positioned now to continue developing our vision and to continue expanding our current programming like immigration assistance, historical preservation, and arts and culture,” Jarrah said.
Jarrah said her current goal for the AAHC is to expand community engagement and advocacy and bring awareness to the MENA campaign.
“What has been really a major contribution in a lot of ways to the community is the AAHC recognizing the intersection between arts and culture and civic engagement work and I think this is some of the most important work the AAHC has invested in. For me, having the space to build up the work where those two points intersect and having a team to help is essential,” Jarrah said.
Devin Bathish, the AAHC’s current executive director, will soon be moving out of state. Though he originally planned to leave in 2020, Bathish said he decided to stay and oversee the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID numbers steadily decreasing in the last year and wanting to finish his Masters, Bathish said it was a good time to invite new leadership into the organization.
“It’s been incredibly rewarding. I’ve given a lot of hard work over the last five years. I can’t say enough how much it means to me to have been a part of this organization, to represent a community I am a part of. … I feel like we’re at a good stage organizationally and community-wise to have somebody really take that and run with it,” Bathish said.
Bathish said about 20 candidates applied for the position of Executive Director but that at the end of the day, choosing someone who was part of the community already and had a proven track record of being community-oriented was essential.
Bathish said the organization wanted someone who was from the community and had a deep understanding of its needs, who cares about the work AAHC does, and who could lead the organization into the future.
“And I think Lucine checked all those boxes and then some,” Bathish said.
For her part, Jarrah said her vision is clear, and so are her goals.
“I’ve been given an opportunity to bring forward a new way of thinking and understanding and I want to implement these new ideas into actual programming. I hope to continue the importance of this work by centering youth voices and bringing in new perspectives to this space. I hope to continue to build,” Jarrah said.