Aber Kawas: Giving Back to Something Greater Than Myself

Aber Kawas is a Palestinian-American community organizer from New York City. She holds a degree in Latin American studies from the City University of New York (CUNY). Aber has been an activist for many years working on issues such as police brutality to immigrant rights and is now the Youth Lead Organizer at the Arab American Association of New York. Apart from being a grassroots organizer, she has focused her academic career to study the parallels between Latin America and the Middle East.


This story is part of “American Muslims”, a photo series created by Carlos Khalil Guzman, a photographer and activist based in NYC. The project is dedicated to capturing the diversity of the Muslim community in the United States. We will not only be sharing the images from the project, but each image will be accompanied by a personal and unique story to show our shared humanity. To read more about Aber and the rest of the faces from “American Muslims” click here.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

If you give to something greater than yourself, then you are really giving to yourself. Through my work and studies, I hope to bring together several ethnic and religious communities in the future to advocate in unity against social injustices.

How would you like to be remembered?

There are so many legacies one can leave and this is something I think about a lot. In Islam death is an often-discussed topic and a reality that is very present in our minds. As an organizer I’m constantly working with people on small actions/steps that will create change – educational workshops, rallies, social media campaigns, etc. However, many times we undermine one of the most simple and effective methods of change – having a conversation with someone. That’s what I want to be remembered for, the conversations I had with people. Whether it’s with a student, a passerby, or my closest friend – I hope that I can always bring forth good words and positive energy to another person. They may not remember every word but I hope they remember the connection that we felt between one another.

Who has been the kindest person to you in your life?

I cannot name a specific person, however I can say that I have a small group of friends who I would say are the kindest people to me. I think a lot of youth these days are not taught to recognize what’s important in friendship. The older you grow the harder and more stressful things become in life – and when you are stretched in capacity and time you learn how important it is to surround yourself with people who are worth it. My friends validate me and believe the best in me, support me and encourage me, and advise me even when it is difficult. That is kindness to me.

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