DEARBORN — Mariam E. Charara has begun work as the Arab American Civil Rights League’s (ACRL) new executive director.
The ACRL is a non-profit organization, founded in 2011 in response to the overwhelming need in the Arab American community for advocacy and protection of civil rights and liberties.
The organization is based out of Dearborn and works to build coalitions, promote understanding and cooperation and combat negative stereotypes of Arab Americans.
The organization is led by prominent civil rights attorneys and advocates like Nabih Ayad, Mona Fadlallah and others. The organization has advocated for the community on several important and prominent constitutional and civil rights cases.
Charara’s relationship with the ACRL goes far back. She was the first intern for the organization and it’s where she cultivated her passion for advocacy and social justice.
She holds a master’s degree in clinical social work from Wayne State University and is a limited licensed clinical social worker. Her professional interests focus on immigration, civil rights, education, mental health, human services and community advocacy.
She served as a board member on the Arab Student Union and was honored with the Community Service award for “Outstanding Dedicated Service to the People of the Community.”
In 2012, Charara was a recipient of the “Emerging Leader” award from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is also a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, and a member of the International Society of Female Professionals (ISFP), an organization dedicated to connecting, supporting, empowering and advancing like-minded professional women.
Charara is also a part of the Immigration Advocates Network.
She began her career working in the Dearborn and Detroit School Districts, where she had the opportunity to build profound relationships with students, families, schools and community organizations.
Preserving and protecting the rights of Arab Americans while being a part of the collaborative effort to help the community understand its civil rights is a big part of my vision. — Mariam Charara, ACRL executive director
An Arab American woman and a daughter of immigrants, Charara said she is passionate about immigration advocacy to help promote the best interests of immigrant children and families.
She is no stranger to fighting for civil rights for her community. A major part of that passion for advocacy stems from her long running work protecting her father, Median El Moustrah — a resident of the U.S. for 30 years who suffered from serious health issues — from deportation during the Trump administration.
Thankfully, after successful negotiations and cooperation with ICE, Moustrah is back home safe with his family.
“One of my goals (as executive director of the ACRL) is to continue my passion for social justice and human rights in general,” Charara told The Arab American News. “It’s a part of what I love doing as a social worker. Preserving and protecting the rights of Arab Americans while being a part of the collaborative effort to help the community understand its civil rights is a big part of my vision.”
Charara said she recognizes a lack of general knowledge in the community of their civil rights and wants to expand the horizon of that knowledge.
“I fought my father’s case since I was a child and I understand the importance of preserving and protecting civil rights, because a lack of that protection affected not just my father but my entire family,” she said.
Charara thanked her community’s concern and support for her family, which added positive momentum to her father’s case.
“I know how it feels to have a community behind me; I wouldn’t have been able to gain the momentum on my father’s case had I not reached out and worked collaboratively with different organizations and legislatures,” she said. “That tells me that there need to be more measures to protect immigrants and people in general.”
Charara said she feels privileged to work the ACRL board, individuals with years of experience in the field of civil rights, such as Chairman Nasser Beydoun and Vice Chairman Jim Allen, and is excited to build rapport with members on a one-on-one basis.
“Each member of the ACRL board has something wonderful to offer our community,” she said.