On receiving AFSC’s “Inspiration for Hope” award

I am truly blessed to have such a strong community of friends and supporters who appreciate the work that I do and who actively stand with me as we collectively take down the injustices that permeate Palestine’s occupied borders.

On October 2, 2011, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) honored both the esteemed Anna Baltzer and myself with their “Inspiration for Hope” award at the organization’s annual benefit event. It was a humbling experience and the award itself serves as the most prestigious honor I have ever received. For that, I will be forever indebted to AFSC, its groundbreaking campaigns, and ultimately its generosity.

During my trip to Gaza in the summer, I received an email from AFSC congratulating me for becoming the this year’s recipient of the “Inspiration for Hope” award alongside Anna Baltzer, an academic, an activist, and a leader I’ve looked up to since I became involved in solidarity work for Palestine. At the time, I couldn’t decide which was the bigger honor — sharing a podium with Baltzer (and Alice Walker who, unfortunately, couldn’t make it) or receiving an award in front of a crowd of the very people I look up to.

According to the AFSC directors that informed me of the honor, I was chosen because of my organizational work as a student leader, because of my independent work as a writer, and because of my goal to accurately portray the Palestinian narrative as a movement for justice and human rights. To them, these qualities inspire the hope that Palestine’s liberation is well within reach.

But it is not me who is the real inspiration for hope. Organizations like AFSC, their leaders and their supporters, the Palestinians themselves, and the diverse network of activists, authors, scientists, politicians, journalists, artists, and the youth who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people are my source of inspiration. They are the ones I look up to whenever our campaign hits a rough patch. They are the ones I reach out to when I seek coordination and guidance. As a matter of fact, when I first began college at the University of Chicago, I met with the director of the Human Rights Program and asked for a list of groups to network with. She stressed the legitimacy and effectiveness of AFSC, particularly as a creative movement builder. I cannot thank her enough for guiding me to such a valuable group of people.

I wish I knew how to thank AFSC properly for the award. This was my biggest challenge when organizing my thoughts for the acceptance speech. I wanted to thank them for even considering me. I wanted to thank them for putting me in the same category as Baltzer, Walker, Abunimah, Damra, and all the other greats who continue to make tremendous strides for our cause. I wanted to thank them for recognizing my mother’s influence and for giving her a chance to smile and be proud of me which is, in all honesty, more precious than anything I could ever ask for. I wanted to thank them for showing me that the work I do is not in vain and that no matter how young I might be, I will make change so long as I remain steadfast in my approach and dedicated to the concept of global human rights.

I doubt that I managed to express my full gratitude at the award ceremony so I hope this serves as a permanent ‘thank you’ to AFSC. I am humbled by all that they do and I appreciate their mission to elevate everyone working for the Palestinian cause. It goes without say that the true inspirations are the ones I am addressing this to.

Thank you.

Sami Kishawi
Recipient of AFSC’s “Inspiration for Hope” Award, 2011

There are 4 comments

  1. Dena Bugel-Shunra

    Congratulations, Sami.
    Your work inspires me, every day, via our Twitter contact. Keep giving it forward, as you do – and yeah, your mother has every reason to be just bursting with pride at having brought forth a fine son like yourself.

    Here’s to lots more years of inspiration, especially when Palestine is soon free again.

  2. Maha Ahmad

    Congratulations on the award Sami- you truly deserve it. Your writing/blog posts and your work for justice and human rights have been nothing short of fantastic. Keep up the amazing work!

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