The Afghan American Conference aims to address community issues, promote civic engagement, and foster professional networking. The conference is equal parts professional, cultural, and personal. It consists of keynote speeches, professional panels, skill-building workshops, roundtable discussions, safe spaces to discuss cultural taboos, and even Ted Talks.
The Afghan-American diaspora has historically lacked a space where we can discuss the issues most pertinent to us. Traditionally, we have come together primarily for social functions, including weddings and funerals, concerts and picnics, sports tournaments and house parties. None of these gatherings are conducive to serious discussions about the state of our community.
Furthermore, given the impoverished state of Afghanistan, it is understandable that so much of our civic-minded attention has turned towards humanitarian relief for the motherland. With so much attention abroad, though, we have failed to take a long, hard look at the state of our own community. Almost every Afghan family landed in the U.S. as refugees with few resources, and many are still stuck in the same socioeconomic status.
According to the “Bay Area Muslim Study” by Drs. Farid Senzai and Hatem Bazian, Afghans have the fewest households making over $100,000 among any Muslim group in the San Francisco Bay Area. As the only ethnicity with less than half of our community having pursued higher education, we are also the least educated Muslim group in Northern California. This is particularly troubling given that the Bay Area is the cultural center of our diaspora. Even the mere fact that we only have statistics on Bay Area Afghans, and only in relation to other Muslim ethnicities, speaks to our underrepresented status--and the task before us.
This is where the Afghan-American Conference comes into the picture. This conference is meant to provide a forum for our community to gather and discuss difficult topics in a respectful, forward-thinking manner. This is a grassroots effort at shedding light on these pressing issues and inspiring action from within the community. Though incomplete in addressing the full scope of problems impacting our diaspora, we hope it will be a step in the right direction.
Throughout the weekend, we provide a variety of opportunities for interaction, participation, and engagement. The conference will have keynote speakers, skills-based workshops, professional panels, roundtable discussions, community town halls, safe space caucuses, and short Ted-style Talks presented by attendees themselves. The conference will have concurrent (breakout) sessions throughout, so that attendees can find their niche and explore the topics most relevant to them.
The event kicks off on Friday evening with a keynote speech and an informal networking mixer for attendees to get to know each other.
Saturday will be a full day of events, including a formal introduction to the conference, keynote speakers, panels, workshops, roundtable discussions, and a town hall. Saturday evening, attendees will end the day with a relaxing and fun-filled Afghan Bazaar. There, attendees will enjoy a delicious dinner, mingle with each other, and explore booths with community vendors, non-profits, and other organizations. The festivities will also include musical, spoken word, and comedic performances by fellow attendees. If you are interested in performing or being a vendor, let us know!
Sunday will build upon the depth of conversation by delving into traditionally unpopular and taboo topics affecting our community. Attendees will separate into safe space caucuses to discuss the issues most personal to them. There will also be keynote speeches, panels, and Ted Talks. The conference will end with a town hall where attendees come together and share the collective wisdom they have built upon over the course of the weekend.
We come from Orange County, Tracy, Fresno, Virginia, San Diego, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area. Just as our organizers hail from across California and the country, we hope our attendees will too. Let's make this our community's first truly nationwide conference!