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Oral history interview conducted by Amna Ahmad
March 20, 2014
Call number: 2011.019.083
AMNA AHMAD: So today is March 20th, 2014 and I am Amna Ahmad from the BrooklynHistorical Society. We are here in my home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. And this interview is part of the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history project. Now if you would, please introduce yourself.
YASMIN DWEDAR: My name is Yasmin Dwedar.
AMNA AHMAD: And you are an attorney at law.
YASMIN DWEDAR: Yes, I am an attorney.
AMNA AHMAD: Great, thank you. And for the archives, can you tell me your dateof birth and where you were born?
YASMIN DWEDAR: [Date redacted for privacy] I was born in Brooklyn, New York.
AMNA AHMAD: Thank you. So to begin, why don't you tell me a little bit aboutwhere you come from.
YASMIN DWEDAR: Well, I'm a native of Brooklyn. I grew up in Flatbush for thefirst five years of my life. And now -- and ever since then I've been living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which is also known as Arab Central, and I was born to an Egyptian Muslim father and a Filipina who was Catholic at the time and converted 1:00around my fifth birthday, somewhere around then.
AMNA AHMAD: And just for the information of those who are listening, I wasconnected with Yasmin through Moustafa Bayoumi, who gave a CBBG programming event in January. So it's interesting that you characterize Bay Ridge as Arab Central. In what ways does it characterize that sense of being Arab Central?
YASMIN DWEDAR: In that many Arabs live here. I mean, you know, I didn't knowArabs lived here, and we lived in Flatbush for at least the first five years of my life, and when we moved here I didn't really have a sense of like Arabs or -- like I didn't know people from different -- what the difference was between like different -- people of different races and different ethnicities. For a long time I didn't even know my mom was Filipino. I thought she was Chinese for a very long time. But, you know, we moved into Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and a few 2:00years ago, I asked my dad. I said, "You know, did you know that Arabs were here when we got here?" And he said, "Actually we didn't know they were here." And so we ended up in a very Arab neighborhood. And I say that because I live in the Bay Ridge Avenue area and just a block from Fourth Avenue is Fifth Avenue, and there's the -- there's a mosque there and then there's several Arab stores, like supermarkets, places that sell sweets. And a lot of people that I run into happen to be Arab. I mean they could be Yemenis. They could be Palestinian. They could be Egyptian. They could be Moroccan. But there's just a concentration of Arabs in Bay Ridge in the same way that there's a concentration of Arabs in Astoria, and really in all of Brooklyn those are the two main places that I've seen like a high concentration of Arabs, usually along a strip. So in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn it would be like usually the Fifth Avenue strip for a couple of blocks. And in Astoria Steinway. 3:00
AMNA AHMAD: Perfect. Actually it's interesting that another interviewee madethat same connection between the Astoria and Bay Ridge communities as well. So do you have any specific locations in Bay Ridge that are representative of the Arab culture, the stores? Perhaps the restaurants that you're particularly fond of nowadays?
YASMIN DWEDAR: Well, the one business that I always think is quite an experienceis Balady Supermarket. I've never seen a supermarket quite like it. They have just a lot of pieces from like the Arab world. They have like the flags. They have the drums. They have like these pieces that are made of -- I guess we call it sadaf, so and it's some kind of like pearl or something like that. They just have a lot of beautiful things from the Middle East that, you know, you can't easily find everywhere. But in addition to that they're a supermar 4:00 5:00 6:00 7:00 8:00 9:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 20:00 21:00 22:00 23:00 24:00 25:00 26:00 27:00 28:00 29:00 30:00 31:00 32:00 33:00 34:00 35:00 36:00 37:00 38:00 39:00 40:00 41:00 42:00 43:00 44:00 45:00 46:00 47:00 48:00 49:00 50:00 51:00 52:00 53:00 54:00 55:00 56:00 57:00 58:00 59:00 60:00 61:00 62:00 63:00 64:00 65:00 66:00 67:00 68:00 69:00
Oral History Interview with Yasmin Dwedar
Yasmin Dwedar is a native of Brooklyn who now resides in Bay Ridge. She is a graduate of CUNY Law School and currently a practices law in Brooklyn. Her father is Egyptian and her mother is Filipino.
Yasmin reflects on her experiences as a mixed-heritage individual that for much of her childhood was uncertain of her mother's ethnic identity. She relates how her experiences as a student in Islamic elementary school helped her to identify that her mother was "different." Still, Yasmin is unsure of how she came to know that her mother was Filipino. She also reflects upon the idea of feeling a sense of difference from others that share her Arab and Muslim culture while discussing her first encounters with discussions of female genital mutilation while visiting family in Egypt.
Some of her experiences as a high school student are captured in Moustafa Bayoumi's How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Muslim in America. She takes the time to reflect upon reactions to the book and goes on to discuss how her academic and personal experiences have led her to a career in law.
CitationDwedar, Yasmin, Oral history interview conducted by Amna Ahmad, March 20, 2014, Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection, 2011.019.083; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Dwedar, Yasmin
- Conversion -- Islam
- Female circumcision
- Interfaith families
- Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y.)
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- United States
Finding AidCrossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection