Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services
Henry Ford Community College, Michigan
Ishmael Ahmed's leadership in the Arab-American community began while he was a student at Henry Ford Community College, in Michigan.
In 1971, he co-founded ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services in a Dearborn, Michigan, storefront. It was a turbulent time for the nation. He became active in the peace movement and opposed further industrialization in his working class neighborhood.
During that first year, ACCESS provided outreach to 125 people teaching them English, interpreting letters and helping them file tax returns. Last year, ACCESS served more than 160,000 people through its 100 programs including health clinics, arts and crafts classes, assistance for torture victims, and other critical services.
In 30 years ACCESS has become a major organization in the Detroit area, whose 300,000 residents of Arab descent comprise the largest Arab community in North America. ACCESS has become a first stop for many immigrants.
Currently, ACCESS is in the midst of a $15 million capital campaign for three new centers: the first national Arab-American museum in the United States, a community health center and a child and family center.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, ACCESS, and organization supporters like Henry Clay Ford, have been working to educate teachers, law enforcement personnel, and the general public about the Arabs in their community and the Muslim faith.