We recently spoke with Yahya Alazrak, who currently serves as the National Organizer and Coordinator of POC Programs for Resource Generation, a nonprofit that organizes young people with wealth and class privilege in the U.S. to become leaders working towards the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power.
Yahya, born in Morocco and moved to the U.S. in their youth, was raised in a working-class community – the child of a very active trans Muslim faith leader. They recall feeling like they came from two different families, because they have access to wealth through their Moroccan father’s side.
Yahya felt that before 9/11 they were a white kid with a weird name and after 9/11 they had their whiteness revoked. They started getting involved in causes, such as organizing for racial and economic justice.
CAAP: How did you find out about Resource Generation?
Yahya Alazrak: I first learned about Resource Generation through social media and wanted to get involved. Resource Generation is my “political home.” I want to work for a world where we don’t have individuals who have excessive wealth, where we don’t have racialized economic disparities. I want a world where everyone has enough resources to thrive and to not worry about their basic needs.
CAAP: Do you think of yourself as a philanthropist?
YA: I have a funny story that I don’t tell very often. I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up to help people, I also wanted to “own a hospital.” In the 6th grade, someone told me that philanthropists put their name on hospitals and do good things with their money – so I guess I’ve wanted to be a philanthropist since middle school.
I want philanthropy to be the place where the community finds the resources to meet their needs, and where philanthropy provides the resources that the community needs. I’d love to see the community to be more involved in the decision-making process around where funds are allocated. I want to disrupt the pattern of wealthy people being trusted to decide what strategies and initiatives are most worthy of funding, and return that trust to the people that are most affected by decisions, which will affect how funds are distributed. I do think that philanthropy needs work but is moving in the right direction.
CAAP: Do you identify as an Arab American?
YA: Yes, I do – but I also identify as North African. There has been an erasure of Berber identity: the vast majority of Moroccans identify as Arab currently but I feel that their story is more complicated.
CAAP: Any advice you want to share with other Arab Americans who are new to the world of philanthropy?
YA: We need to feed the hungry but also ask questions about why are people hungry? How can we change the system? We need to challenge individuals to think long-term in their giving, and engage in questions like “why does poverty exist?”
We want to thank Yahya for their time, energy and great answers! We have no doubt that Arab Americans Who Care like Yahya, are changing the world for the better.