American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is delighted to announce that this year’s recipients of the Alex Odeh Award are William Lafi Youmans and Jason Osder. This selection was made with the full support and backing of the Odeh family. The award recognizes their outstanding leadership, unwavering dedication to public service, and steadfast commitment to the Arab American community. See more information about our winners below!
William Lafi Youmans
William Lafi Youmans is an Associate Professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University (GWU). His role extends to serving as the director of the Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communication at GWU.
Youmans is notably recognized for his book titled “Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera’s Struggle in America,” which delves into the Qatari news network’s endeavors to establish a foothold in the American news market. His insightful commentary and expertise have been published in Salon, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Variety, and The New York Times, among others. He has also made appearances as a guest on radio and television programs such as CBC Radio, WAMU/NPR, Headline News, Al Jazeera English, and ARD. In addition to his written contributions, Youmans has been a regular columnist for Arab American News and The Gulf News.
Currently, Youmans is engaged in two significant long-term projects. The first is the production of a documentary film centered around the life of Alex Odeh. His second ongoing project involves the creation of a substantial video archive documenting Arab American TV, a program that aired from Los Angeles in the early 1980s to the early 2000s.
Youmans earned his B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Additionally, he holds a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
Jason Osder is a renowned filmmaker, directing the award-winning documentary “LET THE FIRE BURN,” on the tragic 1985 confrontation between the MOVE group and the Philadelphia police, resulting in eleven lives lost. Supported by the Sundance Institute, the documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, earning Best Editing in a Documentary and a Jury Special Mention for Best New Documentary Director. It then traveled to over fifty global film festivals and received nominations for numerous prestigious awards, including wins at the Montreal International Documentary Festival, the International Documentary Association Creative Recognition Prize in Editing, the Cinema Eye Honor for Editing, and the Independent Spirit Truer than Fiction Award.
Apart from his filmmaking, Jason Osder is a media educator, producer, and author with expertise in documentary filmmaking, social sciences, and education theory. As a faculty member at the School of Media and Public Affairs, he teaches documentary theory and production and online journalism techniques.
Jason is also the creator of various online courses within the LinkedIn Learning Online Training Library, covering topics such as “YouTube Essential Training” and “Documentary Editing with Premiere Pro.” With a twenty-year career in professional training, consulting, and implementation in the dynamic field of creative media technologies, he has collaborated on projects and training programs with Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Sundance, NPR, and others
Presently, Jason Osder continues to contribute to filmmaking and media education, working on projects supported by PBS and The Sundance Institute.
Dr. Laila Al-Marayati
Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, of Palestinian-American descent, has been a prominent activist within the American Arab and Muslim communities for many years. She has dedicated much of her work to addressing issues pivotal to Muslim women, including women’s rights in Islam, reproductive health, sexuality, stereotyping, and violence against women.
In the early 1990s, she led the Muslim Women’s League’s initiatives to support rape survivors from the Bosnian war. Furthering her commitment to women’s issues, she was a distinguished member of the official US Delegation to the UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Dr. Al-Marayati’s advocacy did not go unnoticed at the national level. Appointed by former President Bill Clinton, she served a two-year tenure on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Dr. Al-Marayati chairs KinderUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education, and Relief), a humanitarian non-profit dedicated to providing health, education, and other essential services to Palestinian children and their families in the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanese refugee camps. Beyond this, she has been part of numerous medical missions, aiding refugees in Europe, serving indigent communities in Mexico and Peru, and assisting various populations in the Middle East.
Professionally, she holds the position of Assistant Clinical Professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and serves as a Division Chief in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Al-Marayati’s career emphasizes service to underserved communities.
She earned her MD from UC Irvine and a BS from UCLA. It was at UCLA that she met her husband, Salam Al-Marayati, the current president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Dr. Al-Marayati proudly remembers her late father, Dr. Sabri El Farra, a revered figure in the Arab-American community.