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The story behind — and meaning of — the Arabic billboard that went up in Times Square

By WITW Staff on February 6, 2017

“We Invent The World We Want To Live In.” These are the words emblazoned on a billboard put up in Times Square last week, written in both Arabic and English.

Following President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban, Ayah Bdeir — founder of the award-winning company littleBits, a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that help children learn to program — wanted to project the mantra upon which her company is based and which embodies their commitment to “empowerment, creativity and hope for the future.”

Ayah Bdeir
Ayah Bdeir (Women in the World)

Writing in an essay posted on, Bdeir explained that by posting the message in both languages she hoped to send a signal of inclusivity and diversity, and to help counter the feeling of “otherness” she believes the ban engenders amongst America’s Arab population — most of the countries listed under the ban are either Arabic or Persian speaking.

Little Bits is a company based on diversity, says Bdeir. Almost 20 languages are spoken across the office, a multitude of faiths are celebrated and around 20 percent of its employees were born outside of the U.S. “Our team represents the world we want to help invent? — ?people from all over the world coming together to make a positive difference for children everywhere,” she said.

For Bdeir the immigration ban also hit her hard on a personal level. She and her family are refugees many times over and every time they have been forced to flee a conflict zone, they have, she says, been lucky enough to arrive in countries that have welcomed them. Now her mother, who was born in Syria and holds Canadian citizenship, is unsure whether she will be able to visit Bdeir next month as planned.

The divisiveness of Trump’s immigration policy makes forwarding the values to which Little Bits is committed, Bdeir suggests, ever more important.

Read the full essay on


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