There are approximately 4 million Americans that have Arab roots from 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Their ancestors began immigrating to the US back in the late 1800s to flee religious persecution. The U.S. began celebrating the contributions of Arab Americans in 2017 because of their rich culture and contributions to technology, education, music, and military service. Here are just a few Arab Americans that we pay homage to this month:
James Jabara, son of Lebanese immigrants, was the first Arab American jet pilot in history.
Linda Sarsour is one of the most prominent progressive activists in the country. She has served as the former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, and co-chair of the Women’s March. She advocates for rights of all people: immigrants, Muslims, women, and black victims of police violence.
Hoda Kotb, Today Show Host, cancer survivor, and advocate of women’s health issues.
Christa McAuliffe was chosen from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project in 1986 and was the first American civilian selected to go into space. She died tragically along with the rest of the crew when the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded shortly after takeoff.
The contributions these individuals have made to American society are innumerable. But what about those who are not famous? What are the everyday contributions being made? One person I interviewed is from Syria and has been in the U.S. for 6 years. Faten’s husband moved his wife and two sons to Fairfax so they could have a better life without fear of war. It has been at least 4 years since her husband has been able to come to the US to see his family, but Faten instills the importance of family by video calling with her husband and sons every day. Faten serves as loving mother, disciplinarian and friend to her boys, encouraging them to pursue their dreams to become whatever they want, attend college and give back to society. She has even purchased their first home in the States.
Faten, and others like her, are why we celebrate Arab American Heritage Month. Join the DEI Committee in learning more about their contributions to education, importance of family and respect of elders, food, and the values they pass on through the generations.
Annette M. Suriani, CMP, CFMP, DES | PCMA Capital Chapter Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee