Arab America Foundation Celebrates National Arab American Heritage Month 2022 with a Spectacular Event in Washington DC
Last Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at an exciting venue in Washington DC, near DuPont Circle, was the site where Arab America Foundation acknowledged for a fifth consecutive year National Arab American Heritage Month(NAAHM). The event was attended by approximately 250 guests representing diverse Arab and non-Arab communities, including guests from outside DC such as California, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Among the special dignitaries were White House Senior Advisor to the President and Director of Public Engagement, Cedric Richmond, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Arab America Institute, executive director, Maya Berry, and representing Virginia Delegate Sam Rasoul, Zeina Ashrawi Hutchison who all contributed significantly to the spirit of the celebration. Apart from the speeches and the proclamations, the evening was also abundant in art, exquisite food, music, and a vibrant atmosphere.
The Middle East Institute provided a spacious venue in downtown Washington DC, where the reception took place. To kick off the event, a grand entrance was made by the Faris El-Layl Folkloric Dance Troupe. Their instrumentals filled the venue and they beautifully demonstrated traditional Arab zeffa. This energetic group motivated guests to dance and recite zaghroutas before the event began.
President of Arab America and co-founder of the Arab America Foundation, Warren David, set the tone with a brief opening, expressing the progress made in the celebration of National Arab American Heritage Month, an initiative that began a mere five years ago. David remarked, “National Arab American Heritage this year became the biggest public relations initiative in the history of Arab American activism.”
Next, Dr. Adel Korkor, the Chairman of the Arab America Foundation welcomed the guests and shared the significance of the Arab American Heritage Month and this event. He shared his personal story of immigrating to the United States and noted, “Arab Americans, no matter what Arab county they have immigrated from, have greatly contributed to American society through literature, academic, cinema, politics, music, medicine, poetry, business, or economics. We, like all other immigrants, have become a big part of the American fabric and its economic engine.”
Following Dr. Korkor’s remarks, Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam eloquently shared some words on the Arab identity and what it means to be Arab in America. Her powerful lines demonstrate the duality and beauty of the Arab American identity: “I am an Arab American because I tend the fig tree as earnestly as the dogwood and the pine. Because cinnamon and anise, cumin and cardamom inhabit my shelves and senses. Because I bake both Baklava and Blueberry pie for my family,”
In a demonstration of Arab culture, wonderful volunteers took the spotlight and modeled their authentic traditional Arab attire. Featured, were intricate patterns embroidered onto Palestinian thobes, Moroccan dresses with accents of vivid gold, and Yemeni dresses complete with the matching head accessory. Each of the models exhibited the style of their unique culture through their traditional clothing.
Then, vocalist Nano Rais graced the stage and sang classic Arab songs, including those of Lebanese singer Fairuz, accompanied by the mesmerizing sound of the Arab duff (tambourine) and oud.
Senior Advisor to President Biden, Cedric Richmond, was in attendance and spoke on behalf of the President and Vice President of the United States, emphasizing the importance of unity and acceptance of all people. Richmond recognized the contributions and achievements of Arab Americans to society. He passionately stated, “Arab Americans have helped to shape our nation’s history and to build our future.”
Following the White House representative, Cederic Richmond, Dr. Amal David, co-founder of Arab America, introduced Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. who shared her experience with her Arab identity and the role being Arab has played in her personal and professional life. In honor of Arab American Heritage month, Congresswoman Tlaib was able to introduce Resolution 1022, the Recognition of Arab American Heritage Month, and the celebration of Arab Americans’ culture and heritage. She expressed, “I am unbelievably, unapologetically Arab!” She proudly mentioned her Falahi Palestinian roots and expressed her appreciation for the Arab community. The Congresswoman shared her optimism for Arab youth when she shared a personal anecdote about her encounter with an Arab girl, a little girl who had aspirations of one day becoming President of the United States. This encounter was so powerful because it demonstrated the ambitions of the next generation of Arab Americans to make a significant difference in the world and chase their dreams while embracing their identity. Her powerful words resonated with everyone in the room.
It was truly exciting to have one of the activists, Zeina Ashrawi Hutchison, announce the permanent decree that was issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia, designating April, from this year forward, to be Arab American Heritage Month in the State of Virginia.
By then, it was time to break fast during the holy month of Ramadan. All guests were served dates, apricots, special Ramadan drinks, and water. A broad selection of traditional Arab food was served in the courtyard space of the venue. Attendees enjoyed hummus, baba ghanoush, Egyptian koshary, fattoush, kibbeh, rice, Iraqi Kabab, Dolma, Baghali, Yemeni sambousak, and more.
While guests were enjoying their food, there was another performance of dabke by the Faris El-Layl group. When the main course concluded, guests conversated over Yemeni coffee and Moroccan mint tea in the Omani library, accompanied by baklava, Moroccan cookies, Yemeni mocha, and more.
Once finished with the sweets, many guests couldn’t resist joining the dabke line. The DJ kept the electrified ambiance going by playing music from different Arab regions. This fantastic event came to a close with lots of laughter, smiles, networking, and a newfound/reinforced appreciation for Arab culture and the Arab American identity.
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