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How One Arab American Woman Brings Diversity and Arab Appreciation to Her Maryland County

posted on: Apr 19, 2017

Mabrouka “Mimi” Hassanein speaks at the Universal Peace Federation in Washington, DC.

BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

Mabrouka “Mimi” Hassanein has always been ahead of her time. As a proud Egyptian immigrant and Muslim mother, Mimi is credited as the co-founder of Arab American Heritage Month in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Mimi currently serves as the Senior Fellow and Middle Eastern Community Liaison for Montgomery County. She began the Arab American Heritage Month initiative 20 years ago. Since then, it has flourished into a countywide celebration currently being conducted by Samira Hussein, an ESL teacher for Montgomery County School Districts, and Enas Elhanafi of Montgomery College.

For Mimi, getting proclamations 20 years before everyone else is just one honorable mention on her resume.

“My role with Montgomery leadership is to bring the Arab American community to their organizations because it’s all white American leaders and they need more diversity,” Mimi told Arab America. “I’m all about connecting people together and building bridges.”

Montgomery County celebrates Arab American Heritage Month, April 2016.

Ever since she was a child, Mimi had dreams of building a career and educating the world about Arab culture and women. She grew up the oldest of five in Cairo, where, at the time, “girls had certain roles.” But Mimi wasn’t going to settle for the norm.

“I didn’t have opportunities to pursue my dreams [in Cairo],” Mimi recalled. “So when I migrated here, this is the first thing I did; I advocated for Arab women and Muslim women to share equal roles.”

The passionate advocate has lived in Montgomery County, Maryland for over 40 years. While raising her children and opening several childcare centers throughout the county, Mimi volunteered her time in education and civic organizations. She is not only a successful business owner, but also a staunch community activist and advocate for multi-culturalism.

Her tireless work for the Arab community has put her into leadership roles throughout the county. Mimi was appointed Child Care Commissioner in 2008 by County Executive Ike Leggett, was a member of the 2011 Graduating Class of Senior Leadership Montgomery, has previously served on the board of Empowered Women International, and has co-chaired the Middle Eastern Advisory Committee for County Executive Ike Leggett. She served as the Vice President of the Programming Committee for the Women’s National Democratic Club and is an elected member from Montgomery County for the Democratic Central Committee for Maryland.

Needless to say, Mimi has been busy. Much of her work includes giving lectures on Arab heritage and women’s rights, as well as hosting events.

“I always say food and art are our universal language and people will connect through that first, as opposed to politics,” Mimi said about the events she hosts. Using her signature baklawa recipe and friendly attitude, Mimi has ushered the Arab American community of Montgomery County into civic life, so they may address the issues most important to them with their local leaders, while also educating local leaders on Arab heritage.

“I help educate the Arab American community about voting, doing their civic duties and helping the community and volunteering. I don’t think many Arab Americans understand the value of being engaged with the community you live in and how important it is for us to go out and vote,” Mimi urged.

In the reverse, Mimi also educates local officials on Arab culture and women’s empowerment. She shares information about the Arab world, Islam, and the success of the Arab American community in lectures and at events. Mimi is devoted to promoting education, particularly for women, from childhood through adulthood.

Speaking the evolution of women’s roles in society, Mimi said she loves the role of a woman as a mother. “That title is given to you by God, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do more. Women are the backbone of society. If I can manage my family, I can manage the world.”

Mimi encourages every person to get acquainted with your local elected officials, and believes that you must take leadership into your own hands. It is this can-do spirit that started Arab American Heritage Month in Montgomery County 20 years ago and gave the community a real voice in Maryland.

Today, Arab American Heritage Month is celebrated nationally by dozens of organizations, school districts, cities, and counties. Thanks to the incredible advocacy of hard-working Arab Americans like Mimi Hassanein, Arab American civic engagement and cultural awareness are customary in Montgomery County.