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Re-Cap of America Foundation's Tribute to Palestinian Heritage and Identity for National Arab American Heritage Month 2024

posted on: Apr 24, 2024

Compiled by: Malak Hassouna, María Teresa Fidalgo-Azize, and Ziyan Qutub

Thursday, at the University of the District of Columbia, we celebrated Arab American Heritage Month. The event combined a celebration of our history, culture, and, most importantly, our continued resistance in the face of such a difficult time for our community.

This year was a bit different because of this time; we ensured that now more than ever, Palestinian culture is shared nowhere else besides the capital of the Free world. The event featured Palestinian music, food, poetry, art, and rich historical elements, drawing 350 people from local community members and allies across the United States to celebrate Arab American heritage and support the Palestinian cause. There were also live musical tributes and dancing performances. Join us as we highlight some of the night’s greatest moments. 

The event was hosted by Ameera David, a prominent TV anchor in Washington, DC. Her career includes accolades such as two Emmys from her time at Detroit’s WXYZ ABC 7 and a role as a White House producer at NBC News’s Washington bureau. A Detroit native, University of Michigan alumna, and graduate of Columbia’s School of Journalism, Ameera’s journalistic prowess and community engagement are a testament to her commitment to storytelling and media excellence.

Warren David, president of Arab America and co-founder of the Arab America Foundation, ignited the audience with the declaration that at this given time, “We are all Palestinians”- a reminder that despite national or ethnic differences, the Arab community, origins from 22 nationality groups comes to unison in resistance and celebration of the Palestinian people. With free speech under attack by university institutions such as Columbia University, the Arab American community must refrain from passive responses and instead actively engage in resistance.

Throughout David’s speech, he emphasized the imperative to acknowledge and protect our heritage and the narrative constructed around it from defamation. In defiance of a cynical mindset, we must all look forward. With measures such as the addition of the MENA, Middle East, and North African categories in the census, the visibility of the Arab American community will continue to grow in the United States, translating into more attention by those in institutional power to attend MENA’s concerns on healthcare and education.  

Following Warren David’s call for celebration and resistance, Arab Americas Foundation Vice Chairman Issam Andoni continued with the incentive to resist, precisely amidst the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. Andoni expressed how the threat against the Palestinian people does not only extend to Gaza, as media censoring in support of Palestine affects all Americans. In levels of high optimism, he pondered on how he visualizes the possibility of the realization of Palestine becoming a democratic state where discrimination based on religion and ethnicity will not elapse. 

Radiating joy, Dr. Amal David, co-founder of the Arab America Foundation and a proud Palestinian, encouraged the audience to commemorate the Palestinian identity and culture. With words such as “ We will not be degraded or erased from this earth. We are here to exist,” the event moved the audience towards euphoria even amidst a moment of mourning.  

Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, was the last speaker of the event. He said, “In conclusion, we must remember not to allow divisions by religious sects or nationalities to interfere with the progress of the Arab American community: Do not bring the divisions of the Middle East here.” Overall, the event set the precedent for excellence and resilience. 

The night went on to include some incredible performances from Palestinian Comedian and Actress Maysoon Zayid, Faris El-Layl Folkloric Dance Troupe,  Palestinian Folk Singer Mahmoud Saqr, Poet and Actress Dana Dajani, and finishing off strong with Mona Miari and the New York Arab Orchestra Takht. All featured segments of Palestinian identity.

Maysoon Zayid, a writer, comedian, and artist, shed light on the violence against Palestinians through comedy. Additionally, it features moments regarding how disability does not limit one’s activism and the continuous movement for a free Palestine.

Next up, Dabke. While we Arabs have many different types of Dabke, the troupe displayed a fusion. 

Dana Dajani put on the most incredible citation of her poems and incredible skit, especially regarding whether she was president. She left the audience with smiles, tears, and laughs. Mona Miari’s incredible voice rang the performances to a close. Her magical voice incorporated Palestinian/Levantine folklore into her performances and repertoire, expressing her diverse upbringing by exploring and reapplying Arabic languages to different music genres while embracing global influences.

Renowned vocalist Mona Miari, known for her soulful renditions rooted in Arab musical traditions, was accompanied by talented New York Arabic Orchestra Takht musicians. Together, they crafted a mesmerizing performance that showcased the rich tapestry of Palestinian identity and celebrated the enduring spirit of Arab heritage.

Through intricate melodies and heartfelt lyrics, Mona Miari’s melismatic style infused each note with a profound sense of history and emotion, offering the audience a glimpse into the beauty and complexity of Arab culture. The music resonated with themes of resilience and perseverance, reflecting the struggles and triumphs of the Palestinian people.

The synergy between Mona Miari and the New York Arabic Orchestra Takht created a captivating experience that left a lasting impact on everyone present. It was more than just a musical performance; it was a poignant expression of cultural pride and a tribute to the indomitable spirit of Arab American communities.

The observance of Arab American Heritage Month at the University of the District of Columbia was much more than an event—it was a testament to resilience, community, and the strength of cultural identity. Amid the ongoing struggle, the occasion served as a potent reminder, showcasing the intricate beauty of Arab American heritage and the indomitable Palestinian spirit.

Powerful speeches calling for unity and opposition to lively performances showcasing Palestinian culture’s diversity and vitality offered a diverse and colorful showcase of voices and Expressions. Speakers like Warren David and Issam Andoni called on the community to resist injustice and censorship and insist on preserving their cultural heritage and narrative. The fervent rhetoric of Dr. Amal David echoed the refrain of steadfastness and resistance, jogging everyone’s memory about the steadfast determination flowing within the Palestinian persona. As Dr. James Zogby pointed out, unity must reign supreme over fragmentation, regardless of external pressures or internal disagreements.

As the evening ended, it had a lasting impact on all present. It served as a reminder that when we honor our heritage and culture, we also strengthen our defenses against oppression and erasure. Let this occasion be a unifying force to stay strong, loyal, and pledged to keep the Arab American and Palestinian legacy alive.

Check out the Arab America blog here !