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Student Photo Exhibit Tells Post-9/11 Arab American Stories

posted on: Jul 3, 2011

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The first generation of post-9/11 Arab Americans is now old enough to begin recording its own history, and Dearborn middle school students are penning the first words.

The Arab American National Museum opened its newest exhibition Saturday, showcasing photography from a McCollough-Unis School journalism class that pushed students to become the multimedia storytellers of tomorrow.

The exhibition, “In the Heart of Arab America: A Middle School Perspective,” runs through August 14.

The seventh-grade class–taught by Unis social studies teacher April Kincaid–was sponsored by the Asian American Journalists Association as part of its Living Textbook Project.

Students reported on and wrote stories about topics such as the Terry Jones protests, the Egyptian revolution and eating tabouleh on Thanksgiving. They also shot video and snapped photos, 30 of which headline the display.

Emilia Askari, a volunteer instructor who teaches journalism at the University of Michigan, said the course was a mixture of old-school journalistic values and new-age digital skills. The training–which will continue for the next two years–paid dividends outside of the class as well.

“The kinds of skills they were developing–21st century literacy skills–and the kinds of issues they were investigating … actually fit in very well with the language arts and social studies curriculum,” she added.

The students in the program last year are part of the first generation of post-9/11 Arab-Americans. And their narratives, opinions and commentary regarding Arabic culture and Middle Eastern affairs–with no knowledge of life before 2001–shouldn’t be taken lightly, Askari said.

“The students here have been able to write about the Middle East almost from a local perspective,” she said. “All of them have family in the Middle East; all of them are personally affected.

“We’re hoping that these students can have a voice in this conversation … (that) the rest of the world might be interested in their perspective.”

To learn more about the Living Textbook project, visit

David Uberti
Dearborn Patch