Roxane Assaf of the former Chicago Arab Advisory Commission discusses campaign to undermine Arab heritage in Chicago and remembers how much culture the Arabesque Festival brought to Chicago’s ethnic diversity and cultural richness
By Ray Hanania
Roxane Assaf, the brilliant member of the now defunct Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, discusses the campaign to undermine American Arab culture and heritage in Chicago and efforts that resulted in terminating the popular Arabesque Festival that lasted only four years from 2007 until 2010.
During an interview on Talk of the Town Radio on WCEV 1450 AM radio Friday Oct. 31, 2014, Assaf discussed how representatives of several American Jewish organizations in Chicago constantly complained and worked to undermine Arab heritage beginning in 2007, first lobbying unsuccessfully former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and later successfully his successor Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose father was a member of the Irgun in the 1940s that the British government declared a “terrorist organization.”
Emanuel has remained distant from American Arabs, making some token appointments to the newly formed “Office of New Americans” which was created after Emanuel gutted the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and destroyed the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs in 2011 following his election.
Since then, Emanuel has declined to meet with representatives of Chicago’s American Arab groups and has appointed on two representatives of Muslim American organizations to the Office of New Americans. Several former members of the Arab Advisory group remain on the now toothless Chicago Human Relations Commission.
Assaf discusses the volunteers who helped make Arabesque one of the most successful American Arab events in Chicago’s history and remembers many of the exhibits that made it so popular.
You can listen to the radio podcast of Assaf’s interview using the player below. Or, click here to go to the podcast if the player does not work in your browser.
Roxane Assaf discusses the battle to save Chicago’s Arab Heritage on Talk of the Town Radio with host Ray Hanania. Talk of the Town is broadcast every Friday at 4 pm on WCEV 1450 AM Radio and simulcast on www.YahalaVoice.com and rebroadcast online on Monday’s at 11 am.
Roxane Assaf discusses the challenges mounted by anti-Arab activists in the American Jewish community to undermine Arab Heritage events in Chicago and in Illinois. Members of several powerful American Jewish Organizations successfully fought to block the popular Arabesque Festival that was held at Daley Plaza in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor in 2011 and his first act was to dissolve the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs and to undermine the Arabesque Festival, pandering to demands of his anti-Arab political allies. Assaf discusses the battles and also the popularity that Arabesque brought to Chicagoland. An award winning journalist recognized with a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists and the National American Arab Journalists Association.
Roxane Assaf teaches journalism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and North Park University and also directs and edits short videos. Her reports and opinion have appeared in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Durham Herald-Sun, Arms Control Today and in television reports from Capitol Hill for the CBS affiliate in Monroe, Louisiana.
Assaf is co-author of the 5th edition of the Lonely Planet travel guidebook Israel and the Palestinian Territories. She is Outreach Director for Chicago Area Peace Action, local chapter of the nation’s largest grassroots peace network Peace Action. National 1st Place winner of Society of Professional Journalists “Mark of Excellence Award” for 2003 in Television General News Reporting. She volunteers for lively arts organizations including theatre and opera companies as well as for peace and social justice initiatives.
For more information on Talk of the Town Radio visit www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Talk of the Town Radio is available in podcast format at The Arab Daily News website and iTunes.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, the TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appeare in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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