Arab America salutes National Arab American Heritage Month with Washington DC event
By Emiliya Strahilova
Arab America Contributing Writer
Last Thursday (April 12, 2018) an exciting venue in Washington DC, right next to the White House, was the site where Arab America acknowledged for a third consecutive year National Arab American Heritage Month(NAHM). The event was attended by approximately 250 guests representing diverse Arab and non-Arab communities. Among the special dignitaries were Congresswoman Yvette Clark (NY) and the Tunisian Ambassador to the U.S. H.E. Fayçal Gouiaa who 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.
See video of the event here:
We Work White House provided the spacious cozy space in downtown Washington DC, where the reception took place. It all started with welcome drinks originating from Bethlehem, Palestine and from Lebanon. The guests also enjoyed a colorful selection of delicious traditional Arab appetizers and grilled stuffed lamb. In the background, Muath Edriss and his Maqam band for Arab Music were generating a festive spirit with their authentic sounds.
Guests mixed with Arab America models on the dance floor.
Arab America President, Warren David, set the tone with a short open expressing the meaning and the purpose of celebrating Arab American heritage, He said that “this is the one time in the year when we, as Arab Americans, get to toot our horn and say who we are. We are proud of our traditions, proud of our music, our cuisine, and our accomplishments. We have been here for over 100 years and we have contributed so much to our American society.”
He continued by recognizing the rest of the VIP attendees: Dana Daoud, Director of the Jordan Information Bureau, who came on behalf of Ambassador Dina Kawar; Gordon Gray, former U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia; Hakam Takash, Counselor, PLO Delegation to the U.S., Jean R. AbiNader from the Executive Board of Arab American Institute (AAI) ; Omar Baddar, Deputy Director of AAI, Rev. Joseph Rahal, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church; Sean Carroll, President of ANERA, American Near East Refugee Aid; and Kyle Herman, Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Alexandria Allison Silberberg, who delivered an official proclamation. The signed document proclaims April 2018 to be Arab American Heritage Month. Arab America also received a similar proclamation from Washington DC Mayor Murial Bowser.
Additional Proclamations and Resolutions to Date:
Warren David and Dr. Amal David greet Congresswoman Yvette Clark.
Following Warren David’s remarks, Jean R. Abinader from AAI, a signature sponsor of the event, encouraged everyone to really support Arab America in building stronger platforms for representing the community. After his remarks, the Tunisian Ambassador, Fayçal Gouiaa, added, “I am a regular reader of Arab America E-News, it is very informative about cultural events, food, dance, young professionals. National Arab American Heritage Month is very important. We have been around for many centuries with our culture and civilization, and we have a lot to showcase to ourselves, to our sons and daughters, to our American friends.”
Congresswoman Yvette Clark made a memorable appearance by clarifying her role as a representative not only of Brooklyn’s Ninth Congressional District but also of her Yemeni constituency in New York in particular. This is how she articulated her standpoint: “As a representative of one of the largest Yemeni populations in the country, I know how important it is to come together to celebrate the richness and diversity of Arab culture, especially at a time like this. Over the last 15 months, we have seen the civil liberties of all Americans curtailed and Arab Americans have been at the forefront at the administration’s efforts to target people, based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.” She also drew a parallel between her own Caribbean origin and the Arab origins, stating that they are very similar.
The evening went on with a Fashion Parade directed by the designers Khouloud Khoury and Rand Shihab. Models were wearing traditional and modern dresses demonstrating the culture of the Arab world. In addition to the vivid colors of the magnificent Middle Eastern and North African fashion, Helen Zughaib’s art captivated the audience attention. The renowned painter exhibited part of her latest series Syrian Migrations. Moreover, a professional Dabke dance group heated up the dance floor which was occupied by most guests for the rest of the evening.
Artist Helen Zughaib (right) with Dr. Amal David (Arab America)
Arab America was humbled and brimming with gratitude to host significant members of many communities, in addition to diplomatic, media, NGO, political, and artistic circles at the reception. Dr. Amal David, reminded guests of the Arab America Ambassadors from across America who are contributing to Arab America’s vision by writing and sharing resources through the Ambassador Network. Representing them at the event were: Dr. Hayfa Alazzawi, Nizar Farsakh, Myrna Daher, Lena Arkawi, Michael Springmann, and Muath Edriss.
Dr. David also recognized all the volunteers, especially, the tremendous work of Deya’ Dresner (Executive Director, Leonard Education Organization). She added that Arab America’s work would not be possible without the current interns: Ani Kerapetyan, Emiliya Strahilova, Randa Necola, Kameron Dreher, and Udotchi Esomonu.
Towards the end of the program, a new innovative campaign, Falafel Fighter, was also introduced to the participants with each guest receiving a Falafel Fighter pin.
As the leading digital platform for Arab Americans, Arab America has requested legislators, city councils, and school board members to issue NAAHM proclamations and adopt our Educator’s Curriculum Kit which highlights the history of Arab migration to America, geography of the Arab World, and understanding of the rich customs, traditions, language, and religions,
Sponsors for National Arab American Heritage Month:
Issam and Jihan Andoni