Cook County Board approves April Arab Heritage Month proclamation
Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison introduces a proclamation honoring April as Arab American Heritage Month at the board meeting March 20, 2019, in coordination with the passage of a State of Illinois Law designating April as Arab American Heritage month.
The Cook County Board on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, unanimously approved a proclamation urging residents to learn more about the Southwest Side’s growing Arab American population during the month of April.
The Illinois Legislature approved a new law on Dec. 14, 2019 that was introduced by Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, and co-sponsored by State Senator Steve Landek and State Rep. Michael Zalewski. Click here to view the new Illinois Law.
The legislation replaces November which previously was designated by Chicago and Cook County as Arab Heritage Month but was gutted by outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel following his election in 2011. The Madigan Law designating April as Arab American Heritage month puts it in sync with at least 8 other American states that have approved similar resolutions including Arizona, Maryland, Texas, Georgia, Michigan, California, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Washington D.C. website ArabAmerica.com is coordinating the national effort to increase the number of states that recognize April as National Arab American Heritage month.
Morrison said he was “proud” to sponsor the proclamation during the meeting of the Cook County Board on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.
“I am very proud that my Cook County District has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in Illinois. Arab Americans are a very diverse but also a cohesive group. They originate from 22 different Middle East and North African countries including from Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Syria,” he said.
“They are Christian and Muslim. They are authors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, journalists, police officers, firefighters, business entrepreneurs, and public servants in various positions of local, regional and state government. They are also Veterans who have served and are serving in our nation’s military defending our country.”
Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, who served as the President Pro Tempore of the meeting, said she was also proud to support the resolution.
“Cook County is a very diverse region and we are very proud of all the people including Arab Americans,” said Sims, who invited several Arab Americans who attended the meeting to come to the podium to address the board and the audience.
Dr. Mazen Barakat, the publisher of the Hyatt Magazine (Hyatt is the Arabic word for “life), was joined by the magazine’s editor Tasneem Abuzir, and thanked the board for “showing respect” to the Arab community.
“Our magazine works to represent the entire Middle Eastern community and to build bridges with other communities as well,” Barakat said. “The Chicagoland area is a melting pot and has people from almost every ethnic group. We are very grateful for you for approving this proclamation.”
Sam Odeh, who served as economic director for the Chicago Sister City’s program and appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“We thank you as Cook County residents and we thank you as Arab Americans and we appreciate all that you do for us,” Odeh said.
Father Pierre El Khoury, the pastor of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church based in Lombard, Illinois, praised the county board members for recognizing the diversity of Cook County.
“I want to thank you all for this resolution recognizing our Arabic heritage,” Father El Khoury said.
“I am a priest for Our Lady of Lebanon in Lombard and there is no one day in our church that is not a mosaic of all people, Arab and American. We are all here to serve each other. I am looking forward to live this heritage everyday and work together for peace for our society.”
Southwest News Newspaper Group columnist Ray Hanania, whose parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, provided an overview of the history of Arab settlement in Illinois that began during the 19th Century.
“Arab Americans served during the Civil War, for the North, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Hanania said.
“My father George and Uncle Moses both enlisted in the military in the week after the attack on Pearl Harbor and served through the end of the war. My dad was with the 5th Army in the O.S.S. and his brother wanted to serve in the 5th Army too. But the recruiters decided to assign him to the Navy where he served on a battleship in the north Atlantic because, the recruiter joked, ‘Maybe you can help part the seas.’ We are proud of our heritage but even more proud of being Americans.”
The proclamation was approved by the entire Cook County Board membership including Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, John Daley, Larry Suffredin, Toni Preckwinkle, Peter Silvestri, Bridget Gainer, Donna Miller and Brandon Johnson.
Other Arab American groups supporting the proclamation who could not be at the Cook CountyBoard meeting include: Samir Khalil, executive director of the Arab American Democratic Club; and, Mansour Tadros, publisher of The Future News Online Newspaper; and
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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 as the Special US Correspondent for the Arab News 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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