Arab American Heritage Month

Posted by on Apr 10, 2023 in Current Events, Stuff You Should Know

April is observed as Arab American Heritage month in many places across the United States, though it is not officially recognized by the federal government. Today, there are nearly 3.7 Arab Americans living in all fifty United States. These people can trace their roots to 22 Arab-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa. California, New York, Michigan, and Illinois are the states that have the highest populations. The number of states that recognize this heritage is growing and President Biden has publicly acknowledged its importance. Here, btw takes a look at the history of this month of recognition, how it has evolved over time, and ways that you and your family can celebrate.

An Evolving Recognition

In 2017, two nonprofit groups (the Arab American Foundation and Arab America) launched the initiative to gain official national recognition of Arab American Heritage Month. It gained momentum each year. In 2019, U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) introduced and co-sponsored a bill in Congress that would require Arab American Heritage Month to be fully recognized by the federal government. The bill is not currently moving forward.

In 2021, the State Department declared April as Arab American Heritage Month for the first time. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his declaration that people of Arab origin have been immigrating to the United States since before it was an actual country. Their contributions are far-ranging: from science and technology, to business, to foreign policy and national security. Many state governors also issued proclamations supporting the month. As he did in 2022, President Biden recognized the importance of the heritage month.

Today, permanent legislation designating April as National Arab American Heritage Month has passed in Illinois, Oregon, and Virginia. Similar legislation is pending in Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

Ways to Celebrate

Whether your state officially recognizes this heritage month, people can still find ways to honor it by learning more about the Arab American community and providing support. People can donate to an organization that supports this community, such as Arab America or the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Some may choose to visit an Arab American restaurant to enjoy some traditional foods. People can read a book by an Arab American author, such as Naomi Shihab Nye.

People living in the Midwest can visit the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. This is the first and only museum of its kind in the United States, and its mission is “to document, preserve, and present the history, culture, and contributions of Arab Americans.” There is a virtual tour of the museum available here.

What Do You Think? Does your state recognize Arab American Heritage Month? If you this this is an important issue, you can choose to write a letter to your representative explaining your views.