Apr 30, 2024 - News

A somber Arab American Heritage Month

Photo illustration of a Syrian Arab immigrant from Ellis Island, on a background of a US map with Arabic writing, a tile mosaic design, and a New York cityscape in the foreground.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios; Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

A monthlong celebration of Arab American history and contributions that often get overlooked took on new meaning this year.

  • Advocates say it will never be the same.

The big picture: April 2024's Arab American Heritage Month came as the war in Gaza coincided with rising hate crimes across the country. Ongoing antiwar campus protests and newly politicized Arab American voters have given the month additional urgency.

Catch up quick: Warren David, co-founder of the Arab America Foundation, and other Arab American activists launched Arab American Heritage Month in 2017 and got Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser to issue a declaration for the month.

  • Since then, governors in nearly all states — including Michigan — steadily issued declarations honoring the Arab American Heritage Month, designed to counter stereotypes and reduce anti-Arab bigotry.
  • "I've been an activist for 40 years, and I've never seen it like this before," David told Axios.

What's next: The U.S. Census announced last month that, for the first time, the agency will have a category for people of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) heritage.

  • That could produce the most comprehensive data the nation has ever seen on an estimated 3 million Arab Americans.

Read the full story: "A turning point": Why Arab American Heritage Month was different this year

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