April is National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM), a time for celebrating the history, culture, and contributions of Arab Americans. Over 3.5 million Arab Americans, all of whom represent a diverse array of backgrounds and traditions, live in the United States. Their countries of origin are numerous. Twenty-two countries form the official Arab League, but Arab-Americans may come from countries all over the world.
In the 1990s, various states started recognizing Arab American heritage throughout the year. An initiative in 2017 began encouraging all states to celebrate NAAHM together in April; and in 2019, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) issued a congressional resolution for national recognition. NAAHM was first recognized at the federal level on April 19, 2021.
According to History.com and Insight Into Diversity, Arab Americans have made contributions in every field and profession: government, technology, law, medicine, business, education, entertainment, military service, and culture. Notable individuals shown in the banner above include:
(Front row L to R) U.S. Air Force Colonel James Jabara, Today Show host Hoda Kotb, radiologist and biomedical engineer Dr. Elias Zerhouni, American politician Ilhan Omar, and American politician Donna Shalala.
(Back row L to R) Former Iowa City City Council Mayor Pro-Tem Mazahir Salih, space photographer pioneer Dr. Farouk el-Baz, political activist Linda Sarsour, scientific head of Operation Warp Speed Dr. Moncef Slaoui, and NBA coach and former player Steve Kerr.
It’s important to acknowledge Arab American heritage and ensure equity and inclusion at every level. Celebrate NAAHM by learning Arab history, watching Arab media, donating to an organization, reading Arab literature, making Arab food, or attending NAAHM events. Recognize Arab Americans and their history, traditions, and achievements that have made the world a better place.