Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague has proclaimed the month of April as Arab-American Heritage Month in Iowa City.
According to ArabAmerica.com, It was first celebrated in the 1990s, primarily in school districts. Since then, it has grown to be recognized increasingly by states, cities, and school districts across the country. In 2017, Arab America, a media and educational resource organization dedicated to portraying the Arab community in the United Sates, began an initiative to designate the month as a national holiday.
Arab America asked Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, to introduce a resolution proclaiming National Arab American Heritage Month. On April 30, 2019, the resolution was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. An identical bill was introduced in the House on May 1, 2020, to support the designation of an Arab American Heritage Month, but it has not currently been passed. Some individual states observe April as Arab American Heritage Month, but National Arab American Heritage Month is not observed by the Federal government.
Asking Ms. Dingell to introduce the bill was significant because Michigan is home to one of the largest and oldest Arab-American communities in the nation. Beginning in the late-1800s, Syrians, Lebanese, and Yemeni men immigrated to Detroit to work in Henry Ford’s auto plant. Later, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees settled in and near Detroit. The Arab-American National Museum is also located in the Detroit area.
Many Arab Americans are second, third, and fourth generation immigrants. Some are descendants of the first immigrants who arrived in the New York and New Jersey areas in the second half of the 19th Century. Arab Americans can trace their ancestry to the countries from which they or their ancestors migrated to the United States. These countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Dijbouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The largest group, comprising nearly one-third of the Arab American population, are Lebanese Americans. The Census Bureau reported in 2010 that there were 1.8 million Arab Americans in the United States, with the largest percentage residing in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Support Arab-American Heritage Month by learning more here.
The proclamation was submitted by the National Arab American Heritage Month Advisory Committee and was accepted by Newman Abuissa.