April 14, 2023 - National Arab American Heritage Month

April is National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM). This is a time to celebrate the rich history, heritage, culture and diversity of Arab Americans, as well as to honor their many significant contributions to society. An estimated 3.7 million Americans have Arab roots, and  according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Dearborn, Michigan, is the home of our nation’s largest percentage of Arab Americans. Americans of Arab heritage are valued as a part of the fabric of our Ann Arbor Public Schools community, our state of Michigan and our nation in their contributions to every field and profession. 

The initiative for the official national designation of Arab American Heritage Month was launched in 2017 by the nonprofit media and education organization Arab American Foundation and its sister organization Arab America. In 2019, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) introduced a resolution to Congress to proclaim April as National Arab American Heritage Month. 

National Arab American Heritage Month was recognized in April 2021 by President Joe Biden, with the U.S. Department of State, some members of Congress and 37 governors issuing proclamations supporting the month, according to Arab America.  While official national recognition may be recent, efforts on the state and local levels to recognize Arab American Heritage Month have been ongoing for decades. Last year, Illinois, Oregon and Virginia passed permanent legislation designating April as National Arab American Heritage Month, with similar legislation pending in Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.

We celebrate the accomplishments of educators, artists and writers, poets and musicians who promote the Arab American heritage and culture - a testament to the contributions Arab Americans have made to America's rich diversity. Notable individual highlights include Farouk El-Baz, NASA lead geologist for the Apollo Space Program, and James Abourezk, the first Arab American U.S. Senator, elected in 1970, who recently passed away at 92. In addition, Rashida Tlaib, born and raised in Detroit and of Palestinian descent, is currently serving as the first Palestinian-American Muslim woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

Highlights from our celebrations in the AAPS include fifth-grade band students at Thurston, Wines, Eberwhite and Lawton learning the Lebanese folk song Tik, Tik Tik Ya Em Slaiman with their band teacher, Melissa Carpenter. 

And we appreciate the Arab Series Slides, created by one of our very own Arab American elementary teachers, that are shared during morning meetings or closing circles so students may learn more about these important topics:

  1. Arabs vs Muslims
    This information affects more than a quarter of the world's population, yet a surprising number of people do not know this basic information.
  2. Arabic
  3. Cuisine
  4. Music
  5. Poetry
    April is also National Poetry Month, so this could be a nice way to discuss both

AAPS teachers are sharing read alouds, highlighting Arab authors and stories, recipes, dance and music with their classrooms to honor Arab American Heritage month; impressive library collections are on display across our media centers in AAPS schools.

We are a stronger school community as we honor, embrace and celebrate our diversity, continually create a culture of belonging for all and value the connections that unite us as an inclusive Ann Arbor community.  

Jeanice Kerr Swift
Superintendent of Schools
Ann Arbor Public Schools