13 Ways To Celebrate Arab American Heritage Month

octagram / najmat-al-quads pattern in gold and orange on a green for Arab American

April is Arab American Heritage Month! 

Officially recognized by President Biden in April 2021, Arab Heritage Month is an annual, month-long celebration of the diversity and richness of Arab American identity, culture, and experience.

Regardless of the relatively recent recognition, Arab Americans have contributed to, shaped (and reshaped) American society across literature, food, music, and culture. Critically, Arab Americans have transformed America by continuously exploring (and creating space for) the complexity of their multiple identities. 

There is no singular Arab American experience or story. Rather, it’s made up of an intertwining, continuously evolving set of lived experiences that come together under a shared love for home — and all that it represents. 

5 Facts About Arab American Heritage Month

  1. Nearly 4 million Americans can trace their heritage to an Arab country. 
  2. Arab immigration to the U.S. began in the 1880s, primarily from the Ottoman Empire (Migration Policy Institute). 
  3. The first official push for national recognition of Arab American Heritage Month began in 2017 by members of Arab American Foundation
  4. Michigan, Illinois, California, and New York have the largest Arab American populations in the country.
  5. The majority of Arab Americans are native-born, and nearly 82% of Arabs in the U.S. are citizens, according to the Arab American Institute

While it’s important to learn more about and uplift the experiences of Arab Americans every single day, it’s helpful to have somewhere to start. We’ve created a guide on how to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month this year.

By the way, some of the links in this article (like books!) are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Activities and Ideas: How To Recognize Arab American Heritage Month

Learn

Read books by Arab Americans. 

Arab American authors have shaped global literature across genres. Engage with their work and learn more about the beauty, diversity, and complexity of their perspectives and lived experiences. 

Here are a few of my recommendations:

Bonus: Learn about the Mahjar, a literary movement started in the early 20th century by some of the first Arab Americans.

Explore and engage with Arab American history, art, and culture.

Learn about the history of Arab Americans by exploring the galleries of the Arab American National Museum, and browsing the catalog of the Barjeel Art Foundation. 

Explore the work of Arab American artists: 

  • Etel Adnan 
  • Khalil Gibran 
  • Jason Seife 
  • Michael Rakowitz 
  • Sherin Guirguis

Watch a documentary on Arab American history. 

The depth and breadth of the Arab American experience can be explored through multiple lenses. Documentaries can be a powerful way to get started: 

  • Arab Indianapolis: A Hidden History (PBS)
  • American Arab (PBS) 
  • Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (Kanopy) 
  • A Thousand And One Journeys: The Arab Americans

Take Action

Advocate for the inclusion of the MENA category in the US Census. 

The 3.7 million Arab Americans are still federally classified as “white” by the U.S. Census. This contributes to the undercounting and underrepresentation of Arab Americans and leads to a disproportionate allocation of resources across communities. 

Read this article to learn more about the push to add the Middle East or North African (MENA) category to the U.S. Census.

Support Arab American-owned businesses. 

Buy from Arab American-owned restaurants, bookstores, grocery stores, and e-commerce businesses. These ventures and their Arab American founders create beautiful, high-quality products with social impact at the forefront. 

Celebrate

Explore the work of Arab American musicians. 

Arab American musicians have a long history of revolutionizing genres across hip-hop, R&B, rock, and much more. These artists honor their heritage and their intersecting identities by creating powerful work, on their own terms. Add some of these artists to your next playlist:

  • Omar Offendum 
  • Felukah 
  • Anees 
  • Thanks Joey 
  • Paul Anka 
  • Faraj Abyad 
  • French Montana 

Watch movies and shows by Arab American filmmakers. 

Storytelling is the most powerful form of human connection. Check out these critically acclaimed films and shows that have redefined Arab American representation across the U.S., and the world: 

  • Ramy (Hulu)
  • Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf (Netflix)
  • Slingshot Hip Hop (Vimeo)
  • The Feeling of Being Watched (Amazon & Kanopy) 
  • Mo (Netflix) 
  • The Square (Netflix) 
  • Amreeka (Prime Video)

Take an online cooking class or check out Arab recipes. 

Arab cuisine is one of the most well-known across the world. Its variety is as diverse as the countries it represents; check out these recipe books and try out a new dish this Arab American Heritage Month:

  • “The Kitchen Without Borders: Recipes and Stories from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs” by The Eat Offbeat Chefs (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • “My Lebanese Cookbook” by Tariq Fallous (Amazon)
  • “Eat, Habibi, Eat!: Fresh Recipes for Modern Egyptian Cooking” by Shahir Massoud (Bookshop) (Amazon)

At Work

Highlight Arab Americans in your company newsletter or in company blog posts. 

Create meaningful, intentional, and non-performative space within your company for the stories and experiences of Arab American employees. Whether you write a blog post on your company’s site or include a thoughtful mention in your company newsletter, your inclusion can make a difference. Feel free to include a link to this article, as well!

Volunteer with or match employee donations to a nonprofit. 

Learn more about the Arab American National Museum, Arab American Institute, and Arab-American Family Support Center.  These organizations work with Arab American communities across the U.S., creating networks of mutual support and collaboration. 

For Kids / Students At School

Read poems by Arab Americans and discuss them.

From classics like Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet to contemporary works like Naomi Shihab Nye’s Sitti’s Secrets, Arab American poets have continuously built a rich poetic tradition. 

Give presentations on major Arab American leaders and cultural figures.  

Researching and preparing an informative presentation can go a long way in educating and learning more about a specific community and their rich historical tradition.  

Here are a few Arab American leaders students can learn about:

  • Khalil Gibran
  • Candy Lightner 
  • Linda Sarsour 
  • Farouk el-Baz
  • Rashida Tlaib
  • Ameen Rihani 
  • Steve Jobs 

On Social Media

Follow and amplify the voices of Arab-American media creators. 

Arab American comedians, journalists, storytellers, and scholars regularly produce humorous, thoughtful, and informative content across all social media platforms. Their voices and stories are important to keep up with and amplify. Here are a few recommendations on new people to follow during Arab American Heritage Month: 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are some famous Arab Americans to celebrate during Arab American Heritage Month?

Arab Americans have made their mark on global culture, science, literature, music, comedy, and film. Famous Arab Americans include Khalil Gibran, Steve Jobs, Ramy Youssef, Mo Amer, Candy Lightner, Linda Sarsour, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Farouk el-Baz. 

Who is considered Arab American?

According to the Arab American Institute, “Arab Americans are a diverse community of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants… who have come from throughout the Arab world. [They] are Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Jordanians, and Yemenis — from North Africa to Southwest Asia.” 

What is the 2024 theme for Arab American Heritage Month?

While many awareness months have a unique theme each year, Arab American Heritage Month doesn’t currently have annual themes. The common practice, as the Arab American Foundation states, is to celebrate Arab Americans, their heritage, and their contributions to their communities.  

When was Arab American Heritage Month established?

Arab American Heritage Month was officially established in April 2021 via a declaration from President Joe Biden. According to the Arab America Foundation, “In 2022, Congress, the U.S. Department of State, and 45 state governors issued proclamations commemorating the initiative.” Illinois, Oregon, and Virginia have all passed permanent legislation around Arab American Heritage Month.

This article was originally written for Arab American Heritage Month 2023 — and has been updated

Article Details

April 1, 2024 6:00 AM
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