Arab-American Heritage Month

written by إيمان العامري (Iman Alamri)

Linda Sarsour, political activist: Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Linda Sarsour has always been a fighter. Sarsour is a Palestinian Muslim American who has been on the front lines of major civil rights campaigns such as demanding an end to unwarranted surveillance of New York's Muslim communities and ending police policies like stop and frisk. She was nicknamed as "Brooklyn Homegirl in a Hijab," by The New York Times---breaking stereotypes of Muslim women while still honoring her faith and heritage. At the age of 25, Sarsour became the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. After the shooting on Michael Brown, Sarsour formed "Muslims for Ferguson" and helped organize BLM protests as well as co-chairing the Women's March on Washington in 2017 & 2019. In 2016, she was a surrogate for Bernie Sander's presidential campaign. Shattering barrier after barrier, Linda Sarsour is a force to be reckoned with, and she isn't planning to stop anytime soon!


Rami Malek, Actor: You might recognize him for playing the iconic Freddie Mercury--either way Rami Malek is the actor you just can't miss. Malek was born and raised in Los Angeles to his Egyptian parents. Being a first-generation American, he struggled to try to fit in at school, so he naturally gravitated to creating characters and voices as an outlet. Malek discovered his passion for the performing arts when he performed the one-man play Zooman and The Sign in high school. He then went on to study theater at the University of Evansville in Indiana. After graduating college, Malek found himself landing small roles in TV and movies---his debut feature film being in the Night at the Museum series as Pharaoh Ahkmenrah. In 2015, another fellow Egyptian-American, Sam Esmail cast Malek in the Emmy award-winning show Mr. Robot. A few years later, Malek then landed the role to portray Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic: Bohemian Rhapsody. Malek won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film, becoming the first Arab-American to win this prestigious award. Keep an eye out for Rami Malek as he continues to break stereotypes as an Arab-American in Hollywood.

Rashida Tlaib, Political Activist: In recent years, Rashida Tlaib has become the forefront of breaking stereotypes to what it means to have an Arab American in politics. Tlaib was born and raised in Detroit to her Palestinian immigrant parents. The political world has always been an interest of Tlaib's, receiving her Juris Doctorate at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in 2004. Her political career jumpstarted in 2004 when she was an intern for State Representative Steve Tobocman, but she made history in 2018 becoming the first Muslim woman to be elected to Congress alongside Ilhan Omar. On Jan. 3rd, 2019, she was sworn into office with a Quran while wearing a traditional embroidered Arab dress. She makes the choice of not wearing the hijab because she wants to show that wearing the hijab is an individual choice, not a sign of oppression. Reflecting on her position in office as a Muslim woman, Rashida Tlaib states: "That representation is especially important for younger generations to see that Muslims can ascend to leadership unapologetically and not have to compromise who they are to do that.”


Steve Jobs, CEO: Everywhere we go, we see pieces of his legacy in our day-to-day life. Our smartphones, laptops, tablets, watches, and so much more--but did you know he was Arab-American? Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco to his Syrian father and Swiss/German mother. However, after he was born, his mother gave him up for adoption to Paul and Clara Jobs. Technology has always been a part of Jobs' life, when he was a child, he would work on electronics with his father in their family garage--which would soon become the home of the first Apple computer. After he dropped out of college, Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, co-founded Apple Computers in 1976. Jobs left the company in 1985 to launch Pixar Animation Studios but soon returned as CEO in 1997. As the years passed, Apple released innovative and revolutionary tech products such as the MacBook, iPod, & iPhone that dominated the evolution of technology in future decades to come. On October 5, 2011, Jobs passed away after years of battling pancreatic cancer, but his legacy still continues to thrive in our modern tech-dominated world.


Suheir Hammad, Poet: Born in Amman, Jordan and raised in Brooklyn, New York--Suheir Hammad's words go beyond the page. Hammad was born in Jordan to her refugee Palestinian parents and when she was five years old, her family immigrated to New York. The violence in the Middle East during the era she was born was too much to bare, and her parents did not have any more economic opportunities in the surrounding countries of Jordan and Lebanon--where Hammad and her sister, Sabrine, were born. The power of words and storytelling was instilled in Hammad's home through the Quran. She was also inspired by Brooklyn's vibrant urban culture. She was able to take her experiences of being a Palestinian Muslim immigrant and turn them into poetry as a way to find a sense of identity. Hammad broke barriers, becoming the first Palestinian-American to make it big in the world of spoken word and poetry. Her work has been widely published and adapted for the theater. Suheir Hammad uses her books and poems to talk about political and social issues that matter in our ever so changing world.


Arab-American Roots in the Valley


Neama Alamri, Professor: Yes, you read that name correctly--there's no need to double check because Neama Alamri is one of my (coolest) older sisters. Neama was born in Bakersfield to her Yemeni parents. Growing up in the Central Valley, Neama had always had a special love for reading and writing--so much she's made it into basically her career. In this past year, she has earned her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Humanities from UC Merced and is now currently teaching as a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at Princeton University. Her research is primarily on the Yemeni workers and activists throughout the 20th century such as their impact on the United Farm Workers Movement. You can find more information about Yemenis in the UFW in this article. Effortlessly climbing her way up to the top, Neama Alamri is changing the way Yemeni-American women are seen in society and in education one degree at a time.


Resources

https://www.cair.com/ https://www.adc.org/ https://al-bab.com/ https://news.jrn.msu.edu/culturalcompetence/race/arab-americans/ https://boomcalifornia.org/2020/02/18/yemeni-farm-workers-and-the-politics-of-arab-nationalism-in-the-ufw/

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