From Palestine to Arkansas

Posted by Guest on June 29, 2017 in Blog

By Isaac Filat

Down South, in the small state of Arkansas, in the small city of Little Rock, in the small community of Chenal, you’ll find a Palestinian family living amongst the bunch. Though mostly assimilated, my family retains many of our Hebron ways. We are loud. We are hard headed. We cook good food. But, more importantly, we are Arkansan! I was born and raised in Arkansas, but my family’s arrival in the South was mostly chance. My grandfather...

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Together We Came: Ray LaHood

Posted by Guest on June 28, 2017 in Blog

By Annie Riley

“Arab Americans have made America a great country. You should never run away from that. You should never be ashamed of it. We should be proud of it,” exclaimed Raymond H. “Ray” LaHood, a proud second generation Arab American and life-long public servant. LaHood represented Illinois’ 18th congressional district in the US House of Representatives for 14 years before serving as the 16th Secretary of Transportation under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013. 

Back in 1895, LaHood’s grandparents left their small village of Aitou,...

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From Northwestern Syria to Southwestern Pennsylvania: An Immigration Story

Posted by Joan Hanna on June 26, 2017 in Blog

William "Chad" Hanna, back left; Senator John F. Kennedy, right.

At the age of 14, in 1904, George Hanna emigrated from Mashta al-Helu, Syria to Pennsylvania, settling in the town of Clymer, 70 miles east of Pittsburgh. George supported himself as a businessman, selling housewares in a cart to local coal miners. He was charismatic, an astute entrepreneur, and spoke four languages. Through his military service in World War...

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Annual iftar brings together community in times of hardship

Posted by Guest on June 23, 2017 in Blog

By Dina Al Zubi

Growing up, iftars have always been my favorite part of Ramadan; water after a long day, a feast with wonderful food, and being surrounded by a feeling of celebration and appreciation for community (and the meal, of course). 

Last week, on Thursday, June 15th, AAI hosted its fifth annual Generations Iftar. The AAI team, Generations network, friends, and family gathered to break the fast of the day, share a meal, and connect. Those of us who are new to the AAI family had the chance to...

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Together We Came: Hisham Matar

Posted by Guest on June 21, 2017 in Blog

By Haley Arata

Ten hours writing, three coffees, and two hours on the Internet: the magic writing formula for award-winning Arab American writer Hisham Matar. 

Matar was born in New York, grew up in Tripoli and Cairo, and now lives in England. Hisham’s father, Jaballa Matar, opposed the Gaddafi regime and when Hisham was young his entire family fled to Cairo to avoid political persecution. It was during one of early days in Cairo that Matar remembers hearing the words of the one of the most influential books to his life and...

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Meet Arab Americans standing up for refugees

Posted by Arab American Institute on June 19, 2017 in Blog

Nicole Khamis, Michigan Refugee Assistance Program

What was your motivation for founding MRAP?

My family is Palestinian and was forcibly displaced, so living in diaspora is my daily reality. I often have a hard time reconciling the opportunities I have, such as going to a school like Michigan or living in relatively safety, because I know many individuals who, just by virtue of living in a different part of the world, will never have the same opportunities I will have. Because of this, I have tried to use my privilege...

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Arab American Representative Leads a Policy Response to Rising Xenophobia

Posted by Guest on June 19, 2017 in Blog

By Haley Arata As opponents of comprehensive immigration reform ratchet up their rhetoric, some law makers are stepping up and pushing back against growing xenophobia. In Michigan, Rep. Abdullah Hammoud has been quick to oppose discriminatory actions, recently proposing a pro-immigration resolution as part of the Michigan Civil Rights Expansion bill package. The package aims to extend protections to all Michigan residents and ensure that policies don’t discriminate based on place of birth. Hammoud and fourteen other representatives have sponsored 15 separate bills or resolutions as part of the package....

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Together We Came: Alia Shawkat

Posted by Guest on June 19, 2017 in Blog

By Sarah Decker

"I used to be less outspoken. But as a woman, an Arab-American, and a member of the LGBTQ community, I have to use whatever voice I have. There's no more delicacy in being quiet.”

This is how Alia Shawkat explains her newfound sense personal agency, telling Out Magazine that she has recently come to terms with using her voice as a queer Arab American. She feels that this agency is reflected in her career as an actress and artist.

The daughter of an Irish-Norwegian mother and Iraqi father, Shawkat...

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First impressions of an AAI summer intern

Posted by Guest on June 16, 2017 in Blog

By Kai Wiggins

Washington, DC is a city full of policy wonks and amateur meteorologists. The average conversation here vacillates between some recent development in national politics or the fact that it is hot, and will continue to be hot, in our nation’s capital. And while talking politics might prove contentious, the DC summer weather is a nonpartisan issue.

As someone unsure about the road ahead, I find comfort in the inevitable swelter. I say this as a person who has never dealt well with heat, but...

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My Immigrant Parents

Posted by Guest on June 15, 2017 in Blog

By Razan Elbaba

My professor from my video production class at the School for Visual Arts asked us to film a video of our choice for our final project. After an extensive brainstorming session, I landed on the idea of telling the immigration story of my parents. The recent presidential election and subsequent Muslim travel ban encouraged me to delve into the harsh reality immigrants face coming to the United States.

After interviewing my parents about the specific details of their journey to the United States over 30...

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