Every April since 2017, Arab Americans throughout the US celebrate their heritage and contributions to the nation during “Arab American Heritage Month,” featuring dinners, festivals and cultural presentations.
The national event is similar to heritage months that recognize the achievements of Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and African Americans.
Arab American Heritage Month does not receive the same national attention as other ethnic groups because Arabs are not included in the US Census and not recognized as a cultural or minority entity, but communities in 36 states will mark the month with educational activities. However, Arab American leaders said that they plan more celebrations this year.
“Chicago has a very large Arab American community and we are proud that our city was one of the magnets that attracted Arab immigration to this country,” said Hassan Nijem, president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce of Illinois.
“The 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago featured a large exhibition called ‘Cairo Street’ where hundreds of Arabs shared their culture with American visitors. After the exposition ended, many of the Arabs returned to their countries boasting about the opportunities and how American streets were ‘paved in gold.’ America offers great opportunities to immigrants and that sparked a wave of Arab immigration to this country that has not stopped.”
Nijem said that “Chicagoland” has more than 450,000 Americans of Arab heritage representing all 22 Arab countries, although the largest populations are Palestinian, Lebanese and Jordanians.