Dearborn museum celebrates Arab American Heritage Month in April

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
This is a hand-painted family tree of the Haddad family on display at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

Dearborn —  Since the first Arab immigrants arrived in the United States in the 1800s, they have left their mark on the nation's history and culture. 

In April, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn is hosting a series of events and offering free admission to walk-in visitors for National Arab American Heritage Month.

“Because the Arab American community is so diverse and is located in communities across the country, Arab American Heritage Month is a unique opportunity for Arab Americans to celebrate their history and culture together, and share it with the general public,” said Dr. Matthew Jaber Stiffler, AANM’s research and content manager.

Arab American National Museum on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn.

Though not yet recognized as an official national heritage month by presidential proclamation, many states, cities and organizations across the country have designated April as Arab American Heritage Month.

Community leaders and Detroit expats Warren and Amal David, founders of the digital platform Arab America, along with a grassroots cohort from 28 states, have mounted a prominent national campaign to raise the profile of Arab American Heritage Month and encourage more official observances.

The museum is just as diverse as the community itself, comprised of people and content with roots in 22 nations and varying cultural and faith traditions.

The museum touts itself as the only institution in the world that documents and presents unique stories of Arab American history and the vibrant Arab-American community in southeast Michigan. 

Booklet of Arab American culture and history given at the museum.

Its April publications will include new lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school educators, and a booklet designed for walk-in visitors.

The booklet, "Arab Americans: History, Culture & Contributions," is written by Randa Kayyali and will be sold for $9.95 in hard copy at the museumstore and will be free to view and download online. The booklet and lesson plans were created through funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency that provides library grants, museum grants, policy development and research.

“There are very few introductory-level texts about Arab Americans and partnering with Randa Kayyali – a recognized author and researcher – to create this one fills an important niche for our visitors, educators and anyone interested in the history and culture of Arab Americans,” Stiffler said.

“The booklet offers an overview of Arab American immigration history, including the recent influx of refugees, and touches on the themes of religion, cultural traditions and the impact of media stereotyping,” says Stiffler. “It includes graphs, maps and historical images of the Arab American community, many that have never before been published.” 

Arab American Heritage Month at the Arab American National Museum will include:

  • Free admission for all walk-in visitors throughout the month of April (does not include ticketed events).
  • 15 percent off all museum memberships throughout the month of April.
  • Spend $60 in the museum store online or in person and get a free individual membership (a $45 value).

Presentations during April include:

The Museum will host an array of community-produced events during April:

  • April 3, 7-9 p.m.: DOMA: Dearborn Open Mic Arabic
  • April 8, 6-8 p.m.: Victor Begg book reading + signing, "Our Muslim Neighbors"
  • April 13, 6-9 p.m.: Palestinian Youth Movement Culture Night 
  • April 17, 7-9 p.m.: DOME: Dearborn Open Mic English
Twitter: @SarahRahal_