April is Arab American Heritage Month, and Northwestern is officially celebrating it for the first time this year.
National history and heritage months exist and are the result of community organizers seeing purpose to celebrate and honor the diverse populations, histories and experiences within our nation, said Matthew Abtahi, assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs.
“We know that some classrooms and textbooks can often leave people and parts of American history out of the collective narrative,” Abtahi said. “At Northwestern, these months provide communities a chance to celebrate each other, reflect on the past, activate toward more connected futures and share the often multi-faceted cultures with the campus community at-large. The foundation of a well-functioning democracy is to be a good neighbor enough to engage and appreciate the differences we all have, and there is no better way to do that than learning about and having compassion for the many cultures and customs of those we share space and community alongside.”
Sara Ibrahim serves as co-president, along with Ramzy Issa, of the Middle Eastern North African Student Association, the group spearheading this year’s celebration. She advocated to get Arab Heritage Month officially recognized by Northwestern through the passing of the “MENA Visibility” resolution in student government.
A junior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Ibrahim was born in Cairo and grew up in Chicago. Currently working as an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations, she plans to study abroad next fall, continue freelance writing for GQ Middle East, and do some UN work in Cairo prior to starting a full-time job. She is passionate about journalism and advocacy and hopes to be able to use her skills to help amplify Arab voices in mainstream spaces.
Northwestern Now caught up with Ibrahim to discuss Northwestern’s commemoration of Arab Heritage Month.
What are a few things you’d like to share about Arab Heritage Month?
This is a time to celebrate and recognize the rich history, culture and contributions of Arabs to American society. It’s also an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges faced by Arab communities in the United States, including issues related to post 9/11 racial profiling, invisibility on the census, harmful stereotypes and underrepresentation in mainstream spaces.
At Northwestern, it’s a time for Arab members of the campus community to come together and celebrate their heritage through cultural showcases, speaker events and workshops.