By Rashad Dabbagh

The story of Arabs in America started long before most immigration waves from the Middle East began. The first recorded Arabic speaker to come to North America was called Zammouri, which in Arabic means someone from Al-Zammour, Morocco. Zammouri was probably captured in 1511 by the Portuguese. He was then sold into slavery and his captors renamed him Estebanico. After 16 years of captivity, Zammouri was taken to Florida as part of a Spanish expeditionary force. In 1528, Zammouri marched inland with 300 other men, almost all of whom died.

Since then Americans of Arab descent have served in the military fighting for our country including in WWI and WWII, served in our US Congress, contributed to science, medicine, technology, the arts, and entertainment.

While there are many examples of success stories among Arab Americans who have given valuable contributions to our nation, the recent story of Mona Hanna-Attisha stands out. Her heroic role in uncovering problems in Flint’s city water system that resulted in the lead poisoning of about 10,000 children was outstanding.

The daughter of Iraqi-American scientists who graduated of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Hanna-Attisha conducted her own study that found the percentage of elevated blood lead levels among children in the city had doubled and announced the results at a press conference. Michigan state officials publicly attacked Hanna-Attisha and the credibility of her research before admitting that Flint faced lead contamination, leading eventually to a state and federal emergency and apologies from some officials.

Despite the current climate of anti-Arab, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee bias as a result of last year’s presidential election, Arab Americans are celebrating their heritage in hopes that all Americans will learn about their contributions to the U.S. and appreciate them.

April 2017 is a special opportunity to enhance understanding of diverse Arab American heritage that is often forgotten or perhaps avoided by the media. During a recent Anaheim City Council meeting, I suggested that the council members and the community do three things in April of this year:

Learn about Arab Americans (the Arab American Almanac is a good resource);

Attend an Arab American event in your community (if you’re in Southern California, join us at the annual Arab American Heritage Gala), and support organizations that help integrate new immigrants from the Arab World;

Visit Little Arabia District (in Anaheim) and take your family to an Arabic restaurant.

To celebrate Arab American Heritage Month, my request extends to those outside of Anaheim as well, across our beloved nation.

For the second consecutive year, the City of Anaheim, California, presented a proclamation to recognize April as Arab American Heritage Month as many other counties and cities across the nation do. I was honored to be among those who accepted the proclamation in my city. Arab Americans have been an integral part of America for hundreds of years and have contributed tremendously to our nation in various aspects and fields.

Photos are curtsy of the Arab American Historical Foundation.

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Rashad Al-Dabbagh is the founder and executive director of the Arab American Civic Council, a grassroots advocacy group based in Anaheim, California. Follow him on twitter @happy_arab.

بقلم‭ ‬رشاد‭ ‬دباغ

تبدأ‭ ‬قصة‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬في‭ ‬أمريكا‭ ‬منذ‭ ‬أمدٍ‭ ‬بعيد،‭ ‬حتى‭ ‬قبل‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تبدأ‭ ‬موجات‭ ‬المُهاجرين‭ ‬القادمين‭ ‬من‭ ‬الشرق‭ ‬الأوسط‭. ‬فأولُ‭ ‬شخصٍ‭ ‬مُسجل‭ ‬كأول‭ ‬مُتحدث‭ ‬بالعربية‭ ‬وصل‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬شمال‭ ‬أمريكا،‭ ‬كان‭ ‬يُدعى‭ ‬‮«‬زاموري‮»‬،‭ ‬والتي‭ ‬تعني‭ ‬في‭ ‬العربيّة‭ ‬أنّه‭ ‬من‭ ‬‮«‬الزامور،‭ ‬المغرب‮»‬‭.‬

غالبًا‭ ‬كان‭ ‬‮«‬زاموري‮»‬‭ ‬قد‭ ‬أُسر‭ ‬في‭ ‬عام‭ ‬1511‭ ‬بواسطة‭ ‬البرتغاليين‭. ‬ثم‭ ‬بيع‭ ‬كعبدٍ،‭ ‬وأعاد‭ ‬آسره‭  ‬تسميته‭ ‬‮«‬إستبيانكو‮»‬‭. ‬وبعد‭ ‬16‭ ‬عامًا‭ ‬من‭ ‬الأسر،‭ ‬أُخذ‭ ‬‮«‬زاموري‮»‬‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬فلوريدا،‭ ‬كجزءٍ‭ ‬من‭ ‬القوة‭ ‬الإسبانيّة‭ ‬الاستكشافيّة‭. ‬وفي‭ ‬عام‭ ‬1528،‭ ‬سار‭ ‬الزاموري‭ ‬ضمن‭ ‬فوجٍ‭ ‬عسكري‭ ‬مع‭ ‬أكثر‭ ‬من‭ ‬300‭ ‬رجلٍ‭ ‬أخر‭ ‬من‭ ‬المشاة‭ ‬وقد‭ ‬ماتوا‭ ‬جميعًا‭ ‬تقريبًا‭.‬

ومنذ‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬الحين،‭ ‬خدم‭ ‬الأمريكيون‭ ‬من‭ ‬أصلٍول‭ ‬عربية‭  ‬في‭ ‬القوات‭ ‬العسكرية،‭ ‬لصالح‭ ‬امريكا،‭ ‬بما‭ ‬في‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬الحرب‭ ‬العالمية‭ ‬الأولى،‭ ‬والحرب‭ ‬العالمية‭ ‬الثانية،‭ ‬وخدموا‭ ‬أيضًا‭ ‬في‭ ‬الكونجرس‭ ‬الأمريكي،‭ ‬وشاركوا‭ ‬في‭ ‬مجالات‭ ‬العلوم،‭ ‬الطب،‭ ‬التكنولوجيا،‭ ‬الفنون‭ ‬والترفيه‭ ‬كذلك

‭.‬وهناك‭ ‬العديد‭ ‬من‭ ‬أمثلة‭ ‬النجاح،‭ ‬وقصص‭ ‬التفوق‭ ‬بين‭ ‬الأمريكين‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬قدموا‭ ‬مُساهماتٍ‭ ‬جليلةً‭ ‬لأمتنا،‭ ‬والقصة‭ ‬الأخيرة‭ ‬ل»منى‭- ‬حنا‭ ‬أتيشا‮»‬،‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬دورها‭ ‬البطوليّ‭ ‬في‭ ‬كشف‭ ‬المشاكل‭ ‬الموجودة‭ ‬في‭ ‬نظام‭ ‬مياه‭ ‬مدينة‭ ‬‮«‬فلينت‮»‬،‭ ‬والتي‭ ‬أدت‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬تسمم‭ ‬حولي‭ ‬10‭.‬000‭ ‬طفلٍ‭ ‬رضيع‭ ‬وكان‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬دورًا‭ ‬رائعًا‭.‬

وهي‭ ‬ابنة‭ ‬العالمييّن‭ ‬العراقيين‭ ‬الأمريكيين‭ ‬وقد‭ ‬تخرجت‭ ‬في‭ ‬كلية‭ ‬الطب‭ ‬البشري،‭ ‬في‭ ‬جامعة‭ ‬ولاية‭ ‬‮«‬ميتشجن‮»‬،‭ ‬ثم‭ ‬واصلت‭ ‬حنّا‭- ‬أتيشا‭ ‬دراستها،‭ ‬حتى‭ ‬اكتشفت‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نسبة‭ ‬الرصاص‭ ‬في‭ ‬دم‭ ‬الأطفال‭ ‬قد‭ ‬تضاعفت،‭ ‬ومن‭ ‬ثم‭ ‬أعلنت‭ ‬النتائج‭ ‬في‭ ‬مُؤتمرٍ‭ ‬صحفي‭.‬

وهاجم‭ ‬مسؤولوا‭ ‬ولاية‭ ‬‮«‬ميتشجن‮»‬‭ ‬حنّا‭-‬أتيشا‭ ‬علانيةً،‭ ‬وشككوا‭ ‬في‭ ‬مصداقية‭ ‬بحثها،‭ ‬وذلك‭ ‬قبل‭ ‬الاعتراف‭ ‬بأنّ‭ ‬‮«‬فلينت‮»‬‭ ‬قد‭ ‬واجهت‭ ‬تلوثًا‭ ‬بالرصاص،‭ ‬مما‭ ‬أدى‭ ‬بالنهاية‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬حالة‭ ‬طواريء‭ ‬في‭ ‬الولاية،‭ ‬والدولة‭ ‬بأكملها،‭ ‬ودفع‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬المسؤولين‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الاعتذار‭ ‬لها‭. 

وعلى‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬المناخ‭ ‬الحالي‭ ‬المُناهض‭ ‬للعرب‭ ‬وللهجرة،‭ ‬والمُنحاز‭ ‬ضد‭ ‬اللاجئين‭ ‬الناتج‭ ‬عن‭ ‬الإنتخابات‭ ‬الرئاسيّة‭  ‬في‭ ‬العام‭ ‬الماضي،‭ ‬فإن‭ ‬الأمريكين‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬يحتفلون‭ ‬بميراثهم‭ ‬وهم‭ ‬يأملون‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تصل‭ ‬مساهماتهم‭ ‬في‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المُتحدة‭ ‬الى‭ ‬الأمريكيين‭ ‬ويُقدورنهم‭.‬

ويعد‭ ‬أبريل‭ ‬2107‭ ‬فرصةً‭ ‬خاصةً‭ ‬لكي‭ ‬نُعزز‭  ‬فهم‭ ‬التراث‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬العربي،‭ ‬والذي‭ ‬دائمًا‭ ‬ما‭ ‬تتجاهله‭ ‬وسائل‭ ‬الإعلام،‭ ‬أو‭ ‬ربما‭ ‬تتجنّبه‭. ‬

أثناء‭ ‬اجتماع‭ ‬مجلس‭ ‬مدينة‭ ‬‮«‬أنهايم‮»‬‭ ‬الأخير،‭ ‬اقترحت‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يقوم‭ ‬أعضاء‭ ‬المجلس‭ ‬والمُجتمع‭ ‬بثلاثة‭ ‬أشياء‭ ‬في‭ ‬أبريل‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬العام‭:‬

•‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يتعلموا‭ ‬عن‭ ‬الأمريكين‭ ‬العرب‭ ( ‬تقويم‭ ‬الأمريكين‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬يُعد‭ ‬مصدرًا‭ ‬كافيًا‭)‬؛

•‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يحضروا‭ ‬فعالية‭ ‬الأمريكين‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬في‭ ‬مُجتمعهم‭ (‬إذا‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬في‭ ‬جنوب‭ ‬كاليفورنيا،‭ ‬انضم‭ ‬إلينا‭ ‬في‭ ‬حفل‭ ‬التراث‭ ‬العربيّ‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬السنويّ‭)‬،‭ ‬وادعم‭ ‬المُنظمات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تُساعد‭ ‬في‭ ‬دمج‭ ‬المُهاجرين‭ ‬الجدد‭ ‬القادمين‭ ‬من‭ ‬العالم‭ ‬العربيّ؛

•‭ ‬قم‭ ‬بزيارة‭ ‬منطقة‭ ‬‮«‬ليتل‭ ‬أربيا‮»‬‭ ‬في‭ ‬‮«‬أنهايم‮»‬،‭ ‬وخذ‭ ‬عائلتك‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬مطعمٍ‭ ‬عربيّ‭.‬

ولكي‭ ‬نحتفل‭ ‬بشهر‭ ‬التراث‭ ‬الأمريكيّ‭ ‬العربيّ،‭ ‬فلقد‭ ‬امتد‭ ‬طلب‭ ‬ليشمل‭ ‬الموجودين‭ ‬خارج‭ ‬‮«‬أنهايم‮»‬،‭ ‬على‭ ‬امتداد‭ ‬دولتنا‭ ‬الحبيبة‭.‬

وللعام‭ ‬الثاني‭ ‬على‭ ‬التوالي‭ ‬تُقدم‭ ‬مدينة‭ ‬‮«‬أنهايم‮»‬،‭ ‬بولاية‭ ‬كاليفورنيا،‭ ‬إعلانًا‭ ‬يعترف‭ ‬بشهر‭ ‬إبريل،‭ ‬شهرًا‭ ‬للتراث‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬العربّي،‭ ‬كما‭ ‬فعلت‭ ‬العديد‭ ‬من‭ ‬البلدان‭ ‬والمُدن‭ ‬في‭ ‬جميع‭ ‬أنحاء‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭. ‬

كان‭ ‬شرفًا‭ ‬لي‭ ‬أن‭ ‬أكون‭ ‬من‭ ‬بين‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬قبلوا‭ ‬البيان‭ ‬في‭ ‬مدينتي‭. ‬لقد‭ ‬كان‭ ‬الأمريكيون‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬جزءًا‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يتجزأ‭ ‬من‭ ‬المُجتمع‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬لسنواتٍ‭ ‬عديدة،‭ ‬وساهموا‭ ‬بشكلٍ‭ ‬كبيرٍ‭ ‬في‭ ‬نهضة‭ ‬دولتنا‭ ‬في‭ ‬مختلف‭ ‬المجالات،‭ ‬وفي‭ ‬العديد‭ ‬من‭ ‬نواحي‭ ‬الحياة‭. ‬