President Joe Biden on Friday celebrated April as Arab American Heritage Month and thanked the Arab American community “for representing the best of who we are.”
“The history and story of the Arab American community is deeply woven into the diverse tapestry of America,” he said in a tweet. “This National Arab American Heritage Month, I thank the community for all that you have done to help move us forward and for representing the best of who we are.”
Biden’s message followed a statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in support of the heritage month.
“This month, we recognize National Arab American Heritage Month and honor the contributions of this diverse community to America,” said Blinken. “Immigrants with origins from the Arab world have been arriving to the United States since before our country’s independence and have contributed to our nation’s advancements in science, business, technology, foreign policy, and national security.”
Blinken highlighted Arab Americans who served the country, including Nathan Badeen, a Syrian man who died fighting during the American Revolution, Ambassador Philip Habib, a former under secretary for political affairs who played an important role in the Vietnam peace talks, and Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, who served as chief of protocol from 1982 to 1989, “nearly 7 years and longer than anyone else prior.”
Last year, the State Department declared April as Arab American Heritage Month for the first time and Blinken published a tweet in support of the month.
Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, says the heritage month is “celebratory and important in fighting the bias the community has faced.”
“This is something our community has been working on for decades, to get it to the point where it’s finally being recognized on a national level is incredibly meaningful to our community,” she told CNN.
Arab American History Month is not officially recognized by the entire federal government. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, co-sponsored and introduced a bill to Congress in support of the month, but it is still pending.
Arab Americans trace their origins to 22 Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Arabs began immigrating to the US in the late 1800s fleeing war, persecution and economic hardships, according to the Migration Policy Institute. California, New York, Michigan and Illinois have the largest populations of Arab American residents in the country, based on data from the 2015-2019 ACS Ancestry survey.
States that have recognized April as Arab American History Month in 2021 and years past include Arkansas, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, and North Carolina.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Friday was the first time Blinken recognized Arab American Heritage Month. Blinken last year posted on Twitter in support of the month.