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University celebrates Arab American Heritage Month

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Isabel Amezquita
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne held a small event on campus in the Johnson Family Plaza on Tuesday to celebrate the National Arab American Heritage Month. 

The event gave the community a taste of Arab culture.

National Arab American Heritage Month takes place every April, celebrating the culture by paying tribute to the contributions of Arab Americans. 

The initiative for Arab American Month came from the Arab American Foundation and Arab America which was launched in 2017, but was finally recognized and supported by President Joe Biden in April 2021. 

Now the month of April serves as a way to celebrate the culture, contributions, innovations, and accomplishments the Arab American community has brought to the United States. 

The on-campus event featured music and food such as Knafeh, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert that is layered with sweet cheese and soaked in a sweet sugar syrup to top its flavor off.

For those who needed a refreshment, Karak Chai was offered; a sweet tea made with black tea leaves, saffron, and sugar that helped those walking by get a nice thirst quencher. 

Though the event offered a fun time to engage with other students and professors, it also offered a time to learn of important Arab figures through submissions by the La Verne community and celebrated them with a small biography, picture, and name on a postcard displayed on the main table where tea and treats were being given out.  

One name highlighted by the community was Elias Zerhouni, an Algerian-born American radiologist who served as the 15th director of the United States National Institutes of Health from 2002 to 2008. 

Another name featured was Adah Almutairi, a Saudi American pharmaceutical chemist and scholar of science and engineering, inventor, and entrepreneur. 

Another was Fatima Jibrell, a Somali American environmental activist who helped found Horn Relief, an African-led nonprofit organization established in 1991 in response to Somalia’s crisis and civil war.

Though only three were mentioned, roughly 10 other names were also acknowledged. 

Each celebration of names managed to show that though many began their journey with little to no knowledge in their professions, they continued to make their Arab American culture and community proud by believing in their own potential. 

Nancy Newman, director of international services and engagement, organized the event. She said she loved putting it together to unite the La Verne community by learning more about this culture. 

“The event is to honor all the contributions of the many Arab Americans that are here in the United States,” Newman said. “We have highlighted people from all national origins with different types of skills, from artists, poets, doctors, and physicists.”

She also added that the students at the University of La Verne had been great and provided positive feedback throughout the event. 

“Students who have been attending have been sharing their own stories,” Newman said. “One was very excited to see our dessert Knafeh. Her grandmother used to make it for her and to be able to have that here is very special and people enjoy that.” 

The event not only highlighted the culture for the students of ULV, it also managed to expand the circle of the Arab heritage and educate students about their great contributors while also giving students the chance to highlight people themselves 

Amel Hilo, attendee at the event and junior psychology major, thought it was a wholesome way to show some of what the culture had to offer. 

“I think it would’ve been fun to see the different flags from the Middle East,” Hilo said. “But I think it did show a little taste of Arab American Heritage Month with the treats and foods.”

Another attendee, Mia Martinez, sophomore sociology major, said that although she is not of Arab culture, she enjoyed expanding her knowledge on it.

“I don’t know much about their culture but I love the food they have here,” Martinez said. “I also got to ask some questions about the people featured on the cards here and I love that they were able to make a difference to the United States. They should be proud, the community is.” 

Attendee Keiry Villatoro, sophomore sociology major, said she loved getting to attend the event with friends to learn more about the culture while eating and listening to music. 

“I am here with a couple friends and have gotten the chance to try the food and enjoy the music with them,” Villatoro said. “It’s fun getting to try something new especially with friends who support other cultures.”  

To learn more about National Arab American Heritage Month, visit arabamericafoundation.org/national-arab-american-heritage-month.

Isabel Amezquita can be reached at isabel.amezquita@laverne.edu.

Isabel Amezquita, a senior English major and communications minor, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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