April is Arab American Heritage Month

April is here and that means we are celebrating Arab American Heritage Month (AAHM). Stream these films featuring Arab American voices to learn more.
Published on April 01, 2021 by Beatrice Alvarez

April is here and that means we are celebrating Arab American Heritage Month (AAHM). While not recognized by the federal government, AAHM is celebrated in many U.S. schools, cities, and states. Of course, around here we acknowledge the contributions of our diverse communities 24/7/365, but we like to take special note of heritage months to learn more and uplift the stories of people’s rich heritage.

For starters, it is important to understand what it means to be of Arab descent. Simply put, Arab Americans have roots in 22 countries located in the Middle East and North African regions: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. And within all those countries, there are various languages, religions, traditions that are now part of our American story.

These films featured here represent some of the millions of voices and diverse experiences of Arab Americans.

Writing an American Story: Playwright Yussef El Guindi

From KCTS 9 series Borders & Heritage:

Playwright Yussef El Guindi writes stories of immigrant experience in the United States. “I pick Arab American or Muslim American characters... but they are essentially immigrant stories,” says El Guindi.

Arab American National Museum

Learn more about the Arab American National Museum, which opened in 2005 in Dearborn, Michigan, from this 2017 Detroit Public Television interview.

Somalia: A Nation of Poets

From Twin Cities PBS:

Somalia’s rich oral culture features poetry as its highest art form, a tradition that continues with Somali peoples worldwide. Produced with Ka Joog and the Somali Museum of Minnesota.

The Feeling of Being Watched

Premiering April 5 on POV:

Filmmaker and journalist Assia Boundaoui investigates rumors of surveillance in her Arab-American neighborhood. You can hear Boundaoui's experience with creating this personal documentary in this Behind the Lens interview.

A Song For Daniel

From POV Shorts:

A Song For Daniel compares a routine day of two nine-year-old boys; one living in Baghdad and the other, born and raised in New York City; and offers a profound examination of culture and place through the eyes of two Iraqi youth living on opposite sides of the world.

Natour's Grocery

From POV Shorts:

Filmmaker Nadine Natour turns her lens on her parents and her hometown, Appomattox, VA, to capture the story of her parents’ emigration from Palestine to the United States.

Syrian Plight

From the series Muslim Youth Voices:

In this documentary, filmmaker Dunya Khalil brings attention to Syrian refugees, particularly children and youth who have become orphans. She learns about young people who have been purposely shot in the spine in order to paralyze them and prevent them from rebelling against the government.

Dalya's Other Country

Streaming begins April 5 on POV:

Dalya's Other Country tells the nuanced story of a family displaced by the Syrian conflict and remaking themselves after the parents separate. Effervescent teen Dalya goes to Catholic high school and her mother Rudayana enrolls in college as they both walk the line between their Muslim values and the new world they find themselves in.

Laila Lalami

From PBS Books:

Author Laila Lalami's 'The Moor's Account’ won the American Book Award, the Arab American Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Lalami joins PBS Books in D.C. at the National Book Festival to talk about her writing, which includes the most recent 2019 novel 'The Other Americans,' a hybrid of family saga, murder mystery, and love story.


From the series Film-Maker:

In this episode we feature the film, “Maya”, about a Syrian immigrant newly settled in the U.S. who must take on a job that goes against her moral code to save the life of her grandfather by Ben Abdulla. Shot in Miami, the film attempts to humanize and break the stereotypical portrayals of Arabs in mainstream media.

From Damascus to Chicago

Streaming April 5 from POV Shorts:

In the documentary short From Damascus to Chicago, two young Syrian siblings recently resettled in Chicago enroll in a dance class, while the film follows their family's experiences in navigating a new city and country.