Since 2017, National Arab American Heritage Month has been observed in April to honor the rich and distinct cultures and accomplishments of the diverse community of Arab Americans. The Arab American Institute estimates that 3.7 million Americans are of Arab descent. These individuals can trace their ancestry to 22 Middle Eastern and North African nations, including Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Palestine, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates.
In celebration of National Arab American Heritage Month, Williams & Connolly asked Associate Sumer Ghazala to reflect on the importance of her identity and the importance of this heritage month being more widely observed.
“While this month is called Arab American Heritage Month, it is a celebration of all Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Americans and the significant contributions they have made to our country. The MENA region – the cradle of civilization – is a rich tapestry of ethnic and religious diversity. I myself am a Muslim Arab woman from Iraq, and my identity is at the core of who I am and how I conduct myself. I grew up learning about pioneers from the MENA region who were trailblazers in science, math, literature, law, and countless other fields. My own name, “Sumer,” is a nod to the first civilization in the world, located in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq.
It is important for this month to be observed more widely because MENA history is American history. Communities from the region have played an integral part in defining our country since they first immigrated to America hundreds of years ago. From working on the first Ford assembly lines in the early 1900s to receiving numerous Nobel prizes, our additions are invisible yet profound. I encourage everyone to take this time to celebrate the immeasurable contributions of MENA Americans, honor the legacies and achievements of generations past, reckon with the unfortunate discrimination that still persists in our great country, and understand that the story of America is incomplete without the story of its MENA members.”
-Sumer Ghazala, Associate