California permanently designates April as Arab-American Heritage Month

Move comes after months of campaigning by prominent Arab-American non-profit

A total lunar eclipse is seen behind a California State flag, in El Monte. AP
Powered by automated translation

California has passed a resolution that permanently establishes the month of April as Arab-American Heritage Month, a move that cements the community's visibility in the state.

The measure, approved on Thursday, was introduced by California Representative Eloise Gomez, a Democrat who serves as the Golden State's majority leader in the state assembly.

“For over a century, Arab Americans have been making valuable contributions to virtually every aspect of American society, including medicine, law, business, education, science, technology, government, arts and culture,” the resolution states.

About 3.7 million Americans are believed to have roots in an Arab country and California is home to the largest number, with more than 700,000 Arab-American residents.

Arab Americans live in every state in the US, but the majority are concentrated in California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Warren David, president of the Arab America Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to promoting Arab Americans, said the move comes after a nationwide effort that began in 2017.

“This is extremely gratifying and just empowering for our community,” Mr David told The National.

California's Little Arabia – in pictures

“We're hoping that more state legislatures will follow suit.”

California's Governor Gavin Newsom last month issued a proclamation designating April 2023 as National Arab-American Heritage Month, joining Illinois, Oregon, Virginia and Indiana.

Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island could be next, according to Mr David.

In late March, President Joe Biden, who came into office in 2021 promising to usher in a new era of equality and inclusivity in the US, issued a formal proclamation recognising April 2023 as Arab-American Heritage Month.

“The Arab-American story is the American story – one of diverse backgrounds and faiths, vibrant tradition, bold innovation, hard work, commitment to community and stalwart patriotism, all coming together to accomplish something greater than any one of us,” Mr Biden said at the time.

Similar recognitions are common in the US for other minority groups. The month of May, for instance, is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

During the designated month, achievements of Americans from that group are celebrated at institutions, schools and in municipalities. Cultural events are often held with food, music, dancing and art displays.

Mr David said there are now efforts to make Arab-American Heritage Month permanently recognised at the federal level in the US.

“In the future, we'd love to have a permanent proclamation, recognising national Arab-American Heritage Month,” Mr David said.

“It's really up to us – we can make it happen.”

Updated: May 26, 2023, 7:53 PM