The United States officially observes a number of month-long celebrations of culture and history, including Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March, and Asian American & Pacific Islander Month in May, among others. In 2021 we added another to the list, April is now Arab American Heritage Month!
In case you didn’t know, the Arab world is made up by 22 countries across Northern Africa and the Gulf region. This region has a TON of diversity, but the majority of Arabs are united by a common language (with different dialects) and a shared identity in history and customs. Those from Arab countries began coming to the United States in the late 1800s, so Arab Americans have been an important part of American history!
Why is it important to celebrate these types of heritage months? Unfortunately, prejudice and racism have meant that many groups haven’t always been welcome or treated equally in the United States. By shining a light on those from different backgrounds and cultures, we show youth that greatness can come in many different forms, from all groups of people. In this post, we’ll be focusing on ideas for celebrating Arab American Heritage Month throughout the Club. The ideas below are just to kick-start your own creativity, so be sure to send us your favorite activities or décor so that we can share with the Movement!
The Arab America Foundation was one of the key groups supporting the establishment of AAHM. On their site, they have a long list of resources including on language, art and literature, music, food, and more. They’ve also put together this Educator’s kit with slides to teach youth about the Arab world, the history of immigration to the US, and even famous Arab Americans (like Steve Jobs, Gigi Hadid, Salma Hayek, Rami Malek, and more). It is more appropriate for older youth, and please note that it does include discussions of prejudice and negative stereotypes.
We always include book lists! In addition to reading aloud, consider having some of these available for youth to read on their own. Also ask your local children’s librarian if they recommend any others.
Arab Americans can have any religious faith and practice, though the three most common are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In 2022, Islam’s most important holiday, Ramadan, happens to fall in April (because it is based on the Lunar calendar, the start date moves back about 10 or so days each year). Here’s a book list that highlights Muslim characters specifically.
This teacher created a digital friendly activity for AAHM in Google Slides, and is offering it at no cost. She says it is ideal for upper elementary or middle school youth.
The star and crescent moon is a symbol you’ve probably seen on many flags from the Arab region, but it s importance in this region dates back to 300 BCE! In this craft, youth create a crescent moon and star thaumatrope, which was a popular toy in the Victorian era.
Here’s another craft from the same creator, this time with a printable to create paper lanterns. I love her personal story at the beginning!
You may have a set or two of Mancala in your Gamesroom, but did you know that it is one of the oldest games still played today? Mancala dates back to the 7th century in Ancient Sumeria and Egypt! Sets with the boards and pieces needed are widely available and not expensive, and here are the rules including a video tutorial.
A great way to learn more about cultures are by learning the languages they speak. Most people in Arab countries speak Arabic, though there may be some dialect differences (just like how American English and British English have some differences).
Duolingo is a great language learning program that can be downloaded as an app to tablets or used on their website. You can go to their Arabic lessons here, or this blog explains the relatively new free Duolingo for Schools program.
These basic online games also teach beginner Arabic words and phrases. Youth will need headphones!
Lastly, for teens who are into music, this video by NowThis News explains the impact Arab music has had on American music. It touches on the history of Arab American immigration, and particularly points out how Arab sounds are embedded in hip-hop. Use the video as a springboard to discussion about where teens may have heard some of these Arab musical influences, if artists should give credit to those who influenced them, and how culture plays a role in music generally. Content note: There are clips from hip-hop songs and a short clip of a belly dancer.
We’ll keep updating this post as we find more great ideas for celebrating Arab American Heritage Month!