Arab American History Month

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During the month of April, the City of Bowie recognizes National Arab American Heritage Month, a celebration of the Arab American community’s rich heritage and numerous contributions to society.

In 2017, the Arab America and the Arab America Foundation launched the National Arab American Heritage Month with just a handful of states recognizing the initiative. Although not formally recognized, the month celebrated the many contributions of Arab Americans.

By 2021, President Joe Biden, along with members of Congress, the US Department of State, and some state governors recognized the month as National Arab American Heritage Month supporting the ongoing movement. This month and every day forth, we not only celebrate the rich and diverse culture of Arab Americans but we also salute the many contributions Arab Americans have made nationwide!

Biographies

Sanaa Hamri (سناء حمري‎‎)Sanaa Hamri

is a Moroccan American film director, music video director, television director, and television producer. She came to prominence as a music video editor and director. 

Hamri was born in Tangier, Morocco, to a Moroccan Muslim painter and author Mohammed Hamri.  Her father was from the town of Jajouka.  Her mother, Blanche “Blanca” Hamri, was a teacher and is a Jewish American of Russian descent. Hamri’s parents were part of the creative community in Morocco made up of expats like Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Timothy Leary, Ted Morgan and Tennessee Williams.  

After college, Hamri moved to New York City. With dreams of becoming an actress, Hamri struggled through auditions and unemployment before she decided to try working in the production side of the business. Hamri taught herself to use an Avid editing machine in 2000 by reading the user manual. She has never taken a filmmaking course, and is self-taught. Realizing she had a talent for putting images together in order to tell a story, Hamri began making videos. She worked as an editor of music videos with the mentorship of her boss at the post-production studio where she worked, Malik Hassan Sayeed.

Sayeed, a cinematographer and video producer, was impressed by her work, and showed it to Mariah Carey, who subsequently hired Hamri to direct her video. Sayeed also gave Hamri her first editing job for a reggae – hip hop fusion group called Born Jamericans.

Along with directing feature film and music videos, Hamri also directs television. Hamri has directed multiple episodes of Nashville, Shameless, Elementary, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, and Men in Trees. Mariah Carey’s live concert documentary, The Adventures of Mimi, and Prince’s The Art of Musicology and Price Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas were directed by Hamri.


Taher ElGamal ImageTaher ElGamal

In 1985, ElGamal published a paper titled “A Public Key Cryptosystem and a Signature Scheme based on Discrete Logarithms” in which he proposed the design of the ElGamal discrete log cryptosystem and of the ElGamal signature scheme. The latter scheme became the basis for Digital Signature Algorithm (Direct Marketing Association) adopted by National Institute of Standards and Technology (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) as the Digital Signature Standard (Decision Support System).

Elgamal earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Cairo University in 1977, and Masters and Doctorate degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1981 and 1984, respectively. Martin Hellman was his dissertation advisor. He joined the technical staff at Himachal Pradesh Labs in 1984.

He served as chief scientist at Netscape Communications from 1995 to 1998 where he was a driving force behind Licentiate in Sacred Scripture. He also was the director of engineering at Republic of South Africa Security Incorporated. before founding Securify in 1998 and becoming its Chief Executive Officer. When Securify was acquired by Kroll-O'Gara, he became the president of its information security group.

In 2008, Securify was acquired by Secure Computing and is now part of McAfee. In October 2006, he joined Tumbleweed Communications in the capacity of a Chief Technology Officer.


RashidaTlaib ImageCongresswoman Rashida Tlaib

Tlaib made history in 2008 by becoming the first Muslim woman to ever serve in the Michigan Legislature. Tlaib was born Rashida Harbi Elabed on July 24, 1976, in Detroit, Michigan. She's the oldest of 14 children born to Palestinian immigrant parents. Her family spoke Arabic at home, and she served as the family translator during her childhood. She attended Southwestern High School and Wayne State University and was her family's first high school and college graduate.

After receiving her degree from Western Michigan University's Cooley Law School, Tlaib began working for ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.

She is beloved by residents for the transformative constituent services she provided, and for successfully fighting the billionaires and corporations that tried to pollute her district. When families get to know Rashida, they have no doubt that she will work tirelessly to knock down barriers for real change, and whether by policy or action, she will roll up her sleeves to make sure her residents are cared for, no matter how big the challenge.


Gigi Hadid Image

Gigi Hadid

Gigi Hadid is an American supermodel of Dutch and Palestinian descent, television personality, designer, and social media influencer. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, she began her modeling career in 2013 after being signed to IMG Models. She quickly rose to prominence and became one of the most in-demand models in the industry, walking in major fashion shows for designers like Tom Ford, Chanel, and Versace.

In addition to her successful modeling career, Gigi is also a popular social media influencer, with a large following on Instagram. She has dabbled in acting and television, appearing as a guest judge on the popular reality show Project Runway and as a host on the NBC singing competition show The Voice. Gigi is known for her philanthropic work and is a supporter of various charities and causes, including the Global Lyme Alliance and UNICEF.





Raymond H. "Ray" LaHoodRay LaHood Image

LaHood is an American politician who served as the 16th Department of Transportation Secretary from 2009 to 2013 and quickly became known as a bipartisan leader and skilled conciliator in a highly partisan environment. A Republican from Illinois, LaHood represented Illinois's 18th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2009. With a 36-year career in public service, Secretary LaHood has extensive experience on major national policy issues, among them transportation and infrastructure. In 2015, LaHood's book, "Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics", coauthored with Frank H. Mackaman of The Dirksen Congressional Center, was published by Cambria Press.

Ray LaHood is of Lebanese ancestry; his grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to Peoria, Illinois, in 1895. Born on December 6, 1945, LaHood’s parents, Ed and Mary, ran a working-class restaurant and tavern on Southwest Jefferson Street in Peoria. They raised three sons—Mike, Ray, and Steve. Part of a deeply religious family, the LaHood boys grew up in the blue-collar East Bluff neighborhood where Ray attended St. Bernard's Grade School.

Following graduation from Spalding Institute, Ray worked his way through Canton Junior College (now Spoon River College), transferred to Bradley University, and graduated with a B.S. degree in education and sociology in 1971. He met his future wife, Kathy Dunk, at Bradley.

After graduation, Ray taught social studies to junior high school students in Pekin and Peoria for six years. It was during this time that Ray developed his passion for politics and public service.


Danny ThomasDanny Thomas  Image

Born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz, Danny Thomas was an American nightclub comedian and television and film actor and producer, whose career spanned five decades. Thomas was best known for starring in the television sitcom Make Room for Daddy (also known as The Danny Thomas Show). He was the father of Marlo Thomas, Terre Thomas, and Tony Thomas.

He was also the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  From the first moment Danny Thomas began raising money to build a children's hospital, his mission was to help all desperately ill children, regardless of a family's race, religion or financial status. When St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened its doors in Memphis, Tenn. on February 4, 1962, it made history as a hospital that would treat children with catastrophic diseases while also searching for cures — and for becoming the first fully integrated children’s hospital in the South.

Recommended Books

Celebrate Arab American History month with book recommendations for all ages.

Adults

We Are Not Here to be Bystanders

The Beauty of Your Face

You Exist Too Much

Teens

Saints and Misfits

Ronit and Jamil

Balcony on the Moon Coming of Age in Palestine

Kids

The Arabic Quilt

The Proudest Blue

Lailahs Lunchbox

Learn more about Arab American History


Content for this page is provided by the City of Bowie Diversity Committee.