This past Monday, the first ever Muslim American was crowned Miss USA. Rima Fakih, 24, hails from Dearborn, Michigan and is of Lebanese descent.
Many consider her not only the first Muslim American, but also the first Arab American to win the pageant. Miss USA 1983’s winner, Julie Hayek, technically has Lebanese roots from her father, but Fakih is the first to publically identify.
The sensitivities after 9/11 make Fakih’s win a win for all Muslim and Arab Americans; many feel that it symbolizes a step in the right direction.
“The fear that people had implanted since 9/11, maybe what I did can show people that, you know what, who cares what ethnicity you are,” Fakih states.
Not only did the residents of her hometown celebrate Monday, but Arab Americans nationwide, from pockets of New York City to Little Arabia in Anaheim, CA. They are celebrating national recognition and acceptance of Arab American beauty and culture.
“This sends a signal that we’re part and parcel of this great country … this is a part of being American,” Mohamad Dbouk, a Dearborn restaurant manager said.
The fact that this ethnic group, which is consistently stereotyped and constantly in political talks, finds itself in the commercial spotlight of Miss USA is outstanding and refreshing. It shows that The American Dream still exists; you can be an immigrant of this country and come out successful.
Fakih says it best, “Everyone should be proud of who they are and where they come from because America is a big melting pot of diverse ethnicities. It’s great to be part of this wonderful country.”
For more info, check out the articles below:
On April 21, 2010, the Arab American Institute (AAI) held its 12th annual Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations delivered the key speech for the event. Ambassador Rice recognized the honorees of the evening, among them: Mayor Daley, Judge Barkett, Mr. Zeitoun, Juma al-Majid, and the Corporation for National Community Service for their commitment to advancing the common good initiative.
“This year’s honorees remind us of the importance of some great American ideals: service, responsibility, inclusion, and equality. Citizenship grants us great blessings, and it demands great responsibility. Our limitless diversity and our founding commitment to equality are among our greatest strategic assets,” said Rice.
Ambassador Rice also congratulated AAI on its 25th anniversary celebration. According to Rice, “Arab Americans have been making vital contributions to our country since at least the 1880s, but the establishment of the AAI in 1985 was a true milestone. Since then, AAI has been a key voice in the larger American chorus: speaking up about pressing needs and concerns, championing increased Arab American participation in our nation’s political and civic sphere, and fighting ignorance and intolerance.”
Most notably, Ambassador Rice highlighted the shift in foreign policy, undertaken by the new U.S. administration, toward Arab and Muslim communities throughout the globe. Rice noted the administration’s efforts in “expanding exchanges, deepening our collaboration on science and technology, working together on global health issues such as H1N1, and partnering to expand the reach of economic prosperity.” Following President Obama’s New Beginning speech in Cairo last June, the President will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship next week, where more than 250 entrepreneurs from 50 countries, including many in the Arab world, will gather to advance opportunity in America and abroad.
Ambassador Rice’s full speech can be read found here.
Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award:
Launched in 1999 by the Arab American Institute Foundation, the awards focus attention on acts of leadership and dedication that promote the common good. The Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards recognize individuals, corporations, organizations and communities whose work, commitment and support make a difference in promoting co-existence and inclusion in all walks of life.The awards aim to promote the positive forces of diversity and cultural interaction, and to showcase programs that foster democratic and humanitarian values across racial, ethnic and religious lines.The award is named for the author of “The Prophet” whose message of human endurance and triumph was so evident in his life and work. The award further symbolizes Gibran’s pride in his Arab heritage, respect for the freedom he found in the United States and his universal love of humanity. The event is supported annually by a diverse group of corporate and individual donors and is organized by congressional, honorary and steering committees.
Photos courtesy of AAI.
The 2009 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference took place in early November in Phoenix, Arizona, and was headlined with the theme “Growth—Defying the Recession.” Marketers from around the nation gathered to discuss, brainstorm and debate marketing tactics to bring success to their companies and the industry as a whole.
Neil Golden, CMO for McDonald’s, offered his perspective on the future of the business using the over-arching idea of “Leading with Ethnic Insights.” Golden stated that the most effective universal campaigns represented a cross-cultural approach—by combining marketing ideas specific for the African American, Asian American and Hispanic markets, a fusion was created to resonate across all cultures.
Golden even went as far to remark that these minorities groups are the trend setters, and their preferences set the tone of the general marketplace campaigns.
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco wrote an article commending Golden. Though I find Newman-Carrasco’s points valid, she fails to address the point that we still have a ways to go in terms of the ethnic market perspective and efforts. For example, the growing number of Arab Americans in the metropolitan areas or the large amount of dollars accrued by Russian Americans.
Some government agencies, such as the U.S. Army and the FBI, have begun a broader outreach because of staffing language requirements. Even fewer corporate companies are acknowledging such ethnic groups by using advertising dollars.
Golden’s speech is definitely a step in the right direction, but more steps must be taken to recognize the rest of those contributing and residing in the U.S. Branching out to these new waters can advance a brand or company and be part of the boost the industry needs to “defy the recession.”
As an Arab American, I was surprised and frustrated with how little feedback we can get from the Arab Americans in DC. We had an audition for the census to motivate the Arab Americans in the US to participate in the census count. I tried all the web sites, social media to contact Arabs who speak or only look like Arabs to come for the audition. I only succeeded in convincing very few people to audition.
I hope most of us as Arab Americans will be more active to various events in the area, become more involved within their community, build relationships with other networks, and sensitizes the leaders of the Arab American communities with its concerns. While we have seen a steady improvement in increasing awareness of Arab-related issues, much needs to be done in spreading the word to the more than 300,000 in the U.S.
Please help us improve our communities and build a better future for all of us. Make your suggestions and comments on this blog. Tell us what you think is the best way to reach more Arab Americans in the US; to get them involved with events, activities and area of interest. Let us hear your voice.
If you live in Michigan and have no plans this Friday night, you should head to the movie theater. After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival and winning a Cannes prize, Amreeka (http://www.arabdetroit.com/news.php?id=908) hits theaters to portray the lives of an Arab American immigrant family.
The film, unlike many portrayals of Arab American post 9/11, shows this challenges this ethnic family faces in America. It’s important to see this viewpoint here in America. Many times Arab Americans are seen as the villain, but in reality this community is often victimized. The director, Cherien Dabis, as an Arab American herself, strives to dispel stereotypes and right the wrongs of past actions.
She says, “If we don’t tell our story, who will? We can tell it the best, and with all the damaging misinformation floating around out there, it’s our responsibility as Arab Americans to work on reversing those inaccuracies.”
Her point is so eloquent—those that can personally identify with a culture are best to advise on that culture. The misinformation she speaks of can only be fixed through true understanding of this community, and Dabis’ film is a step in that direction.
Outreach and marketing ties in here because just as marketers want their audience to see their product/brand/service in the right way, the audience wants the marketers to see them the right way—to understand the truths of their beliefs, needs trends, and much more that makes up a certain community and culture.
This film doesn’t just represent one family’s story in America, but also the successes and advancement of the Arab American people. This community is growing rapidly; their education and income levels are high, placing them at a higher buying power than not only many minorities, but the mass audience as a whole.
During the month of Ramadan (August 21 – September 19), the U.S. Army 1st Brigade has launched a poster distribution campaign to recruit Arabic translators. For effective results and with a focused effort, the U.S. Army chose to disregard traditional ad placements and take a more personal route. The posters are in Arabic and even include a traditional Ramadan greeting.
You will find posters in the windows of local shops while walking the streets of Paterson, NJ; Brooklyn, NY; Fairfax, VA and other locales densely populated with Arab Americans. These ethnic stores are an integral part of the community; a place to see familiar faces and buy cultural cuisine. It’s great that the U.S. Army 1st Brigade recognizes the importance of these communities and the heavy presence of these retail shops.
Such a distribution campaign is a perfect way to reach out to ethnic communities. There are alternative ways, such as inserting flyers in the in-language newspapers, but hanging a poster in the store is noticeable, attractive and personal. Many of these ethnic communities are concentrated in or near cities, so it’s also likely a customer seeing the poster in one store will see it again in another nearby shop—creating more exposure, higher readership, and a longer-lived message.
Allied Media Corp. provides this service across many ethnic communities including Arab-Americans, Polish-Americans and Russian-Americans. If you’d like to know more about distribution campaigns or ethnic communications in general, check out: www.allied-media.com
If you have interest in becoming a translator for the U.S. Army, visit the website: www. GoArmy.com/translate
Remember: advertising, outreach and recruitment to minorities is most successful when you incorporate a cultural awareness of your audience!
CIA Director Leon Panetta seeks diversity.
Saying that diversity is vital to national security, the head of the CIA is set to meet with Arab-American and Chaldean advocates next week in Dearborn as part of an ongoing effort to engage metro Detroiters who have roots in the Middle East.
CIA Director Leon Panetta is to speak at a dinner Wednesday with about 150 community leaders in the Bint Jebail Cultural Center, a Lebanese-American hall in Dearborn.
“We look forward to a good meeting with Mr. Panetta,” said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who was invited to attend. The CIA sees “the value of the community.”
In recent years, the CIA has tried to increasingly recruit Arab Americans as the United States has become involved in conflicts across the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Metro Detroit is “filled with patriots with the skills our country needs,” CIA spokesman George Little said.
The CIA has been a big sponsor of Arab-American events in metro Detroit in recent years, including the Arab International Festival in June.
“Diversity helps us do a better job of keeping this country safe,” Panetta said this month in Washington, D.C., at the annual conference of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, according to a CIA transcript. “Good intelligence requires officers from diverse backgrounds.”
Hamad said that some Arab Americans are skeptical of the CIA because some fear being spied on. But he added that others are eager to work with the agency.
Detroit Free Press