Officials from across Cook County gathered on Wednesday (April 10, 2019) to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month, April, with leaders of the Chicagoland Arab American community at a new Southwest Suburban restaurant to enjoy Arab food and cultural activities.
The annual cultural celebration had been a tradition in Chicago and Illinois since the 1980s, initiated following the election of Mayor Harold Washington. But the annual commemoration, previously held in November, was killed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner in 2011 who both were engaged in anti-Arab policies.
In December, however, Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan moved to restore the commemoration for Arab Americans. Madigan introduced a law recognized April as Arab American Heritage Month and it was approved unanimously by the Illinois House and Illinois Senate, and signed by the governor on Dec. 14, 2018.
An array of at least 35 elected officials including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison, Mayor Keith Pekau of Orland Park, Mayor Sergio Rodriguez of Summit, and Mayor Barrett Pedersen of Franklin Park, joined to celebrate the revival of the annual cultural recognition enjoying an Arabian food buffet provided by Oozi Corner Restaurant.
I am very grateful to be here and appreciate the warm welcome I have received. I always say I am a history teacher by profession and I know that America is a great nation because people have come from all over the world to make it so, Preckwinkle told the packed restaurant attendees.
I am very proud to be here to celebrate Arab American Heritage month to celebrate with you. I deeply regret the city has withdrawn its support of Arab American ethnic appreciation month across a broad spectrum. It isnt just the Arab American community. I think it is important that we recognize the contributions that people from all over the world have made to our great country.
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Hanania added, Sharon Brannigan made some comments that riled the community but quickly and repeatedly expressed remorse and apologized. That has forced her to see the Arab community in a more accurate light. I know many Arab Americans accepted her apology and her willingness to work with us. Those few activists who refuse to work with Brannigan really dont care about the community and only care for themselves. They do not represent the Arab American community.
Hanania, who has covered Chicago politics for nearly half a century, said that Arab Americans need to learn how to see public leaders not based on their political parties but on the basis of their ability to appreciate who Arab Americans really are.
Illinois has joined 19 other American states according to Arab America based on Washington D.C. in recognizing April as Arab American Heritage month. Some of the states celebrating Arab American Heritage Month include Arizona, California, Michigan, Washington, Texas, New York, New Mexico, Colorado, and Washington D.C. A full list of states is identified on the ArabAmerica.com website.
For more information on Arab American Heritage also visit www.ArabWarVeterans.com and www.ArabAmericanHeritage.com. The event was also covered by local news media including WGN TV.