Arab American Heritage Month 2023

April 3, 2023

Dear Campus Community,

During the month of April, we invite you to join us in celebrating and elevating National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM), which focuses on the expansive cultures, lineages, and futures of this country’s 3.7 million Arab Americans. In 2022, after years of organizing and advocacy by Arab American people and communities who wanted to formally mark the long and abundant history of Arab Americans, the U.S. Department of State officially recognized April as NAAHM.

Arab Americans trace their ancestry to one of 22 Arabic-speaking countries that stretch across Northern Africa and into Western Asia. A shared linguist connection links a community of distinct religious and racial identities. Across the system, the University of California includes 34 different ethnic groups from Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) communities. SWANA is a term increasingly used in recognition of the diversity of communities from the South West Asia and North African region. On campus, the South Asian, Southwest Asian, and North African (SSWANA) Initiative is a student-led effort that amplifies the community's representation and resources. Both acronyms represent communities with shared experiences of racialization and othering across the country.

The UC Berkeley SSWANA Initiative reminds us all that collective action can bring about meaningful change. With support from staff, the initiative provides personalized access to programming, promotes cross-cultural community building, and advocates for social justice in SSWANA communities through education and empowerment. Some of their recent highlights include piloting the SSWANA Living Community. As a housing theme program, it offers opportunities to participate in social, cultural, and academic events that highlight the vibrance of SSWANA communities. Additionally and in collaboration and partnership with five other UCs, the SSWANA Initiative hosted a first-ever SWANA-Con earlier this year. Held at UC Riverside, it brought undergraduate students from across the diaspora to build leadership and academic skills; discuss unique community challenges and opportunities; and find ways to embrace and celebrate their cultures and identities. Visit the SWANA-Con website to find photos, descriptions of breakout sessions, and learn about the coalition of UCs that made the conference possible.

Across campus, the Arab American community has a growing and vibrant presence. A faculty-led class, taught by Professor of History and Chancellor’s Chair Ussama Makdisi, on the modern history of Palestine and the Palestinian people is being offered on campus for the first time in many years: “Palestine and the Palestinians: A Modern History.”We know that organizations and committees including the Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian Staff Organizationthe Asian Pacific American Student Development office, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Muslim and Palestinian Student Life and Campus Experiencedozens of student cultural and arts groups, and the Middle Eastern North African Recruitment and Retention Center each offer ongoing networking, programming, and community-building opportunities.

As the month begins, there are a number of events (including a baklava cook-along!) and resources that center the Arab American campus community, including the SSWANA Initiative resource guide, a listing of upcoming events hosted by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and a Berkeley Life post about Arab student organizations on campus. On the 17th, the SSWANA Initiative, in partnership with the Department of Ethnic Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Asian American Research Center, and the Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures, will co-host an online panel with the editors of the groundbreaking book, ‘Sajjilu Arab American: A Reader in SWANA Studies.’We also invite you to visit the newly-created Arab American Heritage Month page on the E&I website to stay informed about what’s happening throughout the month.

Arab Americans have long contributed to, shaped, and transformed local, national, and international society across filmsciencesportsforeign policy, and international development. We encourage you to learn about resources shared by and attend events hosted by our many campus partners not only during NAAHM but all year long.

This CalMessage was written in consultation and partnership with SSWANA Initiative Program Director Doaa Dorgham. The campus community stands stronger and shines brighter thanks to her leadership and voice, and we want to express our collective gratitude.

In community,

Dania Matos
Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion

Stephen C. Sutton
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Doaa Dorgham
SSWANA Initiative Program Director

Victoria Plaut
Vice Provost for the Faculty

Eugene Whitlock
Associate Vice Chancellor for People & Culture

To help create an environment that lives up to ourPrinciples of Community, we will send regular messages to acknowledge various heritage months and holidays. While we won't include every month or holiday, we will make an effort to ensure members of our community feel represented. Additionally, will often post articles highlighting people, programs, and research that align with these heritage months and holidays.

This message was sent to all UC Berkeley staff, faculty, and students.

If you are a manager who supervises UC Berkeley employees without email access, please circulate this information to all.