In response to a growing concern that Arab Americans are commonly misrepresented or ignored in the mainstream media, Detroit Public Television will broadcast a new series called Arab American Stories. In producer Alicia Sams words, “it’s about ordinary Arab Americans doing extraordinary things.”
Several of the stories included in the series will feature local people, but the scope of the program is national. Late this summer, the show will be expanded and broadcast across the country. It will be hosted by National Public Radio reporter Neda Ulaby.
“I don’t need to tell you how timely this series is, and how important this is for all of us,” says Hoda Succar, chairwoman of the Arab American Stories Committee. “We live in a global world where it is so important for us to learn about each other in order to develop more powerful, more cohesive communities… whether it’s our communities in the United States or globally.”
The series has been two years in the making, partnering with Arab American leaders in academia, science, business, and the arts to create a program that highlights the breadth and diversity of the Arab American experience. “You can’t capture it in one word,” Sams explains. “Arab American is a catch all for so many countries, so many people, so many beliefs.” Even being a second generation Lebanese American, she found unfamiliar and exciting worlds to explore. “I have a lot of hopes and goals for this series,” she explains. “But what was great for me personally was that I learned a lot about being an Arab American. Everyone we worked with said they learned something.”
“For the community and country as a whole, we need to increase the depth of understanding. Histories and stories of different communities aren’t always easy to tell, but they can bring peace, celebration and an understanding that is remarkable,” says Rich Homberg, President and General Manager of Detroit Public Television. “There’s a moment that is remarkable and takes your breath away when you see it on film. It’s the realization that ‘this is part of my story… now I understand myself, understand us, understand the people I live with everyday…’ That is the hope of this series.” There were 39 Arab Americans featured in this show. “My goal for the season is for this moment to be created 39 times,” he says.
Starting Monday, April 2nd, the series will run at 7:30 on Detroit Public Television. The series will run for 13 consecutive weeks. They’ll soon launch a website with the series available. Succar hopes that the sentiment behind the program will live beyond the television series. “We want to reach into communities and foster communication and dialogue,” she concludes.