In producing ‘Our Arab American Story’, the Visionalist approach has been one of fascination and respect.  One sign that the technique is paying off was at the Arab American and Chaldean Council’s annual civic and humanitarian awards ceremony Saturday night, which to us was like a meeting place for now-old friends.

Among them, Dr. Haifa Fakhouri, the ACC’s President and CEO, graciously allowed an interview despite the hectic pace of the evening, at which she was a speaker as well as a much-sought-after presence in every corner of the banquet room within incomparable Detroit Marriott Renaissance.  She echoed the spirit of cooperation and progress that has come to symbolize the Arab American contributions to Metro Detroit, especially in the Seven Mile development project that has created, among the neighborhoods just south of the State Fairgrounds, which has become the Chaldean and Arab equivalent of Greektown.  Why was this particular area of Detroit chosen? “It’s the he original settlement for the largest population of the Iraqi Christians outside of Iraq,” says Dr. Fakhouri.

Preceding a marvelous dinner, resplendent with Arab American items like hummus and taboulleh, speakers included Her Royal Highness Haya Bint Al Hussein, whose recent pregnancy prevented her from being present, but who sent a heartfelt thank you via video from Dubai in which she called upon the world to recognize both the contributions and the sacrifices made by Arabs.  For her part, the Princess (daughter of his majesty the late King Hussein Bin Talal of Jordan and wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai) has a distinguished record of public service and outstanding commitment to humanitarian causes and was well deserving of the ACC’s International Humanitarian Leadership Award for 2007.

An opening speech by Governor Jennifer Granholm proved that the event was multi-cultural, and her words reflected the ACC’s mission to bridge bridges of understanding between Detroit’s many ethnic groups.  Before heading off for budget discussions, Governor Granholm also submitted to a Visionalist interview in which she described a number of the Arab American and Chaldean contributions to the State of Michigan, which far outreaches such vital developments as the Seven Mile project.

Mistress of Ceremony Brenda L. Schneider and Master of Ceremony Conrad Schwartz led many influential locals from the political, economic and artistic scene into inspiring talks surrounding Detroit’s future.  Distributing awards for Excellence in Education (Dr. Hashim Al-Tawil, Professor of Art History at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, who walked our film crew through the gallery of Arab American artwork he’d set up in the reception area), Community Leadership (Graham Beal of the Detroit Institute of Arts) and State Leadership awards to both State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, this year’s ACC gala found recipients among many members of the non-Arab community who have shown spirits of dedication to improving the lots of all area citizens.  This also included Matthew Cullen of General Motor’s Economic Development and Enterprise Services, who was presented with 2007’s Economic Development Leadership Award

Key focus, however, remained on such local Arab American luminaries as the Abdul-Karim Bader & Ensemble, whose performance of traditional Middle Eastern music earned the entire group a Lifetime Achievement award.  Having previously interviewed the dynamic ney-player Nadim Dlaikan, we intend to pursue each member of the group for inclusion in ‘Our Arab American Story’, set to air in December of 2007 on WXYZ.



Russell Ebeid

Flavors or the Arab World December 2nd at the Rock Financial Shwplace,
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