The gala premiere of ‘Our Arab American Story’, held at the Rock Financial Showplace’s Diamond Room on December 2, 2007, was by all accounts a rousing success. 

Named ‘The Flavors of the Arab World’ by Visionalist Production executive producer Keith Famie, the event was intended to be a festival of food, music, dance and fashion from the Arab World, and was sponsored by Steve Sabina and Toni Wisne Sabina, Chef Habib Bazzi of the Bint Jebail Cultural Center and Yasmeen Bakery.

More than 500 people attended the gala, which included a ‘recreation’ of many aspects of the Arab world, including Egyptian motifs and a full-sized camel model, all beneath beautifully hung fabrics meant to duplicate the feel of a classic bedouin tent.  Of course, the scents that arose from the rows of chafing dishes, loaded with such delicacies as fried kibee, cheese sanbusek, fattouch, and an extremely rich version of oozé (seasoned rice with ground beef and topped with lamb and nuts) completed the sense of being transported to the Middle East.

Moving opening remarks by Russell Ebied, who was the documentary’s main sponsor, referenced his childhood as an Arab American and some of the struggles undergone by his parents as they assimilated into American society.  The speech brought tears to a number of guests, many of whom suffered similar birthing pangs as they immigrated to Detroit.

A dance and drumming presentation by the Maples Arabic Music Ensemble and the Layalina Folkdance Group showed the festive side of Arab Detroiters, and a fashion show by designer Samaher Mohammed, along with an fine arts exhibit by Hashim Al-Tawil, an art history professor from the University of Michigan–Dearborn, offered a brief but wholly entertaining vision of Arab American creativity.

Remarks by Amal Berry-Brown of Comerica, Susan Bazzi of the AACC, Ismael Ahmed, co-founder of ACCESS (along with that group’s CFO, Maha Freij) were followed by some fascinating insights by ACC’s Jordan-born Dr. Haifa Fakhouri.

Of course, the highlight of the evening was the premiere of the documentary, which looks at all aspects of Arab American life in Detroit.  The show had never been seen in its entirety by anyone but the Visionalist team that produced it, and brought down the house with its comprehensive overview of this frequently misunderstood ethnic enclave, one of Detroit’s biggest.

The show, which aired commercial free on WXYZ on December 15, drew sensational ratings and equally astute comments from the Arab community.


Russell Ebeid

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