AANM exhibit in California to educate public

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Arab American National Museum Deputy Director Devon Akmon hopes residents of Irvine, Calif., will learn about the heroism of Middle Eastern servicemen and servicewomen in America from a traveling exhibit.

The AANM traveling exhibit “Patriots & Peacemakers: Arab Americans in Service to Our Country,” which began Friday and ends Jan. 26, showcases the contributions of Middle Eastern people in America since the American Revolution; the exhibit is on display at the University of California at the Irvine Student Center.

The multimedia exhibit features more than 200 stories of Middle Eastern people from more than 40 states who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, diplomatic services and the Peace Corps.

Akmon said museum officials chose the University of California as the exhibit location because of the community’s large Middle Eastern population.

According to the Arab American Institute, Middle Eastern people have immigrated to the United States since the 1880s and more than 80 percent are U.S. citizens. California’s population is more than 37 million and the Middle Eastern population in California is about 272,000.

Akmon said the exhibit, more than three years in the making, reaffirms the important role Middle Eastern people have played in the country’s history.

“The exhibit explores Arab American contributions to America through the lense of service in the (United States),” Akmon said. “So many people have certain perceptions of Arab Americans. (This is) a great opportunity to educate the public of (their) role and commitment to the country since the founding of the country.”

Akmon said he hopes the exhibit will also educate Middle Eastern people about their own historical contributions and “deep roots in the fabric of America.”

“We are trying to build the community around the exhibit,” Akmon said. “We worked with Arab American communities out there to make this possible.”

Akmon said the exhibit’s stories of sacrifice and service are a reflection of the Middle Eastern community.

“This story goes all the way back to the integral role of defining Arab Americans’ story and the American story,” Akmon said.

For more information about the exhibit go to www.arabamericanmuseum.org/patriots.and.peacemakers_socal.