History of the AAHC
The Arab American Heritage Council was founded in 1980 in Flint, Michigan by a small group of concerned Arab Americans: Honorable Judge Anthony Mansour, Ghassan Saab, George Farah, and John Salomon. Originally called the American International Forum, it was founded as a non-political and non-sectarian grass roots organization for Arab Americans interested in preserving Arab heritage and culture and serving the needs of the local Arab community. In 1985, the AAHC began documenting some of the specific histories of Arab American immigrant families to Flint and the surrounding area. During the 1980s and 1990s, the AAHC partnered with local organizations to meet local Arab Americans needs, hosted Arab community picnics, and produced newsletters to inform the Arab American community of local news. Despite only relying on the work of volunteers, the work of the AAHC gained such notoriety that the Flint City Council and Mayor Woodrow Stanley recognized November 13, 1999 as Arab American Day. However, the attacks on September 11, 2001 served as a turning point for the AAHC.
Realizing that no one was telling the larger story of Arabs locally, the AAHC decided to fill that void. An office was established and a full-time Executive Director was hired in early 2002. The first major project, the Arab Influence, was undertaken from 2002-2003 to tell the story and contributions of Arab Americans through partnerships with multiple community organizations including the Flint Public Library, Flint Institute of Arts, Flint Institute of Music, Sloan Museum, and Longway Planetarium in order to educate the Greater Flint community. Educational and cultural workshops were conducted in Genesee County to educate non-Arabs on the history of Arab Americans. Working with the International Institute of Flint, the AAHC established an immigration and language program in 2005 to serve Arabs and other immigrants to the Greater Flint area. The AAHC used its deep grassroots connections to the Arab community to serve as a voice for Arab Americans and assist them through coordinated services.