Washington, DC - While reflecting upon the transformative contributions and sacrifices made by African Americans should be a yearlong process, Black History Month offers a special opportunity to do so.
It also offers a moment to emulate the courageous and progressive spirit of leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson.
For Arab America, the month presents an opportune moment to set aside racism for reconciliation, convert boundaries into bridges, and take strides toward building a lasting coalition with the community that blazed the civil rights trail in America. The first step of this journey starts back home - in Detroit.
Detroit is home to the most concentrated Arab-American community in the United States, and the hometown of one of the country's most vibrant and sizeable African-American populations. For decades, these two communities lived among one another but never co-existed within Detroit's hyper-segregated landscape, divided by geographic boundaries and cultural rifts.
Few American cities boast the cultural contributions and historical significance offered by Detroit. The Motown sound was perfected on West Grand Boulevard, while Ford Motor Company revolutionised transportation in nearby Dearborn - today's capital of Arab America. African Americans have called Detroit home for decades, while their once-huddled Arab neighbours fled political and economic despair beginning in the 1970s, seeking the promise of opportunity in Michigan.
Tireman Road demarcates the border separating Arab from Black Detroit on the City's Westside, with little spill over until recently. Warrendale, an enclave of West Detroit, houses a rapidly diversifying population where Arab and African American families live side-by-side. This phenomenon not only offered unprecedented opportunity for genuine cross-cultural interaction, but also the seeds for grassroots coalition building.
Decades later, Manichean divisions pit the two communities at hostile, and sometimes fatal, odds. But a common political experience, whereby Arab Americans face the brand of vilification African Americans have endured for centuries, offers a springboard for