(ANN ARBOR, MI) — Dr. Akram Khater, director of the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, said Lebanese-Americans have a responsibility to preserve their history of immigration to the United States.
“We have to build a place for ourselves here,” said Khater, during a keynote address at the Lebanese Collegiate Network student convention in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Apr. 11. “We have to carve out a place in American history for the Lebanese and for the Arabs in general.”
Khater said Lebanese-Americans have established an influential role in American immigration history.
“We belong in (the USA) because our values are American values, and American values are ours,” he said. “We didn’t just assimilate.”
The Khayrallah Center was launched in 2014 at North Carolina State University after receiving an $8.1 million endowment from Lebanese-American businessman Moise Khayrallah.
The center aims to study Lebanese history in the United States, and to preserve stories of early Lebanese settlers.
LISTEN to Dr. Khater’s remarks:
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(CHAPEL HILL, NC) — Three Muslim-American students were shot to death at the residential complex of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Tuesday.
Police say Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was arrested and charged with killing the students.
The victims, all shot in the head, were identified as Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, of Chapel Hill, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh, police said.
The father of two of the victims called the shooting a “hate crime” based on their Islamic faith. But Chapel Hill police said that “preliminary investigation indicates the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” according to a statement posted online.
“We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case,” the statement said, quoting Police Chief Chris Blue.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt called the killings a “senseless and tragic act surrounding a long-standing dispute.”
“I share strong feelings of outrage and shock with my fellow citizens and university students — as well as concerned people everywhere,” he said. “We do not know whether anti-Muslim bias played a role in this crime, but I do recognize the fear that members of our community may feel. Chapel Hill is a place for everyone, a place where Muslim lives matter.”
On the UNC campus Wednesday night, several thousand people attended a candlelight vigil in memory of the students. In Raleigh, a moment of silence was planned during the North Carolina St. vs Virginia basketball game, according to Chancellor Randy Woodson.
Hicks, who turned himself in to authorities, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the fatal shootings. His Facebook profile boasts a page called “Atheists for Equality” where he frequently published posts critical of religion.
The hashtag #ChapelHillShooting and #MuslimLivesMatter were trending on Twitter just a few hours after the shooting, including several thousand tweets criticizing Western media for not covering the shooting.
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(RALEIGH, NC) — Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi continued his film tour in the United States to promote “Heritages,” an autobiography film narrating the exile of his family across four generations.
Aractingi visited North Carolina State University for a screening hosted by the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, according to the university student-run newspaper.
Akram Khater, the Khayrallah Center director, says Aractingi’s film can educate the general public about Lebanese history and the growth of the diaspora.
“So this event that we had tonight was specifically part of our mission to bring this kind of information to the general public and the United States,” Khater told The Technician. “We arranged for him to come here, because we thought it was an important film for the North Carolina State to see.”
Aractingi says Lebanese parents, especially emigrants, should talk to their children about Lebanese history and culture.
“Do not make a cut with our past and where we came from. It is important to give our lives and stories to our children,” he said.
VIEW photos of Aractingi’s visit to North Carolina:
For more than 150 years, millions of Lebanese have been emigrating from Lebanon to create successful diaspora communities around the world. Yet there has never been a center outside Lebanon devoted to learning their stories.
An $8.1 million gift from Dr. Moise A. Khayrallah and his wife, Vera Khayrallah, will change that.
With the support of the Khayrallahs — who moved to the Triangle from their native Lebanon in 1983 — NC State will soon be home to the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, a thriving international hub for research into Lebanese immigration and migration more broadly.
Housed within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS), this will be the first privately endowed center at NC State. It follows the creation in 2010 of the university’s Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies, which sought to preserve and publicize the history of the Lebanese community in North Carolina.
“We felt it was critical to show how this one community established itself here in North Carolina and then contributed to local commerce, education and success,” said Moise Khayrallah, who has founded several drug-development companies in the area. “And that was a very, very successful program, I have to say.”
Dr. Akram Khater, professor of history at NC State, serves as the program’s director. Like the Khayrallahs, he first came to the United States from Lebanon to further his education. Years later, he and Dr. Khayrallah met over coffee to draw up a public history project.
“We were discussing how, after 9/11, the prevailing narrative about Arab-Americans — including the Lebanese — became focused on terrorism or tabouleh, violence or salad,” said Khater. “Conspicuously absent was any sustained mention of the richness of the culture, of the heritage and of the myriad contributions of Lebanese-Americans to America for over a century and a half.”
Funding from the Khayrallahs and the resources of a vibrant public history program in CHASS have enabled Khater and other NC State researchers to spotlight those contributions. Lebanese-Americans in North Carolina have generated an estimated $4.5 billion of revenue. Among the 16,000 people who make up the community today are the Georges of Hickory, whose legacy includes Lowes Foods, and the Koury family, who own the Greensboro convention center of the same name.
By retracing the steps and recording the stories of Lebanese immigrants to the state, Khater and graduate students in the department of history unearthed enough material to sustain an online archive, a PBS documentary, a K-12 curriculum and a multimedia museum exhibit, Cedars in the Pines.
“As I saw him and his team at the Department of History and other departments at NC State come together and bring all of these programs and activities to life, I was very impressed,” said Moise Khayrallah.
The Khayrallahs’ gift will allow NC State to build on these successes through the creation of the Khayrallah Center, a groundbreaking international institution that Khater will helm. A home for scholars and students from around the world, it will establish NC State as the premier research and outreach site for the Lebanese diaspora. At another level, the center will allow NC State to engage in vital national and international debates about immigration and its global impacts.
“Creating the first endowed center at NC State is a real signature landmark for us,” said Dean Jeffery P. Braden of CHASS, noting that this is the largest gift in the college’s history. He added that the center’s mission — deepening the American public’s understanding of migration — makes it a perfect fit for NC State.
“Part of it is our land-grant tradition,” said Braden. “Part of it is our ‘Think and Do’ culture. But we really have the structure of bringing our disciplinary knowledge and the scholarship that we do out of the university, out of the academy, and bringing it into the community.”
For the Khayrallahs, that kind of outreach is key to revealing the contribution of immigrants to American life.
“We all have so much in common, but a lot of times people don’t even notice those commonalities,” said Vera Khayrallah. “But we are all one people, and we all went through the same things to bring us here.”
(WASHINGTON, DC) — The Christian Lebanese Foundation in the World (CLFW) is hosting five campaign drives during the rest of November, encouraging Lebanese-Americans to preserve their roots in Lebanon and register as Lebanese citizens.
“We want to encourage people outside of Lebanon to have an affection for their motherland,” said Nada Abisamra, Director of CLFW, in an interview with ART America.
CLFW and Project Roots aims to register people of Lebanese descent free of charge in the United States.
CLFW will visit the following locations during November:
Westlake, Ohio at the Northern Ohio Lebanese American Association Heritage Ball on November 15 starting at 6pm.
Stockton, California at St. Sharbel’s Annual Hafle on November 15 starting at 6pm.
Easton, Pennsylvania at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church on November 16 starting at 10am.
Warren, Michigan at St. Sharbel Maronite Catholic Church on November 22 starting at 6pm, and November 23 starting at 11am.
Greer, South Carolina at St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church starting at 11am.
For more information, visit clfw.org. Click here to access the campaign flyer with more information about required registration documents.
(NEW BERN, NC) — An exhibition to commemorate the history of Lebanese immigrants who have made North Carolina their home since the 1880s will open Friday at the North Carolina History Center in New Bern.
“Cedars in the Pines: The Lebanese in North Carolina: 130 Years of History” is the latest free exhibit hosted in Tryon Palace’s Duffy Gallery, located inside the North Carolina History Center.
Researched and developed by the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies at N.C. State University, the multimedia exhibit features personal stories, family photographs, home movies, letters, artifacts and audio recordings that bring to life the story of Lebanese immigration in North Carolina.
Computer games, Arabic music, a dance floor to learn steps of the dabke, and other interactive components will further immerse museum visitors in the Lebanese immigration experience.
“Cedars in the Pines recounts the hard work, challenges and contributions of three generations of Lebanese immigrants who have adapted to life in North Carolina while struggling to maintain their cultural heritage,” said Akram Khater, director of the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies at N.C. State University. “Lebanese-Americans have left a lasting impression on the state’s civic, social, political, religious and cultural life.”
The exhibit follows the experiences of Lebanese immigrants from two waves of immigrations. The first wave arrived between the 1880s and the 1920s, when economic decline, famine and war encouraged the Lebanese to leave for the Americas and Africa.
Some found their way to North Carolina. Another wave of Lebanese immigrants began to arrive in 1975, when a civil war broke out in Lebanon. This internal conflict and continuing regional tensions have led more Lebanese to emigrate.
Cedars in the Pines brings together their remarkable stories in three exhibit sections.
A brief description of each follows: “Journeys” explores the many choices associated with immigration. The section includes the history of Lebanon, the reasons the emigrants left home, and the hardships of their long journeys. In the 1880s, thousands boarded steamships for America, where new arrivals faced more challenges in a foreign country. Exhibit items, such as an Arabic Bible that belonged to Side Mack, who immigrated at age 17, help tell these important stories.
“Belonging” focuses on the challenges and opportunities of Lebanese immigrants who moved to North Carolina. Khater notes that the newcomers experienced culture shock, struggled against challenges and discrimination, and earned acceptance and success. The section highlights work, school and those who have given back to their communities. Visitors will see an elementary reader printed in Arabic, a Lebanese passport, items from Parker’s Restaurant, a family-run business in Rocky Mount, and other artifacts that recount these experiences.
“Being” explores what it means to be Lebanese in North Carolina, centering on home, religion and community. In this section, Khater explains that cultural practices like marriage traditions and food, music and religion, along with community organizations, played key roles in their efforts. Some traditions were changed to adapt to American culture, but others were strongly maintained.
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