In 2021, the U.S. State Department declared April as National Arab American Heritage Month. Dataminr is excited to celebrate this special month and the contributions of our Arab American colleagues to the company’s culture, growth and success.
I sat down with Bassil Azzam, Vice President of Total Rewards at Dataminr, to discuss what this month means to him and how he celebrates it.
What does National Arab American Heritage Month mean to you? And how do you celebrate it?
Having a month dedicated to celebrating my Arab heritage means a lot to me and my family. It helps increase public awareness of our diverse community and rich, beautiful cultures. I always teach and remind my daughters to be very proud of who they are.
For me, food is a great way to connect with people. I celebrate this month by gathering with family and friends and enjoying a diverse spread of homemade meals. One that my kids particularly love is called “maqluba,” which is a traditional dish that consists of chicken, rice and vegetables that are layered in a pot while cooking. Once it’s done, the pot is then flipped, hence the name “maqluba,” which translates to “upside down”. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with a crowd favorite called “knafeh,” which is a sweet cheese dessert topped with shredded phyllo dough and syrup. I wish I had some right now!
Interestingly, the timing of National Arab American Heritage Month kind of coincides with this year’s Ramadan, which runs between March 23 and April 21. As a Muslim, I practice fasting during this period and, at the end of Ramadan, get together with my family and friends to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. For my community, this is also the time to renew one’s faith, foster values such as gratitude, patience, humility and to do good—we donate to charities that provide essential food packages to help the less fortunate.
What would you like people—who may not be very familiar—to know about National Arab American Heritage Month as well as the Arab American community?
The Arab American community is strong and growing with approximately 3.7 million people. Arab Americans have always celebrated their own cultures sporadically throughout the year, but it wasn’t until 2021 that the month of April was dedicated to honoring the heritage of Arab Americans and their many contributions.
In fact, the Arab America Foundation launched an initiative in 2017 to honor National Arab American Heritage Month and only a few states recognized it. Today, the month is still not yet officially recognized by the full U.S. government—only the Congress, Department of State and 45 states commemorate it.
One common misconception many people have is equating Arab communities and people with a faith, typically Islam. Not all Arab people are Muslim, and not all Muslims are of Arab heritage.
What are some concrete ways a company's employees and leadership can support and become allies to their Arab American colleagues? How has Dataminr done a good job in this aspect?
A company’s employees and leadership can become allies to their Arab American colleagues by bringing awareness and education to those who may not be familiar with this month and Arab-American cultures. This can be done by facilitating a safe, open space for employees who identify as Arab American to share their experiences and how they celebrate their heritage.
I think Dataminr has done an amazing job of this. The company has various resources, including the Salam@Dataminr employee resource groups (ERG) and other ERGs, to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment. That enables us to have a sense of belonging, be our authentic selves and learn about people from different backgrounds.
Robin Strup is Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Dataminr. She has over 25 years of experience in DEI strategies and communication across multiple organizations and industries. Robin is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Executive Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management leadership program with a passion and expertise in leveraging behavioral science interventions to improve business outcomes.