The Cultural Program
The Cultural Program consists of various projects established by the Committee Chaired by Dr. Albert Johary which have been primarily for cultural presentation and historical documentation.
We have closed the deal on a historic relationship and taken advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with North Carolina State University at Raleigh. The Khayrallah Center at the University will review, collect, curate, archive, and preserve for posterity the archives, records, and documented history of our Federation. In this way, we can take our most cherished values – heritage, history, philanthropy, and education – and use them together for future generations and for the advancement of our goals.
New Orleans, The Crescent City and site of historic Federation Conventions, will also be remembered for introducing the Southern Federation of Syrian Lebanese American Clubs to the prestigious Middle East Studies Association (MESA). During a roundtable discussion in 2019, historians presented on the SFSLAC’s founding history; the role of Federation members in creating the Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden in Washington, DC; the life and literary work of the first Arab American novelist, Afifa Karam of Louisiana; and the importance of oral histories and archiving.
Two oral history collections feature Federation members’ stories: Family History Archive of Syrian & Lebanese Families in the American South, housed digitally on the Arab American National Museum’s website, and interviews conducted by Rose Esber of Arab Americans in the Southern United States, housed in the Oral History Collection at Baylor Institute for Oral History in Waco, Texas. Dr. Maria Curtis’ Archiving Arab American Families and Community in Houston, Texas and the Gulf Coast also features Federation families. Novelist Afifa Karam’s compelling story was first introduced to Federation members during the Baton Rouge Mid-Winter Conference. Dr. Elizabeth Saylor’s presentation about Afifa Karam was entitled From Hummus to Hushpuppies, symbolizing Afifa’s journey from Lebanon to Shreveport, Louisiana as a 14-year-old bride. (Note that Gormanous characterizes Saylor as the Fairuz of Syrian-Lebanese studies.)
Greg Gormanous (Syra-Meric Club, Alexandria, Louisiana) and Ruth Ann Skaff (Middle Eastern Heritage Club, Houston, Texas) along with Matt Stiffler (Arab American National Museum, Dearborn, Michigan) and others conceptualized a ‘roundtable discussion’ about Arab-Americans in the South, a little-known topic, at last year’s MESA conference in San Antonio. Akram Khater, Ph.D., Director, Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, North Carolina State University; Rose Esber, Ph.D.; Maria Curtis, Ph.D., University of Houston-Clear Lake, and Elizabeth Saylor, Ph.D., NCSU, immediately agreed.
There is some literature about the histories of the Arabic-speaking communities on the East Coast (notably Boston and New York), the Midwest (Detroit and Chicago), and the West Coast (Los Angeles and San Francisco). However, very little is known about the Middle Eastern/Syrian Lebanese communities in the American South, especially Arabic-speaking Christians.
For information about the Cultural Program or to submit and brainstorm ideas, contact Cultural Chairman Dr. Al Johary at firstname.lastname@example.org.