“The Must-Have Stories And The Ones That Are Often Overlooked”

Arab American Heritage Month

April is Arab American Heritage Month, established on April 8, 2017 so that “the contributions of Arab Americans throughout the country will be given the recognition and acclaim that they deserve.” which was Congress officially recognized on April 8, 2017.

Danny Thomas

Danny Thomas (January 6, 1912 – February 6, 1991) was an American nightclub comedian, singer, actor, and producer whose career spanned five decades.

Thomas was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz to Lebanese immigrants on a horse farm in Deerfield, Michigan, but his parents later changed his name to Amos Jacobs. Jacobs made his debut in 1932 in The Happy Hour Club, an amateur radio show in Detroit. In 1940, he changed his name to Danny Thomas, after his younger and eldest brother respectively, so that he could work at the 5100 Club without his family knowing that he was working in saloons. He soon discovered his talent in comedy.

During the 1930s and 40s, before his career took off, Thomas had prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, vowing to build a shrine to the saint when he succeeded in show business. In 1944, Thomas got his own program on CBS radio, The Danny Thomas Show, which ran until 1949. During World War II, Thomas entertained troops in North Africa, Italy, and the Philippines, before going into the movies after the war, starring in several films such as I’ll See You In My Dreams through the mid-1950s. Then he starred in Make Room For Daddy (1953–1964), which made him a household name. Then he became a producer, working with Sheldon Leonard to produce The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and others.

In the early 1950s, Thomas began discussing his idea to fulfill his vow to St. Jude, which eventually became creating a children’s hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1955, Thomas began working with a group of businessmen to create a research hospital “devoted to curing catastrophic diseases in children.”

By 1955, local business leaders had joined his fundraising efforts to build the hospital, but it was the Arab-American community that provided the money to fund the operation cost for the hospital. In 1957, 100 representatives of the Arab-American community formed the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), to raise funds to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. ALSAC’s national headquarters in Memphis and its regional offices throughout the country have assumed responsibility for all of the fundraising efforts. The ALSAC is now the third largest healthcare charity in the country. Physicians and scientists at St. Jude have increased the survival rate for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent in 1962 when the hospital opened, to 80 percent today, and from 4% to 94% for leukemia patients.

Thomas received many awards for his efforts. For his philanthropy, Pope Paul VI named Thomas a Knight Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Thomas also received a Congressional Gold Medal, presented from President Ronald Reagan for his service to the community, was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1990, and received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, posthumously, in 2004.

Thomas died on February 6, 1991, two days after celebrating the hospital’s 29th anniversary.

Zappa

Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker whose career more than 30 years and over 80 albums.

According to Zappa, his mother was French and Italian and Greek-Arab father who was born in Patrinico, Sicily. Zappa grew up playing in school orchestra and bands, and taught himself how to play many instruments, though he focused on guitar. He listened to rock & roll, R&B, classical, country music and other genres.

During the 1960s, Zappa joined several bands, eventually creating his own. He began recording in 1960, writing scores for B movies. In 1964, he joined Ray Collins’s band the Soul Giants, before re-inventing the group. The group was re-named the Mothers, as it toured clubs in Los Angeles, but after signing a contract with Verve Records in 1966, it renamed itself, Mothers of Invention. The band did not do well, losing money for five years until it was disbanded in 1969. Zappa re-formed it with a new lineup in 1971. Eventually, Zappa established Zappa Records and re-named the band Zappa in 1979.

In addition to writing and performing music, Zappa starred in several television shows, beginning with The Steve Allen Show in 1963. He also composed classical chamber and orchestra pieces which were conducted by Pierre Boulez and Zubin Mehta, and the Lyons Opera Ballet in France commissioned choreographers to created dances to his music. However, he eventually gave up classical composition because he did not want to deal with symphony orchestras. His 1988 album “Jazz From Hell” won a Grammy for best rock instrumental performance.

In the 1980s, Zappa worked against censorship in popular music, testifying before a Senate subcommittee hearings on “porn rock” and opposed warning labels on albums.

Vaclav Havel, a Zappa fan became president of Czechoslovakia in 1989 and invited Zappa to advise him as it became a capitalist society. For the first few months of 1990, Zappa was represented Czechoslovakia to the West in trade, culture, and tourism.

In the late 1980s, Zappa began organizing and re-mastering his 1960s albums for CDs. In November 1991, a series of concerts in New York City, called “Frank Zappa’s Universe” played a selection of his music. The concerts were taped for release.

Susan-Chira1-222x300

Susan Deborah Chira (Born May 18, 1958) is an American journalist who has worked for over thirty years at the New York Times, who has won many Pulitzer Prizes for her coverage.

Chira was born in Manhattan and attended Harvard University where she received a BA in history and East Asian studies, graduating summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1980. While at Harvard, she was a reporter and president of The Harvard Crimson. After graduating, she studied Japanese for eighteen months at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Tokyo and at Middlebury College in Vermont.

In 1981, Chira became a trainee on the metropolitan section of the New York Times and promoted to reporter in July 1982 in the Albany and Stanford bureaus and then as a reporter for the Business Day section. Since then, she has worked for a variety of sections at the New York Times, including national education and Tokyo correspondents, during the mid- to late 1980s. As Tokyo correspondent, Chira covered the South Korean summer Olympics in 1988. The following year, she wrote an obituary for Emperor Hirohito when he died in January.

After being a reporter for two decades, she became editorial director of book development in 2002. In 2004, she became foreign editor, a position she held until 2011. She became the deputy executive editor in 2014. In 2016, Chira one of the three deputy executive directors for the New York Times, as “the main masthead editor overseeing daily news” went to write gender issues for The Times. She covers gender for the Opinion section and the newsroom, and help assist the editor of the new unit focused on gender issues. In a 2017 article, “Why Women’ Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were,” she explains several reasons why women are less likely to be CEOs: women aren’t as comfortable self-promoting, more likely to be criticized when they are in the limelight, and that men continue to be threatened by assertive women, how women “are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive,” and are also unduly penalized for mistakes, even if it is not their own. For example, Jan Fields, who went from a McDonald’s crew member to president of McDonald’s USA, the second highest position in the company. In 2012, after she pushed for higher prices, she was blamed for the first monthly drop in profits since 2003 and fired.

Chira has also discussed other issues, such as sexual harassment in the workplace

In 2009, when she was Assistant managing Editor of the Times, Chira was the victim of an anthrax hoax, when she received an envelope labeled “weaponized Anthrax” and bearing a swastika sticker with skull and bones, containing a white powder (that was later proven not to be anthrax).

In addition to reporting, Chira has written two books, Cautious Revolutionaries: Occupation Planners and Japan’s Post-War Land Reform published in 1982 and A Mother’s Place: Taking the Debate About Working Mothers Beyond Guilt and Blame, published in 1998.

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