Alicia Sams, Supervising Producer and Director
When Detroit Public Television approached me with the opportunity to create a television series about Arab Americans I leaped at the chance to work on it with them. As a second generation Lebanese American with over 20 years of experience in television and film, I had worked on few projects that related to my ethnic identity, and it was an exciting and timely world for me to explore. I saw the need for Arab Americans to tell their own story in their own words, and in a media that commonly misrepresented or at best ignored the vast majority of Arab Americans leading productive and rewarding lives.
Our priority was to highlight the diversity of the Arab American experience, and, in so doing, I realized we had an opportunity to produce a series that would resonate with Americans of all ethnic backgrounds. And, by featuring regular people doing extraordinary things, the series engages people on a very personal level as well. America is a nation of immigrants, and many of the challenges that Arab Americans face are the very same ones all immigrants face. With a cast of interesting and accomplished Arab Americans of all walks of life, from across the United States, the series highlights the breadth not only of the Arab American experience, but also of the immigrant experience in America as it has evolved from generation to generation. By celebrating diversity, we find a universal humanity.
Content is important, but content with impact is even more important. The mission of the series is not only to develop the audience’s cultural competence, but also to enable them to go beyond a discussion that is only about ethnic diversity. For example, a high school history teacher who runs for public office has as much to teach about civic engagement in the United States as she does about being a Saudi immigrant. Or an engineer who invents a small wind turbine to help bring electricity to poor and underserved nations can inspire a new generation of engineering students as well as being an example of an Arab American contributing to society’s betterment. In order for the stories to have broad impact, we are launching an outreach and engagement campaign with national educational and institutional partners in conjunction with the series’ national broadcast later in 2012. The hub of this engagement program will be our multi-media website, which will enable us to facilitate community screenings and discussions as well as use of the stories in high school and college curricula across the country.
I look forward to sharing Arab American Stories, both through its broadcast and its engagement platform, with the public.