NPR’s Neda Ulaby

BY ERIC G. CZAJKA, Staff Reporter

On Saturday evening, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn hosted a reception screening and discussion of the “Arab American Stories,” a series focusing on the diversity and breadth of the Arab American experience. Approximately 200 people attended the screening.

The 13-part series is hosted by NPR’s Neda Ulaby and documents 39 notable and diverse Arab Americans who are making an impact on society. It highlights Arab Americans from almost all 22 countries of Arab origin.

The Detroit Public Television (DPTV) series is produced and directed by Alicia Sams, a second generation Lebanese American. Sams says that “when DPTV approached [her] with the opportunity to create a television series about Arab Americans, [she] leaped at the chance to work on it with them.” Sams has also worked on other documentaries – producing and directing the Emmy Award-winning HBO documentary “By The People: The Election of Barack Obama.”

“(The series) represents what America is about,” said Sams. It tells the stories and struggles of Arab immigrants in the United States. The “Arab American Stories” celebrate diversity – with profiles ranging from actors and teachers to musicians and businessmen.

“I learned a lot about being Arab American,” said Sams. “You can’t explain it with just one word.”

Even though the series focuses on Arab Americans, Sams’ goal is to increase the cultural awareness and competence of all Americans.

“I really want the non-Arab community to love this and learn something,” Sams said.

She also hopes that the stories will be utilized as an educational tool. The documentary will broadcast nationally later in 2012 and episodes will be made available On Demand. Educators will be able to use the individual stories in their curriculum nationwide.

“In order for the stories to have broad impact, we are launching an outreach and engagement campaign with national educational and institutional partners,” Sams said in her Director’s Statement. “The hub of this engagement program will be our multi-media website.”

Sams wants to create a story bank on the website so that individuals can submit their own, unique stories. She encourages audience engagement through the website and social media campaigns.

“This is just scratching the surface, giving people enough to want to learn more,” said Sams.

The series premiered on Monday, April 2 on DPTV.