Michigan City’s First Arab-American Mayor Has Message For His Youth: “Be Proud Of Your Name”
By Alaa Elassar, CNN
A Michigan city considered the center of Arab America has finally elected its first Arab-American mayor.
Abdullah Hammoud, the son of Lebanese immigrants, was born and raised in Dearborn, where he was elected mayor on Tuesday. With this victory, he also becomes the city’s first Muslim mayor.
Dearborn is home to one of the largest Arab-American communities in the USA. Dearborn’s population is around 42% Arabs, according to census figures. But more recent surveys suggest the city may be more than half Arab.
Despite the city’s large Arab community, it has never been run by an Arab-American or a Muslim-American.
“It’s just an experience of humility. It’s humiliating that in this city people are willing to vote for someone based on the direction they are leading, not the direction they are praying, ”Hammoud, 31, told CNN. “It is a lesson in humility because it shows that someone like me, who bears a name like Abdullah Hussein Hammoud, does not have to change or flee his identity in order to be successful.”
Hammoud is serving his third term as state representative for Michigan’s 15th District, which includes Dearborn. He was first elected in 2016 and has since been re-elected twice.
He will take office as mayor in January.
“This is a huge deal for the Arab community in Michigan and the country,” Sally Howell, director of the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, told CNN. “The symbolic capital of Arab America, Dearborn, Michigan, finally has an Arab-American mayor to speak on behalf of this unique population. Representation matters.
Hammoud says he’s ready to get down to business and immediately start tackling the issues affecting his city, including climate change.
“There is a clock on the wall, and there is the question of when the next heavy rain is going to set in that will lead to the next catastrophic flood, similar to what we experienced last summer when near more than 20,000 homes have experienced some type of flooding, ”Hammoud said.
“We must immediately start adjusting the climate crisis by presenting bold and innovative proposals,” he said.
Hammoud will also work to cut taxes and help residents fight the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, according to his campaign website.
Hammoud says he hopes his victory sends a message to the young people of Dearborn – especially those who are targeted because of their differences – that nothing is out of reach.
“Never fear who you are,” he said. “Be proud of your name, be comfortable in your identity, because it will move you forward if you work hard, if you are passionate and if you inspire people.”
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