At Grossmont College, artists came together last month to showcase some of their work as part of the “Arab Horizons” exhibit, which highlighted their different cultural perspectives on being Arab Americans.
Hyde Art Gallery has partnered with the Department of World Languages at Grossmont to present the mini-exhibition of regional contemporary artists, Doris Bittar, Yasmine Kasem and Haneen Oriqat, according to gallery director Alex Decosta.
The exhibit was one of many efforts in April to mark Arab-American Heritage Month and recognize the contributions and challenges of Arab peoples in the San Diego area.
Lebanese painter Doris Bittar, who emigrated from Beruit to the United States before she was 6, said the exhibition was a way to highlight some of the cultural differences across the Arab world, which encompasses parts from Africa, Europe and Asia in 22 countries where Arabic is the common language.
“Arabic is not a religion, it is a linguistic culture,” she said. “It’s a very generous language, it’s a very flexible language, it’s a very adaptable language – like its people.”
Being an Arab, like an American, is a cultural trait rather than a racial one, and includes Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
Bittar is also the California organizer for the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee and has worked over the years to secure civil rights for Arab Americans.
“The kind of discrimination and history that Arab Americans have suffered is one of invisibility – no one knows; our voices are not heard; our stories are not being told,” Bittar said.
Doris Bittar’s artwork ‘Secured States: The Arab World’ is on display at the Arab Horizons Art Exhibition at the Hyde Art Gallery at Grossmont College on Monday, April 18, 2022. The Arab Horizons Art Exhibition will be on display until April 30. (Kristian Carreon/For the San Diego Union-Tribune)
Artist Haneen Oriqat discusses her photos taken in the West Bank with gallery director Alex DeCosta and fellow artist Doris Bittar at the Hyde Art Gallery at Grossmont College on Monday, April 18, 2022. Arab Horizons art exhibit will be on display until April 30. (Kristian Carreon/For the San Diego Union-Tribune)
San Diego has one of the largest Arab-American communities in the county, Bittar said. However, many of their contributions to society go unrecognized.
For the past two years, Dr. Raed Al-Naser has been working to collect COVID-19 data on Arab Americans after realizing, while on the front line in the intensive care unit at Sharp Hospital Grossmont, that they were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The La Mesa pulmonary intensive care physician is originally from Jordan and president of the San Diego chapter of the National Arab American Medical Association.
San Diego County’s COVID-19 data breakdown reflects US Census criteria, and because Arab Americans are counted as white in the census, patients from Arab and Middle Eastern communities are often listed as “unknown” or ” other “. Through his research, Al-Naser discovered that Arab Americans have a higher risk of contracting the virus, especially in San Diego, which has a large population of immigrants and refugees who lack the socio-economic structures. economic to protect them.
Without a dedicated ethnic identifier, Al-Naser said, the COVID-19-related disparities faced by Arab Americans will be erased and will continue to go undocumented. Al-Naser is working with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to find ways to reduce these health disparities for Arab Americans.
“In this time when everyone is focused on diversity and equity, we want to make sure that our people are not forgotten because Arab Americans have been forgotten for a long time for many reasons,” Al-Naser said. He hopes to “identify these populations and target them with appropriate measures to improve health…and other socio-economic aspects of life.”
The contributions of two Arab-American tech pioneers in San Diego are also little known. At Qualcomm in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Egyptian Samir Soliman and Palestinian Saed Younis were part of the advanced technology development group that improved cellphone technology.
As the group worked to make cell phones lighter, their signals stronger, and their battery life longer, their best-known achievement was the adaptation of GPS technology in cell phones to improve location accuracy.
During his 26 years at Qualcomm as vice president of technology, Soliman went on to found his own wireless consulting company in 2016, he thrived on pushing the boundaries of technology. Soliman has assisted with thousands of patents filed, pending, and issued in GPS, Wi-Fi, and other mobile technologies.
Likewise, Younis has used his passion for technology to help Qualcomm lead efforts to establish a national footprint for 3G mobile technology in the region.
Younis then created various startups. Currently, he is working to continue developing commercial and residential wireless indoor positioning technology for inclusion in smartphones at LONPROX.