By Alan R. Madeleine
We recently spoke with Ibrahim Aljahim, who is the President of the Hamtramck American Arab Chamber of Commerce and the organizer of the first annual Hamtramck Arab Festival.
The festival is set for Saturday, July 23, from noon until 10 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Park, on Jos. Campau south of Goodson. Scheduled entertainers include singers Abdulrahman Alakhfash from Yemen, Anas Tabash of Palestine, Raed Adel from Iraq and Arab-American Laith Alattar.
The new festival is part of a growing cultural offering here in Hamtramck. The Bangladeshi community recently held their annual festival on Conant, and the city’s Labor Day Festival is a major event for the community.
We asked Aljahim to discuss details about the new festival.
So, this will be the very first Hamtramck Arab Festival. Whose idea was it, and what is your role?
Aljahim: This was my idea. I am the President of the Hamtramck American Arab Chamber of Commerce, and it is our organization that’s putting this on.
Where is the funding coming from? How has the money been raised?
Aljahim: We are still collecting funding. We are speaking with some sources. Some monies won’t be needed until afterward.
The flyer that arrived in our office didn’t mention a cost. The festival is free to the public?
Aljahim: Yes. We are not charging to come in. We will make money from the food and beverage vendors, and so on.
Even though it’s free, are you requiring tickets to enter? Is there a fenced perimeter?
Aljahim: No, you can walk right in.
Was there any motivation to having such a festival, beyond simply trying to bring the area’s Arabic population together?
Aljahim: We wanted to bring attention, more attention to the city. To have something else for people to come to Hamtramck to do.
Dearborn is, of course, known for its Arab population. Did you reach out that far with your promotions?
Aljahim: Yes, and Sterling Heights, Dearborn Heights… West Bloomfield as well; Warren. All across the area. We used Facebook also.
Do you expect any non-Arabic people to come? Is there anything that would appeal to them?
Aljahim: Yes, we absolutely welcome all nationalities and religions — Christian, Jewish especially we hope will come. We have international star singers, food. There will be kids’ games. Right there at the park, there’s the soccer field.
We’ll have a ribbon cutting ceremony from noon until 1 p.m., and give out 11 awards. The Wayne County Sheriff, our City Council, the mayor, we hope they will all be there to receive them. But there will be nothing political about the festival.
Given that some Arabs are Muslim and some are not, will there be alcohol available?
Aljahim: No, there won’t be any alcohol at the festival.
What about security? Is the city providing any police coverage?
Aljahim: No. We had to put up for a city bond, insurance. We’re still in discussions with private security companies.
What about if there is unfavorable weather that day?
Aljahim: Well, the stage and the food vendors have tents, so the festival can go on.
What level of success do you have to achieve with this inaugural festival in order to get to have another one next year?
Aljahim: There will definitely be another one next year. Two, maybe three days. For sure, two. We want to make this something the public can look forward to, another thing for the city, to help promote the city.
Well, best of luck to you!
Aljahim: Thank you very much.