If Anaheim or the County of Orange ever gets around to officially designating a strip of Arab American businesses along Brookhurst Street in West Anaheim as “Little Arabia,” signs noting the cultural landmark on the 5 freeway could follow. Republican State Senator Ling Ling Chang (SD-29) introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 71 last week which tasks the Department of Transportation with putting up those signs up once that happens and when enough private donations are also gathered to cover the cost.
“I welcome and in support SCR 71 because formally designating this area as Little Arabia will honor the contributions of Arab Americans, most of them first generation immigrants, to the local economy, and acknowledge the area as a significant cultural destination,” says Rashas Al-Dabbagh, executive director of the Arab American Civic Council. “I call upon the Anaheim city council to do the same and designate Little Arabia.”
Chang’s resolution recognizes Little Arabia as one of the biggest Arab business districts in the nation, one that the general public and media already call by its all but officially designated name. Formally designating the ethnic-enclave will honor “how Arab American business owners have improved the area.”
The Weekly ran a cover story on a new generation of Arab American activists utilizing social media in dedication to the cause of official designation in 2012. Two years later, “Little Arabia District” became an officially recognized tourist attraction. Since that time, Little Arabia has only grown to become home to many new restaurants, pastry shops, clothing boutiques and hookah lounges. Veteran establishments like Kareem’s Restaurant, Olive Tree and Sahara Falafel remain favorites in the area.
Chang knows. The senator visited Little Arabia earlier this year after authoring a proclamation recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month. She followed up by pledging efforts to exempt hookah from Senate Bill 38, proposed legislation that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco. In May, the senate appropriations committee did just that.
The Arab American Civic Council is now asking supporters to sign an online petition calling on Anaheim city council to make Little Arabia designation official. In 2016, Jose F. Moreno, Jordan Brandman and Stephen Faessel, all now sitting councilmen, pledged to support designation during a candidate forum at the Arab American Community Center. Brandman represents District 2 where Little Arabia resides.
That gives Little Arabia boosters three prospective votes. They’d only need one more for a majority on council. Last year, the question of designation arose again at a mayoral candidates forum, one that current mayor Harry Sidhu didn’t attend. But since Sidhu is a businessman who’s also the first non-white immigrant to hold the office, leading the way on officially designating Little Arabia is the least he could do!
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!