Holly, MI—As Seven Lakes glistened in the harsh afternoon sunlight a few hundred feet away, Zain Salman and Dr. Abd Alghanem carefully unwrapped layers and layers of foil from an enormous round dish, revealing a freshly roasted lamb resting on a bed of rice garnished with lemons, veggies and pine nuts. This dish was the centerpiece of a spread that seemed to keep growing as dozens of people of Middle Eastern descent with homemade meals in hand gathered under the shade of the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion to celebrate their culture at the Arab American Heritage Council (AAHC) of Greater Flint’s annual community picnic on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022.

“A critical part of our mission, as I mentioned previously, is to really build community,” said Lucine Jarrah, AAHC’s executive director. “One of the ways that we hope to do that is to create spaces like this where we can enjoy food together, enjoy drinks together, and really create opportunities to, you know, broaden understanding and appreciation for Arab culture and heritage.”

Dr. Abd Alghanem, Vice president of the Arab American Heritage Council’s board, prepares individual plates of roasted lamb with rice and veggies during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. Alghanem is a former president of the Arab American Heritage Council. He now serves as an assistant clinical professor at Michigan State University, and he has practiced medicine in Flint, Mich. since 1989, according to the Arab American Heritage Council’s website. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Just as Salman and Alghanem unwrapped the lamb, Jarrah said one of the key motivations for AAHC’s community-building events is to unwrap stereotypes about people of Middle Eastern descent by spreading awareness about Arab American culture.

“Those are aspects that are really important to who I am, and something that I grew up, you know, learning about on my own in the community,” said Jarrah, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon. “So I’ve always been super invested in being able to share that with the Greater Flint community.”

Jarrah, 25, took on her role as AAHC’s executive director in January of 2022, making her the second-youngest to hold the position in the organization’s 42 years of operation. In addition to building community, AAHC advocates for Arab Americans in the Greater Flint area through civic advocacy work.

This August marks Jarrah’s fourth year with AAHC, throughout which she has worked in various other positions, namely communications coordinator. Jarrah has earned both a master’s degree in social work and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan.

Lucine Jarrah, executive director of the Arab American Heritage Council, poses for a photo outside the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

“I learn so much from what she does, and I love seeing her vision, like, come to life,” said Sabrina Jarrah, Lucine Jarrah’s sister who is a neuroscience research tech at the University of Michigan.

Sabrina Jarrah added that AAHC’s events help her appreciate her culture. While celebrations of Arab culture like the community picnic may be common in the Middle East, they take on new significance in the U.S.

“There’s a beauty when, kind of like, these two different worlds collide, and you’re merged into it,” she said. “When you’re here [in the U.S.], you acknowledge it even more, your Arab-ness.”

Check out all the picnic’s festivities in the photos below.

Zain Salman, a member of the Arab American Heritage Council’s leadership committee, grills burgers during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Zain Salman, a member of the Arab American Heritage Council’s leadership committee, grills burgers during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Ayman Haidar stands up to hug a friend while Saed Sahouri and Karam Nassar hang out at a picnic table in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees sit down to eat in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees try their hands at Dabke, a traditional Levantine folk dance performed at weddings and other celebrations in countries like Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. Nora Sharba and Deena Sukhon, who performed Dabke with a travel team throughout their time in college at the University of Michigan, taught the dance to picnic attendees. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Nora Sharba and Deena Sukhon practice a Dabke routine before teaching it to picnic attendees during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. Dabke is a traditional Levantine folk dance performed at weddings and other celebrations in countries like Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Sharba and Sukhon led a group of dancers while they studied at the University of Michigan, they said, eventually joining a travel team and performing across the state. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Hiba Saadeldin, Salih Mohammed and Jude Mohammed get plates of food from the spread laid out on a picnic table in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Zain Salman, a member of the Arab American Heritage Council’s leadership committee, unwraps a roasted lamb resting on a bed of rice and garnished with lemons, veggies and pine nuts during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Homemade sfiha, or meat pies, rest on a picnic table during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees chat while Genesee County’s 7th Circuit Court Judge Candidate Mary Hood scoops a plate of rice and roasted lamb during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees sit down to eat in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees gather in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Summer Salman, Reem Salman, Rayna Ahmed, Iaman Khrais and Zhraa Mohammed chat while they create marble paintings during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Reem Salman lifts a cup filled with paint, a technique Zhraa Mohammed taught her, to create a marble painting during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Zhraa Mohammed poses for a photo after creating a marble painting during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. Art has always been one of Mohammed’s passions, she said, so she brought the paint and other supplies for picnic attendees to create their own paintings. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Mohammed Mukhtar and Georgio Farah pet Money the dog, brought to the picnic by Faith Groesbeck, during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Money the dog, brought to the picnic by Faith Groesbeck, sits patiently in the shade of the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Maygela Nassar and George Nassar pose for a photo with their puppy Niko during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Lucine Jarrah, executive director of the Arab American Heritage Council, hugs Naglaa Alnajjar and Sabrina Jarrah during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Sabrina Jarrah tosses a ball to Sanad Yacoub during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Sanad Yacoub smiles as he plays with a ball during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Azza Ahmed, Naglaa Alnajjar and Soha Omar pose for a photo during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Reem Ahmed, Soha Omar, Azza Ahmed and Ameera Altalibi pose for a photo in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees serve themselves from a spread laid out on a picnic table in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Reem Ahmed, a case worker with ACCESS Healthcare, poses for a photo in front of the table she set up during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. ACCESS Healthcare caters its services toward Arab Americans throughout Mich., connecting people with health insurance and education, according to the organization’s website. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Hiam Andoni, Victoria Nassar and other picnic attendees sit down to eat in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Abir Haidar, Ayman Haidar, Saed Sahouri and Karam Nassar pose for a photo in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Bahia Mourad poses for a photo with her daughters, Sabrina Jarrah (left) and Lucine Jarrah (right), executive director of the Arab American Heritage Council, during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Rayna Ahmed, Zeena Ahmed, Jinan Ahmed, Zhraa Mohammed and Iaman Khrais chat by the lake during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Jinan Ahmed, Zeena Ahmed, Rayna Ahmed, Zhraa Mohammed and Iaman Khrais pose for a photo by the lake during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annually community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Hiba Saadeldin, Jude Mohammed and Salih Mohammed pose for a photo in the Fisherman’s Cove Pavilion during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Mario Diaz-Garcia-Wells, a public health navigator with the City of Flint’s Office of Public Health, poses for a photo with Laura Diaz-Garcia-Wells during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Lucine Jarrah, executive director of the Arab American Heritage Council, speaks to picnic attendees during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees compete in a friendly volleyball match during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees compete in a friendly volleyball match during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees compete in a friendly volleyball match during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees compete in a friendly volleyball match during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees compete in a friendly volleyball match during the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Picnic attendees head home after the Arab American Heritage Council’s annual community picnic at Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Mich. on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)