In Her Own Words: Arab American Heritage Month
Get to know Esraa Almasri, RN, Clinic Nurse, Cook Children’s Heart Center
By Esraa Almasri, RN, Clinic Nurse, Cook Children’s Heart Center
My name is Esraa, I am a Clinic Nurse at the Cook Children’s Heart Center here at the Dodson Specialty Clinics in Fort Worth.
Like many Arab Americans, I did not know until recently that there is a national month dedicated to Arab American heritage awareness.
For me, Arab American Heritage Month makes me feel welcome. It provides me with an opportunity to learn more about the heritage of my own family, and other Arab Americans, and how we all come together to create a new heritage. The month allows us to discuss topics about combining the American culture with those of our ancestors. The month brings value to my own individuality. To me, Arab American Heritage Month is not only a chance for us to learn about our own history and new lineage, but an opportunity to bring awareness to a population that helps make up a great amount of America’s melting pot.
I was born and raised in Irving. After working in education with children, I knew I wanted to combine caring for others with teaching. The field of medicine was brought to me by my aunt, who was a nurse in Jordan. She loved caring for others, and did it throughout her life. I decided to pursue nursing to continue her legacy after she passed away.
I come from Palestinian heritage on both sides of my family. My parents were born in Palestine, and traveled to Kuwait as refugees. My mother stayed in Kuwait throughout high school, and then her family traveled to Jordan, where the majority of them live to this day. My mother graduated in the first-ever class at Hashemite University in Jordan. My father left Kuwait at age 17 and came to America to study. He attended the University of North Texas and completed graduate school in Louisiana. My parents met in Jordan, and now they have raised a new generation in America. My parents passed down to me the traditions and cultural practices they left back home.
One of the most beautiful Palestinian traditions that bring Arab Americans together, regardless of where their ancestors are from, are the henna celebrations that take place before a wedding ceremony. For couples in America, participating in a traditional henna celebration before the wedding, and then having a reception that ties in American culture, allows them to combine both aspects in their special day.
Although the henna celebrations may vary depending on the family’s background -- with different types of clothing, music, and traditions -- all cultures come together to celebrate the couple. My family recently celebrated my brother-in-law and his fiancée with a henna party. They were both born and raised in America, with the groom’s heritage being Palestinian, and the bride’s being half Libyan and half American. Their friends come from many different backgrounds so they had a table that held a flag from every country to celebrate the diversity of the group.
I had a henna celebration prior to my own wedding, and I’ve included pictures of the traditional themes and clothing from that day. We dressed in traditional embroidery dresses called thobes and wore our gold jewelry (each piece resembles a different moment of our lives). We also wore embroidered headpieces decorated with gold coins, and danced to cultural music about our countries back home.
Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit about me and a piece of my story. Please visit the Arab America Foundation’s website for more information about Arab American Heritage Month.