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Erik Friedl filming in San Joaquin Valley, California.

   About The Project

Voices from the Heartland: Young Yemeni Americans Speak was made possible by an American Institute for Yemeni Studies fellowship awarded to Jonathan Friedlander who spearheaded the project from inception to fruition. Friedlander is a historian of the Middle East, author (including Sojourners and Settlers: The Yemeni Immigrant Experience), photographer, and former assistant director of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies. Currently, he is affiliated with the Department of Special Collections at the university’s Young Research Library where he is amassing archives about Middle Eastern Americans and Middle Eastern Americana—the focus of his research and writings.

The project features the contributions of filmmaker Erik Friedl who videographed and edited the interviews with the Yemeni American youths and provided the visual context of the workplace where the interviews were conducted. Friedl is a producer whose documentaries and educational films have won over 30 major festival prizes, including the prestigious Genesis Award.

Mark Elinson, a seasoned educator and veteran classroom teacher, crafted the lesson plans associated with each of the eight video segments, as well as the instructions to the teachers and students. Elinson helped develop the curriculum at the James Monroe High School Law and Government Magnet. He authored some 80 service learning projects posted on the Los Angeles Unified School District website and a curriculum about Middle Eastern Americans posted on the Middle Eastern American Resources Online (MEARO) website.

The section About Interviews and Oral Histories was written by Susan Philips and modified by Elinson. Jonathan Friedlander authored the sections on Yemen, Yemeni Americans, the Yemenis of the San Joaquin Valley, California, and the Yemeni Americans Youths. With the exception of the images by Audie Abdullah in the section About the Republic of Yemen, all photographs were shot by Jonathan Friedlander.

Multimedia and web designer Rahul Bhushan fashioned the text and visuals into an attractive Internet resource accessible to educators and the public at large. Rahul has worked on numerous far-reaching projects at UCLA aimed at harnessing new media for educators and students. On the home page of the site, he employed the symbol of a tree against the backdrop of the flags of the Republic of Yemen (black, white, and red) and of the United States of America, to express the vitality of the Yemeni community in California, and to illustrate the relationship between their dual identities as Americans and Yemenis.

The project is most grateful to Irma Abdullah and Audie Abdullah for their invaluable assistance in the making of this curriculum module. Likewise, the project thanks the American Institute for Yemeni Studies and its Executive Director, Dr. Maria deJ. Ellis, for their kind support, and Professors Thomas B. Stevenson and Lealan Swanson for their advice and encouragement over the years.

Special thanks go to Professor Mehdi Bozorgmehr and Dr. Anny Bakalian from the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center at the City University of New York-Graduate Center for their commitment and dedication to fortifying and advancing the study of Middle Eastern Americans.

Foremost, we are indebted to Abraham, Ali, Hadram, Kais, Mohamed, Rakan, and Saleh. Their friendship, collegiality, and trust speak forcefully and kindly.  

This project was made possible by a grant from the American Institute for Yemeni Studies funded by the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State

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