DEARBORN — The spirit of civil rights legend Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive and well at Byblos Banquets on Friday, Feb. 11, as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee-Michigan hosted its 12th Annual Scholarship Awards Reception on a night that was special in more ways than one.
Abdallah H. Hachem (left) receives his Ambassador of Goodwill Award from Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly.
“It is a great pleasure for me to be here this evening on such a wonderful occasion to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, I am sure he is smiling down on our world as the people have used their voices to make a difference today in Egypt,” said Diana Lewis, the long-time WXYZ-TV news anchor and event emcee.
“History was made just as Dr. King had done as people stood up courageously against oppression...what a day, I am truly touched.”
Nadia Hamdan receives her award for Educator of the Year from Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko.
Mid America Export business owner Abdallah H. Hachem was given the Ambassador of Goodwill Award for his generous contributions to the ADC-MI.
“Thanks to ADC, I am accepting this award at a special time in honor of the memory of Dr. King, and we are also witnessing a freedom movement with the people of Egypt, let us salute the people for their victory...I would also like to congratulate the student winners for their success as they are our future, as well as Ms. (Nadia) Hamdan.”
Hamdan was given the Educator of the Year Award for her work with the highly-praised and multiple state and national award-winning Hamadeh Educational Services group of Dearborn Heights. She has served in various roles including as an Arabic teacher and instructional technician.
“I am truly humbled to be given such an honor, I believe teaching is a profession of patience, unity, honor, sacrifice, and responsibility,” she said.
Abdallah and Hamdan were presented their awards by mayors Jack O'Reilly of Dearborn and Dan Paletko of Dearborn Heights, respectively, who both offered their support for the people of Egypt, as did recently-named ADC Advisory Board Chairman Shereef Akeel, an Egyptian American.
U.S. Congressman and Dean of the House John Dingell pledged his support as well.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been proud of the events in Egypt...in a world that is so full of troubles, it gives us all the happiest joy and inspiration, and we are all proud of this event as Americans.”
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow also spoke earlier, offering her support for Egypt in a short speech.
The keynote speech was delivered by U.S. Dept. of Education Office for Civil Rights Deputy Asst. Secretary for Policy Sunil Mansukhani, who highlighted the importance of keeping schools free of discrimination.
“Simply put, we cannot allow it to get in the way of quality education, the work we do at the office (in Cleveland covering Michigan cases) is also inspired by Dr. King's commitment to civil rights for all."
First-place MLK, Jr. essay contest winner Aseel Abulhab (at podium) of Troy's Athens High School reads her winning entry as she is flanked by fellow ADC-MI scholarship winners at Byblos Banquets on Friday, Feb. 11. PHOTOS: Nafeh AbuNab/American Elite Studios
“Congratulations to Egypt but don't forget we want it to spread all over, wherever freedom, democracy and liberty are needed, it's universal whether it's in the rest of the Middle East and Palestine or anywhere else; justice counts, nothing but justice.”
Hamad received an award of recognition from Paletko as well after his speech. He spoke after the event about the gravity of the evening.
“It was gratifying to see this diverse audience of media, government officials and other representatives and the public at-large standing united saluting the pro-democracy movement in Egypt,” he said.
“This event combined three important spirits, the spirit of Dr. King, the Egyptians, and the month of February which is black history month so it was a plus-plus-plus and the crowd was loud, full of joy, and very optimistic and energetic.”
Hamad thanked the patrons for their support of ADC-MI as it continues its mission to protect civil and human rights. He also said that ADC-MI's state-of-the-art American-Arab Center for Civil and Human Rights in Dearborn, which has yet to be finished, is still well short of its needed funding and that a decision will have to be made soon on whether or not to continue construction, although he remains committed to seeing the project through because of its importance.
As the event drew to a close, the students took center stage as they walked up one-by-one to receive their awards to thunderous rounds of applause from the audience.
After a spirited performance by the Detroit Cass Tech High School marching band's dancers, first-place winner Aseel Abulhab of Troy's Athens High School read her winning essay flanked by fellow winners and dignitaries, stirring emotions as a silent and attentive crowd listened to her essay.
“Racism stems from ignorance...discrimination comes from deep within the hearts of those too unwilling or afraid to know the truth...it thrives because nothing threatened to break it until Dr. Martin Luther King took it upon himself to challenge the prejudice that had become the norm,” she said before painting scenes of discrimination faced by Arab Americans with her words and describing how they can draw hope from the :”timeless will” exhibited by King.
New ADC Detroit Chapter Interim Acting President Zouheir Alawieh said after the event that the organization is planning to restructure in 2011, but it looks forward to the challenge despite continued economic harships in southeast Michigan and the United States.
“ADC is an organization which will be able to survive because the people are not looking for money or other positions, they are there to help their communities and determined to overcome our difficulties.”
Those who wish to donate to the center or to support the continued work of ADC-MI may visit www.adcmichigan.org or call 313. 581.1201.