DEARBORN — Over 1,000 Arab American professionals, public officials, candidates, community and business leaders turned out for the inaugural Arab-American Civil Rights League's (ACRL) "Unity and Justice Gala" on Friday, October 12 at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn to celebrate the organization's first successful year in operation. The ceremony honored several key leaders ranging from both local and national branches who have made a contribution to justice and equality not just in the Arab American community, but for the entire country. The event was emceed by Huel Perkins from FOX 2 New's "Let It Rip," and included a noteworthy speech by Keynote Speaker Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN).
|Awardees and ACRL board members pose for a group photo after the ACRL gala, which included a noteworthy speech from Keynore Speaker Congressman Keith Ellison.|
Attorney Nabih Ayad, founder and chairman of the ACRL took the stage to thank both the ACRL board and the community supporters for helping in making the organization’s first year a success. Ayad touched base on the mission statement of the organization during his speech.
"This organization was formed to counter the growing and alarming negative portrayal of Arab Americans across the country and level the playing field. Arab Americans are now more disliked than they were after the terrorists attacks of 9/11. While diversity continues to grow and prosper in the United States, how are Arab Americans becoming more hated than ever? This hate has great consequences... from failure to hire Arab Americans, to failure to promote them, to laws that target Arab Americans. This continued pattern of degrading a class of people must be dealt with head on. The ACRL is here to counter and fight against such bigotry and hate," Ayad told the crowd. He assured Arab Americans that "they are not alone in this fight."
Following Ayad's speech was Executive Director of the ACRL, Rashid Baydoun, who told the crowd that the organization was a perfect fit for him because he had always been a passionate activist in the community, and the ACRL serves as a great platform to channel that energy. During his speech he discussed some unfair practices the government has been enforcing since the aftermath of 9/11, citing examples of racial profiling, selective law enforcement and lack of due process, telling the crowd that the ACRL will continue to take urgent action.
|Daisy Elliot (C) listens to her daughter speaking with Rehab Amer after she received her "Pursuit of Justice Award" from the ACRL on Friday, October 12.. PHOTO: Nafeh AbuNab|
The gala also honored several leaders with awards for their outstanding contributions in the community. A "Courage and Public Service Leadership Award" was presented to Mayor Abdul (Al) Hairdos from the city of Wayne by Dr. Samuel Fawna, a member of the ACRL board as well as the president of the Arab Doctor's Association of America. After immigrating to the United States in the 1970's, Haidous had opened up a business in the city of Wayne and became involved in a variety of organizations and committees with the city. Mayor Haidous became the first Arab American to be elected as mayor, and has become the first mayor to be elected and re-elected by popular vote, after the city stopped appointing their mayor’s through City Council.
Attorney Mona Fadlallah, another member on the ACRL board, introduced the "Pursuit of Justice Award," which was presented by Rehab and Ahmad Amer to Daisy Elliott a former Democratic State Rep. and Melvin Larsen a former Republican State Rep., co-authors of Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act 453, that was passed into law in 1976. An Act that defined civil rights, and it represented a milestone achievements in protecting civil rights and fighting discrimination in Michigan. It touched upon fair housing, age, sex, religion, race, color, national origin, height, weight, familial status, or marital status discriminations.
|From Left: U.S. Representative John Conyers, ACRL Executive Director Rashid Baydoun, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison and ACRL Founder and Chairman attorney Nabih Ayad. PHOTOS: Nafeh AbuNab|
Rehab Amer's story dates back to the 1980's when she was acquitted after it was found that her son, who was two years old at the time, had a brittle bone disease that investigators had missed. He died from injuries sustained from a fall in the bathtub at age two.
|Above: FOX 2 News Anchor Huel Perkins, the emcee of the ceremony, welcomes a crowd of over 1,000 to ACRL’s gala.|
"Since that time, there has been an organized industry that is well funded. They are the ones that have driven up these hateful numbers in terms of how people feel about Arabs and how people feel about Islam and the Middle East...it has made Arab Americans in this society the one group who people feel quite comfortable saying horrible and nasty things about. If you say something bad about any group in this country, they will jump on top of you. But if you say something nasty about Arabs or Muslims, it's just the typical news at 11. This organization that you have all pulled together will change that," Ellison stated.
Also present at the event was U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressman John Conyers, Congressman John Dingell, State Representative Rashida Tlaib, State Representative Phil Cavanagh, Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly, Michigan Supreme Court candidates Shelia Johnson, Connie Kelley and Bridget McCormack and several local judges as well as county and state officials. After the event Executive Director Rashid Baydoun took the time to thank the community for helping in making the organization's first gala a memorable occasion.
"The Unity and Justice Gala was a superb achievement and is a testament of what the ACRL stands for. We salute all our awardees and graciously thank all our sponsors and supporters," Baydoun stated.
Meanwhile the organization recently re-located into a new office located at 4917 Schaefer Road, Suite 209 in Dearborn. For questions or concerns, you can contact the ACRL at 313.633.0231.