DEARBORN — Martin Luther King Jr. Day might have been commemorated across the country last month, but the civil rights leaders influence was more than alive last Friday, February 10 at the Byblos Banquet Hall in Dearborn, where the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee held its 13th annual Scholarship Awards Reception honoring the legacy of the man who is believed to be one of the most influential figures in American history.
First place essay winner Claudia Bazzi
PHOTO: Nafeh AbuNab
The reception, which was co-hosted by the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, an organization that was founded by Detroit civil rights activist Rosa Parks, was packed with over 570 guests filled with both community leaders and students who had brought along their families to witness them receive honorable scholarships.
Among those in attendance was the Mistress of Ceremony, Andrea Isom, an anchor on Fox 2 News and Mayor Jack O’Reilly of Dearborn, who gave welcoming remarks at the top of the ceremony. Also in attendance were Congressman John Dingell, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, and representatives from the offices of Senator Carl Levin and Congresman John Conyers.
But one co-sponsor of the event that left a lasting impact was the General Motors Company, who received an award titled “Excellence in Global Diversity.” There to accept the award amongst other GM representatives was Eric Peterson, Vice President of Corporate Diversity.
“We cannot allow Dr. King’s legacy to die,” said Peterson in his acceptance speech. “We have got to develop educational programs so that the younger generation will understand what his message was and the importance of it. That’s why I’m so pleased with the high schools and winners that are here,” he added.
Peterson was of course referring to the highlight of the reception that takes place every year, where 25 selected students are chosen to be given a scholarship awards after submitting a letter describing the meaning of MLK to them. The scholarships are open to Any high school seniors who are of Arab or Chaldean descent. After the submissions, a selective committee spearheaded by the ADC then narrows down the dozens of applicants to 25. While all 25 are invited and given scholarships, the fifth, fourth, third, second and first place winners are predetermined beforehand.
The school with the most recipients was Fordson High school, which occupied 7 out of the 25 spot, including this year’s 1st place winner, Claudia Bazzi, who was able to share her winning speech on the podium in front of all those in attendance, including her proud parents.
“I learned that I possess the power to not only change myself, but those around me, and even the world,” Bazzi’s speech stated in regards to how Martin Luther King inspired her. Her speech was followed by a cheerful standing ovation.
While the ADC-Michigan has been a practicing grassroots civil rights organization since 1997 and has annually held a benefit gala in December of each calendar year, the idea of an MLK event came in 1999 with the goal to unite two of Metro Detroit’s largest communities.
“This Initiative not only honors our nation’s greatest civil rights leader, but also carries his message to the Arab American and Chaldean American communities in the region, who face many of the same challenges that African Americans have endured,” read a statement on the itinerary.
Another highlight of the evening was when State Representative Fred Durhal presented a special recognition award to ADC-Michigan.
“On behalf of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, and on behalf of my colleagues, including 110 members of the House of Representatives and 38 members of the senate, we extend our congratulations for the good work you are doing,” Durhal stated before handing over an award given to the ADC by the Michigan Government.
Durhal had also acknowledged the lasting impact that both Dr. King and Parks had on his life while growing up in Detroit.
“Rosa Parks was a friend of mine. Having been able as an African American to talk to her and listen to her and mold myself in her footsteps…that made me who I am today,” Dural stated. “I remember when Dr. King had come to Detroit when I was just a little boy and marching down on Woodward Avenue. I had not the slightest Idea that Dr. King was going to become the Dr. King that he’s known as today.”
Other honors given out during the night went to Youssef (Joe) Bazzi, owner of Byblos Banquet Hall and Mr. Zouheir Alawieh, president of the ADC Greater Detroit Chapter, who were given an American flag each that was flown at our nation’s capital on their honor by the request of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. A congressional proclamation by Congressman John Conyers was presented to Mr. Bazzi as well.
For more information on the ADC-MI, visit www.admichigan.org. or call 313.581.1201.