DEARBORN — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Greater Detroit Chapter celebrated exemplary mothers in the Arab American community during its Second Annual Mother’s Day Brunch on Sunday, May 4, 2008, at the Bint Jebail Cultural Center here.
The event hosted approximately 200 guests from different age groups and backgrounds, who had gathered to honor all mothers who serve as role models for their children and others around them.
ADC Greater Detroit Chapter Board President, Mona Fadlallah, began the program by welcoming the audience who had gathered to celebrate the occasion.
“We are pleased to host the 2nd Annual Mother’s Day Brunch, honoring mothers who have not only contributed to their own families, but for their active contributions to the communities,” stated Fadlallah.
The award for “Outstanding Mother of the Year” was presented to Rehab Amer, for her perseverance in the face of unspeakable circumstances. In November of 1986, Amer was blamed for the death of her young child, Samier, after he suffered a fall in the bathtub. It was later found that he had suffered from brittle bone disease, which explained why he died upon impact. Although she was later acquitted of all charges, Amer’s children were unjustly taken from her and placed in a home where they were renamed and brought up in a different religious tradition. Amer and her husband, Ahmed, spent the next 20 years fighting an unjust foster system and trying to reconnect with their estranged children.
Fadlallah said that Amer’s strength and courage through adversity is truly commendable.
“Today, we are honoring a survivor of devastation and heartbreak, a courageous, kind, and loving mother who remarkably challenged injustice for over twenty years not only for the sake of her children, but for children everywhere,” said Fadlallah. “Rehab Amer, among other things, truly epitomizes endurance and strength. She has been a dedicated mother and active volunteer within the community, amidst all the turmoil in her life.”
Amer accepted the award from Fadlallah and M. Kay Siblani, executive editor of The Arab American News and last year’s recipient of the “Outstanding Mother of the Year” award. Amer spoke about the seemingly endless struggles she faced during the 20 years following the death of her son. She expressed her gratitude to those who have stood by her and her husband through the most dire circumstances.
“I thank God for sending me so many people who have supported me over the years, and for ADC, who gave my family the opportunity to stand up and fight against injustice,” Amer stated.
Amer went on to say that she had hoped being honored at the event would show her children that what happened to her was an injustice to not only their family, but to an entire community. She said that she emailed her oldest son, Mohamed Ali, immediately after hearing about the award. She read to the audience her son’s response, in which he expressed his great pride for the award she was receiving.
“When I heard that I would be honored here today, I thought that maybe this award will bring my children closer to me,” she continued. “When I received the email from my son, I was surprised and very grateful. Thank you, ADC, for connecting me with my son.”
Amer was joined by the friends and family who have stood by her through the years, including her husband and her youngest son, Hussein. Hussein spoke to the audience about his mother’s courage, which has always served as a source of inspiration in his life.
“My mother is one of the hardest workers I know, and I think many would agree with me,” he stated. “She has been there for me, my father, and the whole community, and is a second mother to many of my friends and family members. With the combination of my mother and father, a lot of justice has been served and I believe the whole community is grateful to have such great role models.”
Amer was praised for her community involvement and her ongoing efforts to protect others from enduring the struggles her family has faced. Amer and her family have spent over two years working on House Bill 6251, otherwise known as “The Amer Act,” a bill sponsored by State Representative Gino Polidori, which amends Michigan’s foster care laws to provide preference for children entering the foster care system to be placed with relatives whenever possible.
“No parent should go through what we have gone through, and every child has the right to know their mother,” Amer said. “I owe it to my children to make sure that no one else cries our cries ever again. If I can prevent even one family from going through what we went through, then I will know that my suffering has not been in vain.”
The Act has passed in the Michigan House of Representatives, and is currently up for vote in the Senate.
The brunch also featured remarks from Siham Awada-Jaafar, ADC Advisory Board Member and co-founder of Arab American Women Advocating for Resources and Empowerment (AWARE), who spoke about how important mothers are to society as a whole. The event concluded with a raffle drawing featuring prizes donated by local businesses.