The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Michigan (ADC-MI) hosted their 11th Annual "Judges Night: Guardians of Justice Awards Reception" at Byblos Banquet Hall, where hundreds of guests turned out for a ceremony that honored two local judges who have strived for equality and justice during a time when both the Arab and Muslim communities have been placed under a microscope by extremists who continue to spread hate speech to the masses.
Attendees included a large number of local and federal judges, the Consulate of Lebanon, the Consulate of Mexico, the Consulate of Japan, the Consulate of Canada, representatives for Senators Levin and Stabenow, Congressman John Conyers, Jr., representatives from Congressman John Dingell's office, US Attorney Barbara MacQuade, CBP Explorer Youth, Dearborn Police Department Explorer, Wayne County Sheriff Department, law-enforcement agencies and other community leaders.
The event included welcoming remarks from Attorney Shereef Akeel, who serves as ADC's Advisory Board Chairman, Honorable Judge Kathleen McCarthy, who serves as the Committee Chair of the "Judges Night" event and Attorney Abed Ayoub, ADC's National Legal Director. Keynote Speaker and honorable guest from New York City, Dr. Debbie S. Almontaser took the stage to share both her positive and negative experience of being a Muslim public figure in New York City.
Dr. Almontaser, who is the founding and former Principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, shared her experience of how she was forced to resign as the school principal by both the Department of Education and the Mayor of the city of New York after controversy arose regarding a T-shirt that was worn by Muslim woman created by a group that she was affiliated with. The T-shirts read "Intifada NYC," which the New York Post interpreted as a call for an uprising in NYC. Dr. Almontaser had defended the message on the shirts, claiming it represented women "shaking off repression." At the dinner, Dr. Almontaser told the crowd that despite the challenges she faced, she never blamed anyone but those individuals who were responsible for misquoting her message.
"I cherish and hold close to my heart the freedom of speech and expression. And at the same time hold dear our moral obligation to find ways to project our voices over those who use their freedom of speech to fan the flames of hate that lead to more hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims and those perceived to be," Dr. Almontaser stated.
After Dr. Almontaser's speech, the recipients of the night were finally honored. The first honoree, Judge Nancy G. Edmunds from the United States District Court, took the stage to accept her award. Judge Edmunds was appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan bench by President George Bush in 1992. Currently, she serves on the executive board of the Committee of Visitors of Wayne Law School.
The second honoree of the night was Judge Denise L. Morris from the Oakland County Circuit Court, which was presented by Attorney Helal Farhat. Judge Morris began her run in Oakland County in 1992 where she became their first African-American judge, and eventually became the longest serving female on the bench. In 2012 Judge Morris held a panel for the Oakland Country Employment Diversity Council's 10th Annual Diversity Forum.
"I want say there is nothing more special than to be honored by a group that I admire. I want to encourage the ADC to continue with their work, the leadership has been remarkable, as you can tell from the support they have received this evening... I just want the ADC to know that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And as judges we can't always be perfect, but just know that we are trying," Judge Morris stated.
Also honored at the event was Attorney Mariam Bazzi, who serves as the Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor as well as president of the Arab American Political Action Committee (AAPAC). During her acceptance speech, Bazzi explained why she feels AAPAC is important to the community.
"Being an affective advocate comes so easily when you advocate something you believe in or are passionate about. That's how i feel about being a prosecuting attorney, as well as being a member of AAPAC... I believe voting is the most important civic duty you can do, not just as an American but as a human being. We have seen through the history of time how people have died for the privilege of voting. The biggest reason why i do what i do is because i want my children to grow up in a world better than it is today. Every decision that we make will affect our children," Mariam Bazzi stated.
After the event ADC Regional Director Imad Hamad discussed the selection process of ADC's annual "Judges Night," stating that the recipients were selected after an open nomination process that was spearheaded by Judge Kathleen McCarthy, who is head of the annual event's sub-committee. Along with 50 members on the ADC Michigan Advisory Board, the nominees are assessed and evaluated until the two best candidates are selected.
Additionally Imad Hamad stated that the organization is ready to move forward, preparing for the upcoming annual ADC Benefit Gala later this year.
"We all face challenges as a community, however we are very determined to move forward and very confident that we are moving forward, regardless of the challenges. We definitely need more resources to do a better job, but within the circumstances and the resources that we have, I think we owe it to our volunteers and hidden soldiers, and to our donors and supporters, and anyone who has been a part of this great cause fighting for civil rights in America," Hamad added.