Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Michigan Coalition for Human Rights Honors Arab American Newspaper at Annual Dinner in Detroit

The Arab American News

Human rights group honors newspaper

By Nick Meyer
Saturday, 04.25.2009, 01:28am

DETROIT — The Arab American News received the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights' Media Award at the group's 28th anniversary banquet on April 19.

The dinner's keynote speaker was California 35th Congressional District Representative Maxine Waters. Waters was one of five representatives who voted against a January 9th House resolution that essentially placed the blame for Israel's recent attacks against Palestine on the Palestinian side despite massive condemnations of the attacks by international human rights groups. While 390 representatives voted yes, 22 others voted present.

The Arab American News Publisher Osama Siblani accepted the award on behalf of the paper and used the spotlight to highlight the importance of protecting Palestine to the gathered crowd.

He thanked Waters for her vote but then focused on those who voted yes on the measure.

"Three hundred and ninety voted in support of Israel, shame on Congress. Shame!" Siblani said. "As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"

Waters also decried the Palestine attacks, calling the situation one of the worst human rights atrocities she's seen. Waters talked about the importance of alternative media in covering such issues.

"I've given up on the corporate media," she said. "We have to read papers like The Arab American News because the Arab community is fighting against a lot of ignorance right now.

"Today, it's up to people to learn on their own."

Waters touched on human rights issues across the world from Haiti to Africa and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which she denounced.

Another main focus of her speech was the current housing and credit crisis. She said that many lenders falsified income on documents that led to bad loans and said that the mass foreclosures couldn't possibly be a coincidence.

"We've got to find a way to keep people in their homes," she said. "This was all thought out on Wall Street with the predator loans to begin with."

Waters said that the banks that were given bailout money used much of it to buy up smaller banks and ended up increasing interest rates as well, which is the opposite of what they said they would do. She said the situation was urgent.

The MCHA's Youth Award went to 22-year-old Lydia Wylie-Kellerman, who just returned to live in Detroit after spending time in Washington, D.C. with Witness Against Torture on the 100 Days Campaign to Shut Down Guantanamo and End Torture.

Wylie-Kellerman, a former valedictorian at Loyola University, Chicago, talked about what she saw on a recent trip to Palestine.

"I'm grateful for the children of Palestine, who dance on roadblocks and paint murals of peace on walls. Any work I've done is not an ounce of what they've done.

"They are the youth that should be honored tonight."

Osama Siblani speaks at the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights' 28th anniversary banquet April 19. PHOTO: Nick Meyer

Wylie-Kellerman now plans to undertake green initiatives to feed citizens and beautify Detroit.

Dr. Carlyle Stewart III received the Congregational Award for Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, which plans to hold a presentation on Palestine's issues and has helped feed and house the homeless through the South Oakland Shelter.

Ron Scott, a spokesperson for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, won the Community Service Award.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dorothy Dewberry Aldridge, who organized tours for Detroit youth to visit civil rights sites of importance in the south and is one of the longest-standing MCHR members.

The Humanitarian Award went to Elena Herrada, who was one of the founders of El Centro Obrero, which aids Latino workers in Southwest Detroit.

MCHR Board Chairman Abayomi Azikiwe talked about the importance of minority communities working together in metro Detroit.

"Even in New York we don't have large, self-contained minority communities like we do here," he said. "Unity is essential between the Latino, African American and Middle Eastern communities in order to forge peaceful and socially stable communities."

Azikiwe also congratulated The Arab American News on receiving the Media Award.

"We applaud the work of The Arab American News. The award was well-deserved. They are providing an excellent service that is lacking in the major corporate media and they are an essential source of information."

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