Posted by Tess Waggoner on April 05, 2019 in Blog
Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards
Thursday, May 2, 2019
2500 Calvert St. NW | Washington, D.C.
5:30 Reception | 6:30 Gala
The Arab American Institute Foundation is proud to present its twenty-first annual Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. This year’s recipients – Eugene "Gus" Newport, RAICES, Lyse Doucet, Miriam Zayed and Emel Mathlouthi– join a growing list of distinguished organizations, institutions, corporations, and individuals whose work, commitment, and support make a difference in promoting coexistence and inclusion in all walks of life.
Recipients of 2019 Kahlil Gibran "Spirit of Humanity" Awards
From its early days in the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s to its role today as the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas, RAICES has consistently fought to serve humanity while also representing the ideal of what America should be - a beacon of hope. RAICES’ leadership and vision drives them to pursue justice, fairness, and safety for the most vulnerable among us - refugees, migrants, immigrants, and asylum seekers. With a unique model that combines daily immigration practice with a commitment to advocacy, RAICES is stepping in where others cannot and making a real difference for thousands of families. Amid a surge of anti-immigrant sentiment, their work doesn’t just continue, it is expanding tremendously. In 2017, RAICES staff closed 51,000 cases at no cost to their clients. Their offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio are on the frontlines, leading the way with stepped up services and outreach in the heated debate over immigration and the crisis of forcible family separation. A diverse staff of 130 attorneys, legal assistants, and support staff provide consultations, direct legal services, representation, assistance, and advocacy to communities in Texas and to clients after they leave the state. Their commitment to change is driven by the clients and families they serve in an immigration system that too often breaks apart families and leaves millions without pathways to legal status.
Over a nearly 30-year career, BBC Chief International Correspondent and Senior Presenter Lyse Doucet has conducted compassionate and humanizing reporting on the Middle East, including Yemen, Syria, and Palestine. With posted assignments in Jerusalem, Amman, Tehran, Islamabad, Kabul, and Abidjan, her commitment to sharing the human story sets her apart. As she has beautifully stated, “In order to cover these stories as we should, and to make our audiences care, we have to cover them in a human way. Because that’s what they are in the end, they’re also human stories…. Sometimes in situations of the greatest inhumanity, you find a very profound humanity as well.” For her work, Ms. Doucet has been recognized with honorary doctorates, an Edward R. Murrow Award for her reports from Tunisia, and a Peabody and David Bloom Award for her documentary work in Afghanistan. She was named Radio News Journalist of the Year at the Sony Radio Academy Awards in the UK, awarded the Silver Sony Award for News Broadcaster of the Year, and named International Television Personality of the Year from the Association for International Broadcasting. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), and is a member of the Order of Canada. With a compassion emulating that of Anthony Shadid, Ms. Doucet raises the bar for reporting on the region, making visible human experiences which are too often ignored or distorted.
The Honorable Eugene “Gus” Newport has spent a lifetime building community and pursuing social justice. During two terms as Mayor of Berkeley, CA (1979-1986), Mr. Newport served on multiple United Nation committees, including the Committee against Apartheid and the Committee on The Question of Palestine. During his tenure he believed it was his “responsibility as an elected official to use any forum to speak out for world peace. Without a guarantee of peace, the rest of our social programs are useless.” During the 1960s, he chaired the Monroe County Non-Partisan Political League, the largest civil rights organization in Rochester, NY, which fought against police brutality, workplace discrimination, and to safeguard voting rights. Through Mr. Newport’s leadership role in the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston, MA, the only non-profit organization in the country to receive the powers of eminent domain, local residents were empowered to buy affordable homes. Following Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Newport was part of the five-person advisory body overseeing New Orleans’ rebuilding plans, and led many initiatives to bring aid to the city. He served as consultant to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation where he aided community planning, organizing, and policy development in the recovery work throughout the Mississippi Delta after Katrina. From his early days as a civil rights activist, to his current service on the Board of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Mr. Newport has been a leading peacemaker in the national and global community, working to uplift the neglected.
The late Miriam Zayed was a prominent educator and activist who worked to build bridges while always pushing for the community’s collective advancement. She had a gift for bringing people together and used it selflessly to create lasting change. Ms. Zayed shared herself with a broad range of professional, cultural, and political organizations and associations, including the Arab American Democratic Club and the Beitunia Club. She was often recognized for her tireless work to help build the region’s first mosque, in Bridgeview, IL. Because Ms. Zayed always wanted to be of service, she ran for school board in the 1990s, overcoming local barriers, and went on to serve on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Humanities Council. As an active member and contributor to the Arab American Institute’s work, she served on the National Policy Council, the Arab American Leadership Council, and was a driving force behind the 1996 Chicago Host Committee for the “Arab American Tribute to the Democratic National Convention." Her regular presence at national community convenings helped to develop the next generation of Arab American leadership. Ms. Zayed’s drive, commitment, and love of community extended to her final days, when she secured confirmation from the Illinois House Speaker that new legislation would officially designate April as Arab American Heritage Month. Through her tireless efforts in support of her family, friends, community and service, she set an example that truly reflected the best of humanity.
Since childhood Emel Mathlouthi has been creating and performing music that defies convention. Her extraordinary musical creations embody the values of peace, justice, and a commitment to uplifting others. Having worked in several genres, including pop, and heavy metal, she’s also been inspired by influences including Joan Baez and Bjork. It is this eclectic mix of influences and her passion for communicating the human condition which first brought international acclaim for this Tunisian artist. In 2006, Ms. Mathlouthi was a finalist in the Prix RMC Moyen-Orient Musique competition. In 2008, when her songs were banned from radio and television in her homeland, her Tunisian fans continued to share recordings of her live performances. Following the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, Ms. Mathlouthi dedicated an Arabic rendition of Baez’s "Here's To You" to him. Footage of her performing “Kelmti Horra” (My Word is Free) on the streets amid the 2011 revolution circulated across the globe. She performed the song at the Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony and concert in Oslo in 2015, when the prize was given to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. Ms. Mathlouthi has performed at major music festivals and given concerts across the globe, including in Canada, the UK and across Europe, the Tunisia’s Carthage Festival, the Beitaddine Festival in Lebanon, the SummerStage festival in Central Park, New York City and in groundbreaking concerts in Egypt and Iraq. Her latest album, “Ensen” (Human), features the single “Ensen Dhaif” (Human, Helpless Human) which was named as "best new track" by Pitchfork in February 2016. The song is dedicated to the “people that have to carry the weight and all the struggles so that a very small percentage can enjoy the power.”