The Black Institute (TBI) celebrated their 7th Annual Justice for All Ball on Thursday by honoring, amongst others, Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, the subject of a rally which turned violent earlier that day.
The violence erupted between protesters and supporters of Sarsour’s upcoming June 1 commencement speech at City University of New York’s (CUNY) School of Public Health. The Palestinian-American activist born in Brooklyn, and co-organizer of the National Women’s March on Washington has come under scrutiny over her denouncement of Zionism and association with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Accused of being anti-Semitic, Sarsour has been defended by a number of Jewish supporters in and outside of the political realm. She also has a number of Jewish detractors in and outside of the political realm.
“I’m in a friendly territory, these are all of my allies,” Sarsour told KCP before the ceremony. “These are people I’ve been doing civil rights with in New York for almost two decades. It’s good to be amongst friends.”
TBI Founder and President Bertha Lewis kicked off the event held in the penthouse of Decko Towers, 330 W. 42nd St. in Manhattan, by addressing the crowd before she introduced the talk show host, Dominic Carter of WABC radio, as the evening’s emcee.
“You know it’s easy to be and roll with someone when there’s no controversy,” said Lewis, a veteran social activist who founded TBI as a not-for-profit think tank to address the ongoing issues plaguing the African-American community. “I decided this was the time to honor fierce women.”
Along with Sarsour, Tamika D. Mallory, co-chair of the National Women’s March on Washington and advocate of the civil rights movement, also accepted TBI’s Knowledge & Community award. “We know the Women’s March while it was truly incredible, it was not the beginning for us, nor will it be the end,” said Mallory. “We have some serious work that we must do.”
Mallory renounced the rally protesting Sarsour’s upcoming commencement speech. “Today there was a big stupid rally with some racists, Islamophobic people against my sister. What I am asking is not for them to stop, but for us to turn up and help (inaudible) express ourselves,” she said. “To stand for her (Sarsour] is to stand for me.”
Shortly after, Sarsour took to the podium to accept her award thanking TBI for the “Knowledge and Community” award and declaring her commitment of activism. “As your Palestinian-Muslim-American sister, I will stay committed. I will not be silenced. I will not be intimidated and I will continue to speak truth to power knowing the consequences,” said Sarsour.
The Rev. Leah D. Daughtry was awarded TBI’s “Leadership” award recognizing Daughtry’s ongoing commitment to faith and politics. Daughtry has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the 2008 and 2016 DNC Committee is Pastor of The House of Lord Church in Washington D.C., and currently serves as jurisdictional Elder of the denomination’s Southeast region.
“Tonight was wonderful celebration of women who are activists, who are leaders, who are helping to move our community forward and I’m honored to be part of it,” Daughtry told KCP.
Also in attendance was her father, the Rev. Dr. Herbert D. Daughtry who is most popular for his role in Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign and his House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.
New York City Public Advocate, Letitia James participated as a special presenter. “The best way that we can honor Linda is by saying to Linda, As-salāmu alaykum,” said James.
“As the nation copes with the corrosive and divisive policy coming out of Washington, Joy’s MSNBC show AM Joy is a welcome port in the storm,” added James as she introduced the recipient of the evening’s “Person of the Year” award to television journalist Joy-Ann Reid.
“It’s not everyday that you get an award handed to you by the mayor,” joked Reid. The MSNBC commentator acknowledged the efforts of Mallory and Sarsour and compared their endeavors to that of Ida B. Wells.
“My job is to tell stories, that is all that I do. It’s people like Tamika and Linda who provide the content,” said Reid. “Journalists are not heroic. All we are are bystanders who watch what’s happening –– We tell the stories of heroes.”