By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) Oklahoma will host its 12th Annual Awards Banquet on Saturday, April 7, at the Sheraton – Reed Conference Center, 5750 Will Rogers Rd., in Midwest City.
The theme of this year’s banquet is “Coming Full Circle: Embracing the Past and Empowering the Future”. Registration will begin at 6 p.m. Followed by the dinner and program from 7 – 10 p.m.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director and Chaplain (Imam) for the Islamic Center at New York University (NYU).
Imam Latif was appointed the first Muslim chaplain at NYU in 2005 where he initiated his vision for a pluralistic American Muslim community. Latif was later appointed the first Muslim chaplain at Princeton University.
In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg nominated Latif, then only 24, to become the youngest chaplain in history of the New York City Police Department. He is recognized as a spokesperson for co-existence, mutual understanding and productive relationships between cultures, communities and religions.
“This awards banquet is a time for us to come together as a community and honor the work of our past, while at the same time looking forward to the future of our organization,” said CAIR-OK Executive Director Adam Soltani.
“In a time of unprecedented Islamophobia, it is increasingly important for the Muslim community to have pride in its accomplishments and to share in celebrations together.”
Additional presenters include motivational speaker Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of CAIR-Florida, and comedian Jeremy McLellan.
Shibly, the son of Syrian immigrants, graduated Magna Cum Laude from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a degree in Political Science concentrating on International Relations. Hassan later graduated in the top of his class from the University at Buffalo Law School, where he served as a Public Interest Law Fellow and on the Human Rights Advisory Committee. He was admitted to practice in Florida’s federal courts in 2012.
Hassan’s media outreach to protect civil liberties and promote understanding of the Muslim faith includes CNN, NPR, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Toronto Star and the Buffalo News. He is the founder of the Center for American Muslim Understanding where he promotes a peaceful and tolerant image of Islam.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, comedian Jeremy McLellan was recently honored as a “New Face of Comedy” at the prestigious Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. He won the 2015 and 2016 Charleston Standup Comedy Competition and was named Best Local Comic in the Charleston City Paper.
A devout Christian and advocate for social justice, McLellan recently completed sold-out tours in the United States, UK, and Pakistan.
The evening’s Master of Ceremonies will be Rev. Lori Walke, Associate Minister at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. Walke earned her Masters of Divinity from Philips Theological Seminary and was ordained in the United Church of Christ in 2012. She is a member of the UCC’s Next Generation Leadership Initiative, a 20-year focus on energizing and sustaining younger, emerging UCC local church pastors.
Established in 2006, CAIR-OK is a chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.
According to CAIR-OK leadership, its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
General admission tickets are $50 and student tickets are $20. Sponsorships begin at $500 for a table for eight. Childcare for ages 2 – 12 is available for $15 per child.
Banquet reservations are available online, or by contacting Natasha Saya at 405-887-8354.