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The Democrat Woodland CA – May 21, 2007

Civic diversity celebrated at Latino Community dinner
AMV National President Khalid Saeed recognized

By JIM SMITH

Human differences, whether they be due to race, skin color or belief, could easily be resolved if we would just be nice to one another.

That was one of the common themes expressed at the first Latino Community Council Unity Dinner/Celebration.

More than 150 people attended the Friday night gathering which recognized the efforts of nine individuals and two organizations for promoting cultural inclusion and understanding.

Honored were Father John Boll, businessman John Gill, retired educator Ray Gutierrez, retired Yolo County administrator Donald Ishikawa, social activist Bill Petty, former tribal chairwoman Paula Lorenzo-Tackett, Assemblywoman Lois Wolk and Khalid Saeed, (National President of the American Muslim Voice) who is active in the Muslim community, as well as the late Rick Gonzales Sr., who died in 2004.

Organizations recognized were the American Muslim Voice and the Dia De Los Ninos Committee for its promotion of "Day of the Child."

The Latino Community Council was formed only recently and serves as a local advocate for "responsible empowerment" of the community in education, economics, social and politics. The group is chaired by Woodland School Board Trustee Jesse Ortiz. Other members include Olga Nevarez, Anna Del Castillo, Patricia Valenzuela and Sheriff Ed Prieto as well as 33 others from throughout the county…..

Khalid Saeed of Woodland was acknowledged for his being a "strong voice for the voiceless in Yolo County," by presenter Angela Jacobsen.

A resident of the county since 1974, Saeed has long been an active supporter of the Muslim Mosque and Islamic Center of Woodland, has served on the board member of the Celebration of Abraham Committee, is a member of the Sacramento American Civil Liberties Union and is national president of the American Muslim Voice.

Saeed appreciated the recognition and noted there many people who were not being honored but were working to build better communities.

"We all we pray to one god and we believe in creation," Saeed said in explaining his philosophy of trying to resolve differences. "We all started with one mother and father: Adam and Eve. We see lots of problems in the world today but basically if we look at it, it's just one big family. We're all brothers and sisters. We just got too big and too out of hand."

Saeed added that people must "put their faith in each other, trust in each other and work together rather than finding fault with each other and creating havoc in the world ..."

Also recognized was the American Muslim Voice, whose national president is Saeed.

Accepting the award was founding national director Samina Sundas, who was accompanied by Nosheen Khan, a younger member of the group, and one who represents the future, explained Sundas.

Sundas said the group was founded after Sept. 11, 2001, to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims and preserve and protect civil liberties and human rights for all.

"I promised God to dedicate some of my life for community service but have found my whole life has swallowed up in that," she said. "We focus on what divides us not what binds us ... When we bleed, we all bleed red. When we cry, our tears are colorless. When we're afraid we all want to hide."

Sundas said she and others focus on building relationships and friendships "because no one sticks out their neck for a stranger, but we will risk our lives for a friend." …….

The unity dinner was held at the Heidrick Ag Center in Woodland CA and also featured multicultural entertainment, including Woodland soloist singer Ricki Jimenez, age 12; Beamer School Ballet Folkorico and the East Indian Dancers from River Valley High School in Yuba City.