Nelson "Madiba" Mandela
Nelson “Madiba” Mandela

The Bedford Stuyvesant Museum of African Art will hold its third annual Nelson “Madiba” Mandela Humanitarian Awards celebration this Sunday, October 9, at the Brooklyn Music School, located at 126 Felix Street in Fort Greene.

The theme of this year’s event is “A Salute to Warriors: A Cultural Tribute to Our Men and Women in Uniform.”

The event will pay tribute to three Americans who have made outstanding strides by dedicating their life work to giving back and helping to improve the world. This years honorees include Komal Ahmad, CEO and founder of COPIA; Dr. Loree Sutton, commissioner of the NYC’s Office of Veterans Affairs; and Bed-Stuy resident Herbert Sweat, a Vietnam veteran and board member of Black Veterans for Social Justice.

“Nelson Mandela is my hero because of his unwavering desire to help humanity, and I decided, I’m going to be one of the people to help keep his legacy alive,” said Vira Lynn Jones, founder of the Bedford Stuyvesant Museum of African Art. “I came up with this award to recognize people who are making a difference in other people’s lives.”

“You know everybody’s afraid of a terrorist attack. But what’s going to destroy this great country– and it is a great country, because I’ve traveled all over the world– is greed and not helping your fellow man. Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., all of these people, because of their sacrifices changed the world.”

Komal Ahmad

Komal Ahmad is being honored for the huge impact she has made in fighting hunger. Ahmad founded a not-for-profit service called Feeding Forward. She told New York Daily News how excess food-wastage “is literally the world’s dumbest problem.” She created an app which allows companies and event planners to donate their surplus food to those in need within their area – with the click of a button. Feeding Forward drivers collect the leftovers, taking them to where they are needed the most. Feeding Forward currently serves those in the San Francisco area, and has managed to feed over 575,000 homeless people in the city.

Dr. Loree Sutton

Loree K. Sutton is a former brigadier general in the United States Army. She was the founding director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) and was a special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. Prior to founding DCoE, Sutton was commander of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas, commander of the DeWitt Army Community Hospital, deputy commander for clinical services, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital and a special assistant to the Army surgeon general. During her career, Dr. Sutton has received many awards, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and Order of Military Medical Merit.

Herbert Sweat

Herbert Sweat is a  Vietnam War who served in the U.S. Army from April 1966 to October 1970. He earned honors and medals for his gallantry, bravery and commitment. Born and raised in Bedford Stuyvesant, checked into Black Veterans for Social Justice 20 years ago, homeless and seeking services. He soon began participating in veteran discussion groups with other homeless veterans who were experiencing a familiar service-related problem with mental illness, unemployment, undiagnosed disability and poor social re-integration back into society and family life. The Veterans Action was formed out of these sessions. Today, Mr. Sweat provides outstanding leadership to the organization body and helped the Veterans Action Group become one of the most powerful veterans, self-help groups in New York City.

Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson (Ret.), the first female African-American POW and Major Wilem Wong, an Iraqi veteran will serve as the ceremony’s guest speakers. Scheduled performances include the Mighty Zulu Nation song and dance troupe, Grammy Award-Winning Violinist Miri Ben Ari, The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers and Egyptian (Tanoura) Whirling Dervish.

“All of our participants– the honorees, the guest speakers, the artists and performers– I consider them warriors of their culture,” said Jones. “Through their work and their service, they’ve stood for social justice.

“The children need to understand that there may be situations that you do not like or do not agree it. Well, you’re going to have to make the sacrifice to change it. To make this country even greater you’re going to have to give back.

“I’m very passionate about this, because I come from a grassroots, help-people environment. And just think about it: All the people in the world who have helped humanity will be remembered for the next thousands years.”

To purchase tickets for the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Awards, go here.

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