YAN – Detroit
John Conyers was a civil rights legend, a symbol of the resilience and strength of Detroit – the city he represented in Congress for more than half a century
Conyers, who died on October 27 at age 90, was also a friend of the regions Arab and Muslim communities, often stepping up to defend them in the face of bigotry and governmental infringement on their civil liberties.
As the congressman passed away, community activists lauded his memory as a fighter for equality and justice.
“Congressman John Conyers, Jr. will forever be our Congressman in the city of Detroit. He was a civil rights icon, fighting for the people even before he stepped foot on the House floor,” Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who succeeded Conyers in Congress.
Conyers has served as the Dean of House of Representative – the longest serving member in the chamber. He was also the first African American to chair the Judiciary Committee.
“His more than 50 years of service brought forth the vision of reparations for African Americans, the centering of voting rights, a continued push for universal healthcare, the creation of the Congressional Black Caucus, and service that inspired many in the city of Detroit and across the country,” Tlaib said.
Standing with Muslims
ACCESS also eulogized the late Congressman, calling him a “civil rights champion”.
“Rep. Conyers spent his time in Congress fighting for racial and economic justice, never wavering from his commitment to advancing the rights of communities of color and the working class,” the group said in a statement.
“His long list of legislative victories includes historical milestones like defending the Voting Rights Act, promoting reparations for Black communities and universal health care, and his efforts to declare Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday a federal holiday. Rep. Conyers will be remembered for his fierce dedication to improving the lives of marginalized communities.”
Indeed Conyers was the first to introduce a bill to make Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday before President Reagan signed it into law.
Conyers also introduced a resolution in 2005 denouncing Islamophobia and stressing that the US government should not disparage Islam or Muslims.
The resolution expressed “the sense of the House of Representatives condemning bigotry and religious intolerance, and recognizing that holy books of every religion should be treated with dignity and respect.”
Abdelhakim Al-Sadah lauds late congressman
Abdelhakim Al-Sadah, president of the National Association of Yemeni Americans, said Conyers fought hard as a voice for disadvantaged people and stood against racism and all forms of discrimination.
Sada said he first met Conyers in 1993 at the Congressman’s office in Washington. He said Conyers was always a supporters of Yemen and the Yemeni American community.
And despite advancing the causes of the African Americans, the lawmaker was open to all communities and had an ability to bring people together. The fact that Tlaib won in Conyers’ mostly African-American district is a testament to that, Sada noted.
“The intellectual impact of Conyers can be seen in that the residents of his district elected an Arab-American, Muslim woman, putting her ahead of other candidates,” Sada said.
“The residents did not vote based on their ethnicity, religion or skin color, but rather on the ideas and programs that Rashida presented.
“The late congressman was not a friend of the Arab community; he was one of us who dealt with us as a real partner in addressing our issues and aspirations. His death leaves an enormous vacuum that will be difficult to fill.”
‘Heart and soul of Detroit politics’
Wayne County Treasurer’s Eric R. Sabree said Conyers was the “heart and soul of Detroit politics”.
“He loved Detroit and its people and gave everything he had to uplift his community,” Sabree said.
“Congressman Conyers was also involved in national and international issues. He was respected in Detroit and around the world. His positions on issues were not always popular but he was fearless in his pursuit of justice for the people, especially those who had no one to speak for them.”
Conyers was laid to rest in Detroit on November 4.
“I’d like to thank the people of Detroit for electing him 27 times,” former President Bill Clinton said at the funeral.
“I’d like to thank you for giving him the space and support not just to represent his district but to represent people across the country and even around the world on the things we should all care about.”