Afridi Named Recipient of “I Have a Dream Award”

By Zoe DeFazio, Web Editor

Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., director of the Holocaust, Genocide & Interfaith Education Center (HGI) was honored as the first inaugural recipient of The Clarence Jones “I Have A Dream” Award. This award is bestowed upon individuals who courageously combat hatred and advocate for the well-being of others. 

The event garnered significant attendance, including distinguished figures such as Rep. Ritchie Torres and Clarence B. Jones, the award’s namesake. 

Jones is a renowned public figure for smuggling Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and co-authoring King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. 

“We have to tell those people who oppose the things that Dr. King and so many other people work for, that we’re not going away,” Jones said.

Afridi’s life’s work has been dedicated to combating anti-Semitism. Even during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and the HGI Center remained steadfast in their mission. Their resilience shone through when they organized a zoom event addressing the lessons of white nationalism and the fight against black racism during the height of the pandemic.

Afridi’s work over the past decade is rooted in the principles of education and interfaith dialogue. She fostered the growth of the HGI center at Manhattan College as a way to promote equality and unity. Her effort is matched only by her passion for promoting harmony and understanding among diverse communities.

The Clarence Jones “I Have A Dream” Award itself holds a special place in the channels of history. It represents not only a recognition of outstanding contributions but also a beacon of hope in times of heightened social and political challenges.

Afridi also commented on her reflection of receiving the award and how her personal spiritual beliefs influence the work that led her to this point.  

“I’m really humbled, and I think that my own faith, Islam, which is the religion that I follow, and that I believe in, teaches us that being humble and having humility with people is one of the most loving aspects that God wants to see,” Afridi said.

The Clarence Jones “I Have A Dream” Award embodies the essence of breaking boundaries and standing against hate within the local community and nationwide. 

After witnessing Afridi receive this distinguished honor, Rep. Ritchie Torres expressed his optimism for the nation and the enduring legacy of Clarence Jones. 

“I remain optimistic about the country,” Torres said. “Because there’s no greater example of what is possible and the civil rights movement than his [Jone’s] story and legacy. Americans are fundamentally better people because of the legacy that he [Jones] leaves behind.”

Torres articulated a profound sentiment, emphasizing the aspiration to follow the enduring influence of Clarence Jones and his morals.

“We want to harness the power of Dr. Jones, his moral example, to inspire others, to build bridges to combat hate and extremism and to be leaders for human rights and civil wars,” Torres said.