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By: Schondra Aytch WNY Muslim’s Collective Awards Banquet was held November 5th; it brought together Buffalo’s leading humanitarians for a ...

By: Schondra Aytch

WNY Muslim’s Collective Awards Banquet was held November 5th; it brought together Buffalo’s leading humanitarians for a night filled with unity and awareness. As the first annual award show for the non-profit, WNY Muslims hopes to bring social, economic and global disparities of people to the forefront through the creative lens of film. Bringing industry leaders and young innovators together, the award show featured the unveiling of the winners for Collective International Film Festival (CIFF),
a project of the non-profit.

Receiving over 200 submissions from more than 50 countries, CIFF coordinator Richard Polley II sees the banquet as an event to shine a light on Buffalo’s diversity and arts. Separated by themes and age groups, the nominated films presented ideas about poverty, power, and identity. With over 17 cash prizes awarded to filmmakers, the $1,000 grand prize went to “About Arif.” The Turkish film, directed by Kalender Hasan show cased the day in the life of a young man with Down Syndrome. Other winning films included a German film “Hewat,” and an American film, “Suspicion,” which was made here in Western New York.

Hosted at the Buffalo Marriott Niagara, various awards were given out focusing on high achievements in peace-making and leadership. Most notably, New York State Senator Tim Kennedy received one of four peacemaker awards given during the night. Known for his efforts in creating a local government that supports the community, Senator Kennedy has been a part of legislating laws that protect both the welfare of children and the elderly in Western New York. Dr. Junaid Zubairi, a computer scientist at SUNY Fredonia, recently he has made headlines for his Flight Data Tracker, a new alternative to saving information on airplanes, for which among other accomplishments he received the High Achievement Award at the banquet.

With a performance by dancers of El Batey preceding the awards segment, WNY Muslims Founder, Faizan Haq, shared a brief presentation on “A World Beyond Magic.” Words from Polley, project manager, Shahneel

Ahmed, and Associate Executive Director Tehniyet Azam reaffirmed the message of unity by sharing the many events WNY Muslims have participated in. United Healthcare representative, Carmen Greenberg- Perez gave a speech about the meaning of humanitarianism. Sponsors of the banquet including GBUAHN, For More Perfect Union and SunSpin Media, also attended the event.

During his message of unity and understanding different cultures, Haq also shed light on the current disaster in Puerto Rico, encouraging people to contribute to the hurricane relief effort. An intercultural professor at Buffalo State College, Haq believes finding common ground with his fellow man will dispel the negative connotations about Muslims and other groups who are discriminated against. Haq aims to provide awareness, diversity and service to both Muslims and non-Muslims in Western New York with WNY Muslims. With the help of the non profit’s news publication “The Collective,” and their film project the CIFF, WNY Muslims hopes to create a community that values cultural diversity.