Humanitarians recognized at Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards

The Muhammad Ali Center had their fifth annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards, that showcased international humanitarians and the worldwide impact of Ali, on Saturday Sept. 23 hosted at the Marriott Louisville Downtown.

The award ceremony was created in 2013 as a way to “recognize the people achieving greatness around the world,” according to the Ali Center. 

This years’ Humanitarian recipients included HRH Princess Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite, Patricia Arquette, Ashley Judd, Paige Elenson, Hill Harper and Heather Heyer.

Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old counter-protester killed at the Charlottesville rally, was honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Social Justice; her mother, Susan Bro, accepted the award.

Susan Bro discussed how it felt for her daughter to be recognized.

“In the end, Heather had the courage to stand with her friends, she tried to talk to people to convince them to be accountable for their actions,” Bro said, “All of these young people tonight are so talented, so beautiful, so powered and those are world leaders.”

HRH Princess Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite, direct descendent of the Prophet of Islam, Mohammed, and granddaughter of the founder of the Modern State of Iraq, has dedicated her life to serving others. Dr. Nisreen established the World Women’s Health and Development Forum at the United Nations and is the founder of the Women in Science International LeagueShe had the honor of receiving the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award.

Dr. Nisreen spoke about how it felt to receive the award.

“It is such a big honor, it’s truly unbelievable I’m receiving the award of my lifelong hero and as well my role model that gave me strength to become the doctor, the scientist and to face obstacles,” Dr. Nisreen said. “To me this award is strength to keep going and to persevere, it is such a big responsibility, it’s not just an award you put on a shelf.”

Another one of the Humanitarian recipients Patricia Arquette, was in awe to receive the award.

Arquette is an actress, activist and founder of the GiveLove Organization.

“I’m honored to be a part of this event which was formed for the never ending strength of Muhammed Ali, who used his voice and his platform to educate, activate and illuminate the world,” Arquette said.

Paige Elenson, global humanitarian and founder of the Africa Yoga Project, received the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Global Citizenship.

“This humanitarian award is a symbolic recognition of standing up for what you believe in,” Elenson said. “I think anything is possible when it comes to my future.”

This years presenters included Michael Buffer, Lonnie Ali, Jamillah Ali-Joyce, Mark Hogg, Donald Lassere, Kevin Martinez, Geoff Thompson and Ruth Riley.

Michael Buffer attended his first AHA this year, he served as the emcee and primary host.

“I like to consider myself the greatest Muhammad Ali fans in the history of the world going back all the way to when he first captured Olympic gold,” Buffer said. “He captivated the hearts of millions of Americans by achieving that goal.”

Mark Hogg, Founder and CEO of WaterStep and former Humanitrian Awardee, presented the Muhammad Ali Kentucky Humanitarian Award to Ashley Judd.

 Jamillah Ali-Joyce, daughter of Muhammad Ali, presented the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Education to Hill Harper who founded the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation.

Ali-Joyce spoke about what the awards mean for her as Muhammad Ali’s daughter.

“My dad has big shoes to fill, he’s so inspiring to not just me and my siblings but people all over the world and tonight was so special because it’s everything my father stands for,” Ali-Joyce said.

Harper’s foundation works to help under privileged kids get the education they need to be successful.

“Ali has always been a hero of mine and no one represented courage more than he did,” Harper said. “I believe that this award is a call to action for all of us to see what we can do to fight for social justice and equality because that’s what Muhammad Ali always did.”

Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville, talked about what it’s like to attend the event.

“I had the great pleasure of being the mayor for Muhammad Ali, he used his platform of athletic greatness to be the world’s greatest humanitarian and that’s a message for everyone that they have the ability to be a humanitarian,” Fisher said.

Sean Waddell Jr. (11, HSU), relative of Muhammad Ali, spoke about how Muhammad Ali has worked in his life.

“Muhammad Ali means much more to me than just blood,” Waddell said. “I feel inspired to continue my work and it makes you step out of your comfort zone and really analyze why you’re doing it,” Waddell said.

Alongside the Humanitarian Awards, The Muhammad Ali Six Core Principle Awards were presented to Humanitarians age 30 and under.

Jon-Son Oei, age 30, is the founder and CEO of EPIC collective, a social enterprise dedicated to inspire, mobilize and empower people to become responsible citizens.

Oei, making his first visit to the states to receive the Dedication Award, felt very overwhelmed.

“It’s an incredible privilege to come all the way here and be affiliated with such a great man such as Muhammad Ali, I’m really excited about this whole thing,” Oei said. “My whole family were huge fans of Muhammad Ali and when I found out I’d be receiving this award, I was speechless.”

Others recognized for the Core Principle Awards included Gavin Armstrong, Mohammed Ashour, Hannah Taylor, Iseult Ward and Anoop Jain.

Imaj, a young African-American female country singer-songwriter, provided entertainment to close out the event. She preformed Hallelujah in multiple languages, her performance can be heard here: