A community bids farewell to one of its greatest advocates
Thursday, 01.10.2013, 10:59pm
WARREN — “People don’t know the amount of work Kay put behind some of the things that led to advances in this community,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Abed Hammoud said speaking at a funeral service here Monday for Kay Siblani, the longtime executive editor of The Arab American News (TAAN).
Siblani was one of the paper’s founders, and its executive editor since its inception in 1984, until she lost her battle with cancer Jan. 1, 2013.
Her work in the local Arab and Muslim communities extended far beyond TAAN. “People who knew Kay through the paper thought she was the editor of the paper, she wasn’t only an editor,” Hammoud said.
He discussed Kay’s role in the progress made in Dearborn Public Schools, and the buildings erected after the three school bond battles in the early 2000s.
“Every time a kid walks in one of these buildings in Dearborn, some of these schools were built because of the efforts Kay contributed to,” he said. “I can tell you she touched thousands of lives, many who don’t know her, she’s never talked to them, and they have never talked to her.”
He also spoke about the amount of time Kay invested into making the Arab American Political Action Committee a stronger force by working on press releases for the group, statements, fliers, coming up with campaign slogans and getting involved with important political issues.
“Some of the political fights we had, Kay was an instrumental piece,” Hammoud said. He remembered Siblani coming up with the slogan, Save Our Schools (SOS) during the school bond battles in the 2000s.
Hammoud said he often sought Kay’s advice on important issues, and that she always brought a different perspective because of her background and upbringing. Kay was a white American, but dedicated her life to fighting for Arab and Muslim causes.
Kay Siblani's family members mourn at her funeral.“She’s a true believer, I’ve been in the community for many years and I’ve seen my share of people who say they’re working hard, some work hard, some say they believe in a certain cause, but I haven’t seen many as dedicated day and night as she was, and when I say that, I mean it,” Hammoud said.
Siblani was also one of the founders of the Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan. CAIR has chapters across the country and is the leading voice, and advocacy group for Muslim Americans.
Dawud Walid, the executive director of CAIR Michigan says when he first took on the position in 2005, it was a tough time for Muslims and Arab Americans, and Kay was there for both of the communities.
“Kay was a very strong personality in our community, when I took over as a director, I would seek her advice and she gave me a lot of advice,” Walid said.
Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News said, “I am one of Kay’s friends, her former husband and one of her students.”
“For the first time I truly feel like I am speechless, because every time I spoke and I did an interview I had to call Kay and say how do you think I did? She was a phenomenal woman by all standards, she was a warrior, a fighter, a teacher...She was a great wife, and a marvelous and unbelievable friend. She touched so many lives, and she loved so many people, and I know a lot of people loved her.”
Kay’s unwavering commitment and dedication to the paper was crucial in making it the pillar it is today in both communities.
Siblani said even through Kay’s most difficult times battling cancer, she remained committed to the paper, often asking to have it sent to her to edit, in order to assure it was void of mistakes.
“Kay’s dedication to the paper was not less than her dedication to her family,” Siblani said. Kay Siblani's mother, Anna Leota Kendall, being carried by a family friend and son Kenny.
People laughed at times when Siblani told stories about Kay, including one about their trip to the Middle East when they met with and interviewed then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The interview was eventually picked up, and published by several other news outlets.
“She was a remarkable woman. We will miss her everywhere in our lives. We’ll remember her smile and laughter, her words of encouragement and how she endured all of our family taking pride in their accomplishments, such as their first steps to their graduations,” Kay’s nephew Brian Kendall said.
He says Kay loved bringing the family together for activities such as fishing or camping. “On top of helping us enjoy life she helped us get through it. She was there for all of us when we faced personal battles,” Kendall said.
Before becoming the executive editor of The Arab American News, Siblani was the head nurse of a local hospital with no experience in journalism or knowledge of Middle East political affairs.
“Soon the smart Kay would even out-smart me, and everybody around her on international affairs,” Siblani said.
Pastor Alfred Badawi of the St. Sharbel Maronite Church also spoke at the service and recited a prayer.
Imam Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights said Kay was one of the first friends he had when he arrived in the area.
“I owe her a lot personally, like everybody else in the community,” Elahi said. He thanked Siblani for her encouragement in the establishment of the IHW.
“You have a lady not only caring about her family and the community, but all of humanity. He says Kay left a legacy of passion and sharing.
Speaking to Kay’s family, Hammoud said, “You probably know she was involved all the time, but you probably didn’t know how deep it went, how far it went.”
very proud of her, and know that her legacy will live for a very long
time, not only for the buildings, but for the people she helped
empower…I am very proud of her, she taught me so much.”