Long Beach Black News Staff

Former U.S. Congresswoman and Ambassador to Micronesia Diane E. Watson
is honored for her valued contributions to our community. Photo: Platinum Star PR

Every year, the Muslim community around the world for one month observe Ramadan by fasting between sunrise and sunset. Recognized as the most sacred month in Islamic culture, Muslims use this time to grow spiritually and build stronger relationships with Allah. The end of the Ramadan fast is celebrated at the evening meal, iftar, that begins after the sunset prayer, Maghreb is finished.

This year, the LA Grand Iftar held at the Los Angeles Convention Center was hosted by the Pakistan American Chamber of Commerce (PACC) in collaboration with Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “This is the first time ever we are celebrating as an interfaith Iftar,” said PACC Chairman Wagar Khan. “The purpose of this celebration is to promote diversity within the LA community and to appreciate the value of the community in consistently supporting one another and in an effort to promote harmony and understanding among people of different cultures and religions as well as to educate attendees about the significance of Ramadan.”

The presentation began with prayer and a poem, Gratitude in Worship, written and recited by Fatema Baldiwala, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English, Los Angeles Community College District. One of the lines in the Ramadan Poem summed up the event, “Iftar tables blend cultures and languages, a time to remember and set new intentions.” The diversity in the room was prominent. African Americans are still a large part of the Muslim community, along with people of South Asian and Arab descent.

Among the diplomats and elected officials was the esteemed former U.S. Congresswoman and Ambassador to Micronesia Diane E. Watson who was the recipient of award of the Lifetime Achievement of the Year Award in recognition of her outstanding dedication contributions in the field of education, politics and human rights to improve the lives of women and children, especially these living in poverty.

“We were excited to present the trailer to “Golden Hearted” the documentary directed by Millena Gay to share with the audience a glimpse into the extraordinary life of Honorable Diane Watson,” said PACC Vice President Fatima Khan. “Our community recognizes Honorable Watson’s exceptional contribution as a seasoned legislator and her services to mankind are truly unmatched and unparalleled.”

L.A. Mayor Karen Bass and Honorable Diane E. Watson have been friends and colleagues for decades. In 2010, Watson retired from Congress and encouraged Bass to run for her seat. Photo: Millena Gay.

Upon accepting her award, Watson said, “I am honored to be acknowledged for my achievements by the Pakistan American Chamber of Commerce and Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. My work continues through elected officials like our new LA Mayor Karen Bass, a trailblazer.” Bass become the first woman and second Black mayor of Los Angeles.

“As a native of Los Angeles, I have been fortunate to watch and witness the political climb of a phenomenal woman who has always been gracious and classy,” said Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a social change activist and playwright. “Honorable Watson is a true pioneer, a champion for the people and the epitome of women empowering women.”

Fatema Baldiwala, Dr. E. Lance McCarthy, Marie Y. Lemelle, Chief of Airport Police Cecil W. Rhambo, Jr., Honorable Diane E. Watson, Edward Turley, LAPD Assistant Chief Al Labrada, LAPD Commander Jonathan Tom, LAPD Deputy Chief Blake Chow, and Carson Councilmember Arleen Bocatija Rojas celebrated at the LA Grand Iftar and congratulated Honorable Watson for her service. Photo: Platinum Star PR

Traditions like Ramadan and Iftar reminds us of the need to remove barriers, international borders and open our mindsets. “We live in LA yet we are global citizens. The many religions around the world causes those of vision to coordinate unity,” said Global Economist and Digital.Davos Speaker Dr. E. Lance McCarthy. “Such a visionary is the former U.S. Ambassador for Micronesia and U.S. Congresswoman Diane Watson. Not only did she assist in bringing social and economic justice to LA, as an ambassador, she championed international impact as well. Her legacy and justice work was honored by the Muslim community at the LA Grand Iftar. They recognized the genius in Honorable Watson in bridging the gaps in both LA and foreign nations by assisting all citizens regardless of creed, color or religious beliefs.”

She was a member of the California Senate from 1978 to 1998, and President Bill Clinton appointed her as US Ambassador to Micronesia from 1999 to 2000. She was the first African American woman in the California State Senate.

In solidarity, law enforcement was in attendance to give testimony about how events like this are important to the overall safety and understanding in the community.

“As a Department, we are always looking for ways to be connected to communities of all faiths. Our participation helps reiterate our Department’s commitment, partnership and public safety message to all communities of faith,” said LAPD Assistant Chief Al Labrada. “It’s not only during times of distress that we need to visit, but we also enjoy coming to celebrate and build new relationships. Know that as part of the Muslim community in Los Angeles, we value and encourage the safety of everyone.”

City of Carson Councilmember Arleen Bocatija Rojas, is known as the voice of the people, shared her mantra, “We Are, Stronger Together” and I will continue to promote unity within her community and beyond.” Rojas, an active 31-year veteran Police Officer for the City of Los Angeles, is the first female Filipino-American Police Officer in the history of the LAPD.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Watson is the daughter of the late William Allen Louis Watson and Dorothy Elizabeth O’Neal Watson. Watson’s father was one of the first Black officers hired by the LAPD.


Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA is a global public relations consultant, playwright, book author, and film producer. She is the founder and owner of Platinum Star Public Relations, The Black Hollywood Entertainment, a non-profit, and other business enterprises.