by Lalit K Jha
Washington: An eminent Indian-American entrepreneur and philanthropist has been presented with the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr Award in recognition of his contribution to the legacy of the civil rights pioneer through his efforts in international service and civil engagement.
Azamgarh-born Frank Islam was given the annual award yesterday by the president of the Memorial Foundation, Harry Johnson, for working to keep the “dream alive.”
Islam said he was proud and humbled to have received the award. He noted there is an “indelible connection” between Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.
“King visited India in 1954, studied the non-violent movement and patterned the protests he led after those of Gandhi. As an Indian-American, I am proud and humbled to receive this award which honours the memory of one great man directly and another indirectly,” he said.
“King and Gandhi have been beacons to me in my personal life and charitable and philanthropic involvement. I have given to numerous causes to support humanitarian efforts and to advance the interests of the under-served in the world,” Islam said during his speech.
King Peggy (Peggieliene Bartel) was honoured with Dorothy I Height Leadership Award.
The annual awards ceremony was started in 1991 to honour the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr and the legendary Dorothy I Height and their impacts both at home and abroad.
Born to a peasant father, Islam moved to US when he was 15 years old, with less than USD 500 in his pocket, to become an entrepreneur. He bought a struggling IT company in Maryland in 1993 with USD 50,000 raised by mortgaging his house.
Islam sold of his IT company in 2007 to spend the rest of his life in philanthropy, both in India and the US, and lends his palatial house for fund raising activities — for both political and charitable events.
He is a board member of several think-tanks, academic and cultural organisations including Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts, the Brookings Institute and US Institute of Peace.