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Detroit — Two men honored in an annual justice awards ceremony Tuesday shared similar traits: concern for equality and justice, and involvement in community issues.

The Third Annual Justice Awards Tribute, hosted by the Arab American Civil Rights League and the NAACP Detroit Branch at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit, honors a judge and a university leader each year.

This year’s honorees were Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein and the University of Michigan-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little.

Bernstein, who is blind, was elected by voters statewide to Michigan Supreme Court in November 2014. Rula Aoun, executive director of the Arab American Civil Rights League, said it is his love for the community that made him an easy choice.

“He’s so involved in the community,” Aoun said. “He went to more iftar dinners (during Ramadan) than anyone. If a judge can feel with the people whose lives he’s affecting, it makes a big difference ... he sees someone not based on their looks.”

Bernstein said he was pleased to be honored but said there still was work to do.

Bernstein said educational opportunities, the politics that can roil communities and racial inequities affect communities as a whole, but particularly youth.

“We must always focus on how this affects our children, how this affects our teenagers, how this affects people who don’t know the history ... we have to share that they should be proud of who they are, proud of what their ancestors have done and proud of their community,” he said.

Little received the award for his work to diversify UM-Dearborn and making it a welcoming place for the 18 years he’s served as chancellor. The Rev. Wendell Anthony of the NAACP presented the award, saying part of the solution to racial and religious differences can be found at universities. He said Little has been a helping to find solutions to bridge those differences and has “looked past the books.”

“I can’t imagine a greater honor ... I have a belief that Metro Detroit can become the leader in multiracial, multilingual, multireligious communities in the country,” Little said. “U of M is a culture of inclusion, not a melting pot. Universities can, in fact, be a part of the solution, but that’s only if we can recognize the problems within.”

Both received an award with a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. engraved, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

A dinner accompanied the hour-long awards ceremony. Last year, the organizations awarded M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University and U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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