Ahmad Berry, Pioneer in Arab American Media, Dies at 75 in Dearborn
SOURCE: DETROIT FREE PRESS
BY: BISMA PARVEZ
Ahmad Jafar Berry, a pioneer in Arab American media, served as a connection between the old and new world for Arab immigrants in metro Detroit.
Berry, 75, died Tuesday at a Dearborn hospital.
“He suffered from a stroke two and a half years ago and his health had been deteriorating since,” Berry’s eldest daughter, Nessma Berry, told the Free Press.
Born in Lebanon in 1944, Berry came to Michigan when he was 16. He joined the U.S. Army and worked for Ford Motor Co., but in 1989, he decided he wanted to have his own business that would connect him and community members to their roots.
“That’s when my dad started his own television show,” Nessa Berry said. “He bought a spot on a local network to connect the Arab Americans in our community with what was going on in the Middle East, because back then it was hard to know what was happening.”
Berry became the executive producer of the Arabic Time Television that aired in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.
Before the internet and convenience of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Berry provided a platform for the Arab American community.
Longtime friend and Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun, D-Dearborn, called Berry “the social media of the community.”
“There were no cellphones, internet or anything,” Baydoun said. He came into our living rooms on a daily basis with different programs and he was the connection between the homeland and our new land.”
Baydoun said that Berry was part of the Arab American community from the beginning and helped community members transition into “Americanism.”
Khalil El-Saghir, education consultant at Wayne Regional Educational Service Agencies, said Berry “provided it a voice when it didn’t have one in the mainstream media. He was a man of integrity, honor, and love. He hated no one and always sought unity.”
From marching locally after the Qana massacre in Lebanon in 1996 to demonstrating in front of the White House, Berry covered local news as well. Berry interviewed local politicians and covered elections to help the community become involved in the American system.
“You could say he was the Free Press of the Arab American community,” said Baydoun. “If you wanted to know anything that was happening locally, Ahmad Berry was there. We were a rising community and Ahmad Berry was there to talk to candidates and see how their policies would affect our community.
Berry also helped many entrepreneurs launch their businesses through advertising and helped people create roots in Dearborn.
Berry leaves behind his wife, Wafa Haider-Berry, and four daughters, Nassma, Abir, Azhar and Balsam.
A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Islamic Memorial Gardens, 28830 Ann Arbor Trail, Westland.
The Berry family will accept condolences at the Islamic Institute of Knowledge, located at 6345 Schaefer Road in Dearborn, on from 2-3 p.m. Saturday.