Good Natured Head of RiverFront Conservancy to be saluted at 'Soul Food' event

By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

For Judge Damon J. Keith, it's a time to break bread -- with some 400 of his dearest friends.

Next month, at his 24th annual Soul Food Luncheon, the renowned U.S. Court of Appeals Judge will celebrate the beauty and importance of the Detroit River by honoring one of the waterway's greatest advocates.

Faye Nelson, president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, will be saluted at the invitation-only luncheon with the "Soul and Spirit Humanitarian Award" in recognition of her work in transforming a downtown stretch of the city's waterfront into a source of community pride.

"Her efforts with the reclamation project have been remarkable," Judge Keith said of this year's honoree, a Detroit native who earned her law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy in 1980. "Faye deserves tremendous recognition for working so hard to help breathe new life into the riverfront. It is now an area that we can all be proud of as we enjoy its many wonderful features."

Nelson has headed the RiverFront Conservancy since its beginning in 2003, leading the revitalization of a 3.5-mile stretch from Joe Louis Arena to Gabriel Richard Park just east of the Belle Isle Bridge. Among the most popular features of the Riverwalk is the first urban park in the state, fittingly named after former Governor William Milliken, one of Michigan's greatest stewards of land conservancy.

Former vice president of government affairs at Wayne State University, Nelson will be presented with the Soul and Spirit Award by last year's recipient, Carol Goss, according to Judge Keith. Goss is the president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting "Good Schools" and "Good Neighborhoods" for children in Detroit.

The two women are part of a distinguished list of Soul and Spirit Award winners, including Rosa Parks, singing star Aretha Franklin, former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer, longtime Congressman John Conyers, Mayor Dave Bing, and former Tiger great Willie Horton.

The luncheon, held during Black History Month, annually draws a host of federal, state and local dignitaries to the United States Courthouse in Detroit. It features a menu of fried chicken, black-eyed peas, corn bread, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and other soul food delicacies, according to Judge Keith.

"It is a wonderful chance to take pause and to express thanks for our many blessings in life," Judge Keith said. "As Detroiters, we especially need to recognize the people who are making a difference in this community with their good works. Faye Nelson, obviously, is one such person."

Published: Thu, Jan 27, 2011