Thursday 1 March 2012
On the last day of Black History Month, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer honored three civil rights activists, comparing their work for equality to that of Frederick Douglass.
“If we want to lift up underserved communities, we have to give people the opportunities to move forward,” Stringer told the crowd gathered at Chocolat Restaurant Lounge, on Frederick Douglass Boulevard at 120th Street, on Wednesday night.
Stringer celebrated the achievements of three African-American New Yorkers who have contributed significantly toward improving the quality of life in the city, particularly for racial minorities, at his seventh annual Trailblazers event.
As the executive director of the civil rights group National Action Network, Tamika Mallory created the Decency Initiative, a movement to eliminate the use of the words “nigga,” “bitch,” and “ho” from popular music.
Stringer also acknowledged that she had worked hard to bring social equality to Manhattan. “It is wonderful to be recognized,” she said.
Sheila Rule, another honoree, started the Think Outside the Cell Foundation, an organization that helps reintegrate formerly incarcerated people into society. “By turning the spotlight on me, you turn the spotlight on their humanity,” she said.
Norman Seabrook, the president of New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the largest municipal jail union in the country, took Black History Month as an opportunity to remind his audience of both how far minorities have progressed and how much farther they have to go.
“I stand on the shoulders of those who have made it that much easier,” he said. “We have to continue to make strides so that others who come behind us can be successful.”
Even so, Seabrook also touched upon the dire situation in which many disadvantaged New Yorkers still find themselves.
“Their bail is set at $50,000 and they don’t even have money to get on the subway,” he said. “We turn up the radio so we don’t have to hear the gunshots. We have to do something about this. We can no longer just sit around the table and say ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ It’s a tsunami, and it’s coming, and it’s going to hit every one of us.”
Stringer said that there is a long way to go towards full equality.
“Quite frankly, we’re not where we should be, not when the American dream is a pipe dream,” he said. “Too many people are being left out of the fundamental discussions.”
Stanley Gleaton, who lives in central Harlem, noted that the issues discussed at the event are a problem for Stringer’s entire jurisdiction.
“The issues don’t just affect Harlem,” Gleaton said. “This seems to be a city-wide phenomenon.”
Sophia James, an East Side resident at the event, agreed that Black History Month was a time for simultaneous reflection and progress.
“It’s just about remembering what was done over 50 years ago and bringing it to a new generation so they know the value of an education and the value of giving back,” she said.