The People’s Champion – Public Advocate Letitia James

Dear Readers:

In a couple of weeks, we will witness summer’s seamless transition to fall.  For many, the shift in seasons ushers in a new set of priorities.  There is a renewed sense of purpose, and we are committed to finishing the year on a high note.

At a New York City Council Meeting - Observer.com

At a New York City Council Meeting – Observer.com

Last year at this time, Brooklynites lent their support to former Councilwoman Letitia James as she pursued her dream of becoming New York City’s Public Advocate.  She would be the first African-American woman from Brooklyn to hold this position.  For many voters, James was the perfect choice, as she has spent much of her career advocating for the people of Brooklyn.  Ascending to this new role was clearly the next step.  On November 2, 2013, she would be successful in her quest.

Outlining her agenda - article.wn.com

Outlining her agenda – article.wn.com

Since taking office, Public Advocate James and her team have charted a broad agenda, and are focused on creating effective change for all New Yorkers.  They envision: Good Work for Fair Pay; Access to Healthcare; a Common Sense Public Education Policy; Utilizing the Court to Preserve Public Education; Universal School Lunch; Keeping New Yorkers in New York, and Legislative Action for Working People.

This past April, Public Advocate James and her team published their first progress report – Our First 100 Days.  Many New Yorkers have expressed their gratitude for the care and concern that she, and her team, bring to today’s challenges.  As a Brooklynite, this does not surprise me.  James is a tireless champion for social justice, education and legislative reform.  While the title that she holds is new, her support for those in need is not.

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We will provide you with a closer look at these initiatives, and their impact, in future Brooklyn Legends posts.  Today we wanted to provide you with a glimpse of the many things our champion is up to.

Many of the people who I have come in contact with believe our Public Advocate is just getting started.  She is just sharpening her focus.  I believe that her best days are ahead, and I want to see her win.  Her successes will become our successes, and that suits me just fine.  Besides, everyone needs a champion.

Enjoy the rest of the week.

Monique

Elder Grace – Celebrating Brooklyn Centenarian Susannah Mushatt Jones

Dear Readers:

On July 6, 2014, Brooklyn super-centenarian Susannah Mushatt Jones celebrated her 115th birthday.  A few days later there was a celebration for her at the Vandalia Senior Center in Brooklyn, New York Ms. Mushatt Jones is the oldest resident of New York State, the second-oldest American and the third-oldest person in the world.

Susannah Mushatt Jones Celebrates 115 years

Susannah Mushatt Jones Celebrates 115 years

Susannah Mushatt Jones was born on July 6, 1899 in Lowndes County, Alabama. This was one of the toughest times to be a person of African or Caribbean descent living in the rural south.  I imagine she witnessed the cruel indignities that were designed to strip African and Caribbean Americans of all hope of ever achieving the basic civil rights enjoyed by their white counterparts. Despite these challenges, she would also witness some amazing “firsts” in Civil Rights history.

Ms. Mushatt Jones - NY Times

The Lovely Ms. Mushatt Jones

Ms. Mushatt Jones migrated to New York City in 1923, at the age of 24. Like those who made the journey before her, she dreamed of creating a new life filled with hope and promise.  For many southerners moving “up north” this was a time filled great expectation, despite the harsh realities they would experience.  This was a period when segregation was woven into every facet of life in America.

Opportunities for economic and educational advancements were non-existent.  Often times, the only jobs available to African-Americans were as domestics or field workers.  If exceptions were made, they were given the most laborious tasks. When using public transportation, they had to sit in the back of the bus. The same rule was in effect when traveling on the interstate.

The legal system was equally as cruel. For many, punishment for the slightest infractions could range from life in prison, to a life of hard labor. There was no hope of a fair jury trial. We also know that, during these times, lynching was the order of the day. This was truly “the worst of time.”

Thankfully, Ms. Mushatt Jones made it safely through these atrocities and settled into life in Harlem. She must have been so excited! This was the time of the Harlem Renaissance and the beginning of a whole new world on so many levels – intellectually, financially, socially and economically. She worked as a child-care provider for 42 years, until she retired in 1965. As she made her way in the world, America’s history was going through a transformation. She had a front row seat.  Here are some of the wonders that she was able to see.

On the Road to Civil Rights – the mid 1950s through the 1960s.

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On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education, that segregation in public schools was illegal. I am not sure if I could articulate how Ms. Mushatt Jones felt when Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the court’s decision.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Surely she rejoiced on November 13, 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in the case of Browder v. Gayle that segregated bus laws in Alabama were unconstitutional.  This case was presented after Rosa Park’s arrest on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to make room for a white passenger.  Ms. Parks’ defiance sparked the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted for 381 days, until the local ordinance segregating African-Americans and whites on public buses was repealed.

On August 28, 1963, she would see thousands of Americans participate in the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I wonder if she was there?  This past August, we commemorated the 51st anniversary of this historic day.

Rev. Dr. King, President Johnson and civil rights leaders

Rev. Dr. King, President Johnson and civil rights leaders

One year later, on July 2, 1964, I envision Ms. Mushatt Jones rejoicing when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. I can almost see her listening to the radio as the provisions were read. Title VI prohibited public access discrimination and would lead to school desegregation. Title VII prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Title VIII was the original “federal fair housing law,” that was later amended in 1988.

On March 25, 1965, all eyes would focus on her home state of Alabama for the Selma to Montgomery MarchRev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, in the campaign for voting rights. Residents in Harlem led their own demonstrations to show their support. Perhaps she was among them.

Justice Thurgood Marshall

Justice Thurgood Marshall

I would be remiss if I did not mention two additional milestones that took place in 1967.  The first occurred when President Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall to be the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. The second occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Loving v. Virginia that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

As we know, the fight for Civil Rights culminated in the 1960s but is far from over. The decades that followed would be marked with notable firsts in education, housing, criminal justice and employment.

I would love to know what her reaction was when, in January 2009 and January 2013, Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States of America. His beautiful wife Michelle would take her place as America’s First Lady. When Ms. Jones was growing up the word “lady” was not given to African-American women. What a celebration this was for her on so many levels. She lived through a century of firsts with years to spare.

This list is by no means finite. I have presented it in this manner to provide a glimpse of what she lived through. I also imagine that she played an important role in securing many of the freedoms that we now enjoy.

As we help Ms. Jones celebrate another milestone, in addition to serenading her with the traditional “Happy Birthday” another song that was popular during the civil rights movement also comes to mind, “Someday We’ll All Be Free” by Donny Hathaway.

Please join Brooklyn Legends in wishing Ms. Mushatt Jones a very Happy Birthday!

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Credits:
Photos of Ms. Mushatt Jones – The New York Times
Photos of The Little Rock Nine – images via Yahoo.com
Photo of James Meredith – Wikipedia.org
Photo of Richard and Mildred Loving – Time.com
Photo of Jackie Robinson – via Pinterest, Mary Kay Ward
Photo of Justice Thurgood Marshall – images via Yahoo.com
Photo of The March on Washington – via Googleimages.com
Photo of Rev. Dr. King and President Johnson – via img.dooyoo.co.uk
Background information – Wikipedia and Google.com
Rosa Parks on the bus in Alabama – via Pinterest, Linda Wallace

Will All Roads Lead to Brooklyn in 2016?

Dear Readers,

The recent speculation around the 2016 Democratic National Convention coming to Brooklyn has everyone excited, and with good reason. Our borough is in the midst of a renaissance that we have never seen before.

The completion of the new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn set the stage for the new burst of enthusiasm around building projects. This is a time of tremendous growth, but there have also been some challenges too, which I would love to discuss in the coming months. I remember hearing many years ago that nothing is ever as easy as it seems, and true progress comes with a price. Having said this, I chose to remain excited about the possibilities for all Brooklyn residents.

logoYesterday the Brooklyn Daily Eagle featured a great article that caught the world’s attention: Local politicians say Brooklyn is perfect spot for 2016 Democratic National Convention.  Several elected officials have weighed in including: Senator Charles (Chuck) Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; Representatives Jerrold Nadler (representing New York’s 10th district), Carolyn Maloney, (representing New York’s 12th district), Nydia Velazquez (representing New York’s 7th district), Yvette Clarke (representing New York’s 9th district) and Hakeem Jeffries (representing New York’s 8th district).  Of course this is just the beginning of a very long conversation, but if each elected official could wave a magic wand all roads will lead to Brooklyn in 2016.  As this is such a hot topic, we will continue to update you as events unfold.

Rep. Yvette Clarke - Wikipedia.com

Rep. Yvette Clarke – Wikipedia.com

Today, I would like to make special note of Representative Yvette Clarke’s commitment to bringing the 2016 Democratic National Council to Brooklyn.  The objective is to set the stage for a comprehensive look at her significant contributions, which date back to her early days as a member of the New York City Council representing Brooklyn’s 40th district.

Representative Clarke has the distinction of succeeding her mother, Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman elected to the New York City Legislature.  This was the first mother-daughter succession in the history of the Council.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to live in the district that both of these esteemed women serve as leaders. Of course the stage was sent for them many years ago by the late Honorable Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman and Caribbean-American elected to Congress.  She would later run for President of the United States.

In closing, I wanted to leave you with this quote which, in my opinion, says it all.

“Brooklyn has always been the starting place for the American Dream where people from around the world have come to build a better future for themselves and their children.  The same spirit that animates Brooklyn animates the Democratic Party: the belief that everyone should have the opportunity for full participation in our society.  We are a diverse community that has much to share with our fellow Americans, as I believe the Democratic National Convention here in 2016 will demonstrate to the thousands of guests and millions of viewers at home.”

Representative Yvette Clarke
June 25, 2014
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

We at Brooklyn Legends are so proud to count Representative Clarke as one of Brooklyn’s favorite daughters. You will have a chance to learn more about her dedication in the coming weeks.

Monique

Credits:

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Brooklyn Daily Eagle – June 25, 2014
Representative Yvette Clarke – http://clarke.house.gov

 

 

 

 

 

As We Begin Another Week – Press Forward

Quote

Dear Readers,

forces-of-nature-blog - tumblr.com

Like many of you, I am spending more time giving shape to my dreams for the future. There are times when I can come up with 100 different reasons why I can’t move forward.

Some days it can be something as simple as an insensitive remark by someone who already has way too much to cope with, to my own feelings of insecurity about what will people think if I achieve this?  Will they care enough about my dreams to understand why them are important to me?  Are my dreams relevant in the space that we now live?

After weeks (or what felt like weeks) of this incessant dialogue, I realize that I was stuck.  The answer came in the form of a quote by Mother Teresa that now serves as a screen saver on my iPad.  I am sharing it below, in the hope that you will continue to be encouraged and move in the direction of your dreams.

Have a great day!
Monique

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Quintessential Elegance – In Memory of Ruby Dee

Dear Readers,

Another beautiful Legend has made her transition, the elegant Ms. Ruby Dee.  I am so heartened by the many posts about her life and talent.  She was truly one of the giants of stage and screen.  If I live to be 91, I certainly hope that I age as gracefully as she did.

My fondest memory of this Grand Dame was her performance in one of my favorite plays – A Raisin In The Sun, which premiered in 1961.  Ms. Dee starred as Ruth Younger, a steadying presence for her husband Walter Lee Younger, portrayed by Sidney Poitier; her mother-in-law Lena Younger, portrayed by Claudia McNeil and her sister-in-law Beneatha Younger, portrayed by Diana Sands.

A Raisin In The Sun addressed the ever-present civil rights issues of that time – racial discrimination in housing and impediments to economic advancement due to limited employment opportunities.  Despite these challenges, there were three aspects of this story that I am most fond of: the family’s decision to move into their new home in the Lakewood section of Chicago despite attempts to dissuade them, Beneatha’s dream of becoming a doctor, which was rarely seen on film during that time in our history and the prominent status given to each of Beneatha’s male suitors.

Ms. Dee’s appearance in this play (and movie) did not come as a surprise to her family, friends and colleagues.  Like her husband, Ossie Davis, she took an active role in the fight for civil rights and used her status to promote the cause of African-Americans in the entertainment industry.   In 1963 this dynamic couple served as Masters of Ceremonies for the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  When the world said goodbye to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she and her husband were there.  Similarly, when the world bid farewell to Malcolm X, they were also present.  These are just a few examples of their many contributions to the cause of racial and social justice.

Brooklyn Legends joins the world in saluting the life and legacy of the great Ms. Ruby Dee.  She was truly a woman of style and substance.  For me, she had a quintessential elegance that I will always remember.

I would like to close this post with a quote from her daughter: Nora Davis Day:

We gave her our permission to set sail.
She opened her eyes, closed her eyes and away she went
.”

images

Fondly,
Monique

Memories of My Father

Dear Readers,

With this post comes my very best wishes to all fathers throughout the world.  I came across a quote by Billy Graham that made me realize how under appreciated fathers can feel.

A good father is one of the most unsung, unpriced, unnoticed, and yet
one of the most valuable assets in our society.

After reading this, I am inclined (somewhat) to agree with this statement.  Simply put – we must do better.  Next month will mark the 10 year anniversary of my father’s passing.  As I write this, I realize that I have not really shared memories of my father in this medium, owing simply to my need to reconcile the sadness.

My father’s name was Herbert Brizz.  He struggled with stomach cancer for many years, and his last days were painful for both of us.  Nevertheless it was my honor to walk the last step of his journey with him, for I realize the time will come someone will hold my hand as I let go of the pain and make my transition.  Watching him during his last days, I realize that he struggled to fight until I reassured him that all was well and that I understood his time had come.  I told him that I would be okay and promised to take care of myself.  Only then, did I see his struggle end. I am convinced that this reassurance is truly the last act of love that we can give to another person.

I am grateful to my father for his quiet strength, and his wisdom.  There was something gentle in his voice, he never screamed or shouted.  He had what I refer to as a quite personality.  In many ways he was a “quiet voice of reason” that my friends, over the years, have come to attribute to me.  In future posts, I will share more of him with you.  For now, I will close with the good memories I have of him, and I will hold onto them forever.

Please remember if your father (or father-figure) is no longer living, you can still celebrate him!  If he is still with you, then everyday is Father’s Day!

Monique

 

As We Begin Another Week – The “Quality of Our Intent”

Dear Readers,

Happy Monday!  I hope that you had a restful, yet enjoyable weekend.  Since last week, I have been replayed discussions with colleagues and business acquaintances about character.  Each conversation revolved around how we treat people and our perception of how people treat us.  Are we consistent in our actions – good or bad?  Even more intriguing, are they? Again, the same criteria applies – good or bad?

I am still working through the situations that challenged me.  However, I came across these two quotes that encouraged me.  I wanted to share them with you.  I hope they will be useful to you at some point.

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Robin Davidman via Pinterest

Robin Davidman via Pinterest

Have a great day and remember to stay encouraged.

Fondly,
Monique