Brooklyn Legends – Week(s) In Review

Dear Readers:

The past few weeks have been extremely busy at work and have left me little time to devote to my weekly posts.  Please know that I truly enjoy connecting with you, and I am working to get back on schedule.  My first instinct was to write individual posts for each item that I wanted to share.  But I also realize summer is here and we all long to be out enjoying Brooklyn and meeting and celebrating with our own Brooklyn Legends.  This approach will allow me to share multiple topics, while maintaining the personal feel that I am so fond of.

A Memorial Day Tribute

photo US flag

On Monday, May 29th, Memorial Day was observed in the United States.  I was pleased to read so many tributes where the authors went to great lengths to make the distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Both observances are equally important.  However, it is my opinion that in the United   States we could do more to recognize the women and men who have died to protect the freedoms we enjoy.  Whenever I see and hear the words “Happy Memorial Day,” connected with a sale or other promotion, I feel a bit awkward and find the positioning to be insensitive; especially given the wars we are still involved with.  With so many other days to shop and save, I would like to see us become more mindful of everything we have to be thankful for.

There are two accounts of the origins of Memorial Day that I would like to share.  The first account comes from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.  The second account comes from The Root and Black America Web.

Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to adorn the graves of the war dead with flowers.  Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30th of each year.  It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.  The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

photo obama lays wreath

Today, in the United States, Memorial Day is a federal holiday that occurs every year on the final Monday of May.  On this day we recognize the women and men who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  Many of the rituals that make up Memorial Day were born out of Decoration Day which originated after the American Civil War as mentioned above.  The one major difference is that today we extend this tribute to Americans who have died in all wars.

The Root and Black America Web

According to Black America Web, African-American veterans were the first to celebrate our fallen soldiers.  David Blight, a History Professor at Yale University, credits African-American soldiers in Charleston, South Carolina with launching the first Decoration Day, in honor of the Union’s war dead on May 1, 1865.

After the Civil War ended, these soldiers went to places where they knew hundreds of their fellow service men, who were also prisoners of war, were buried in mass graves.  As a show of humanity these soldiers, many who were recently freed slaves, gave their fellow service men a proper burial.  After the burials were complete, they decorated the graves.  According to legend, this ritual took hold and was the beginning of the Memorial Day tributes we now see across the country.  To read more of Professor Blight’s account, please click here.

The objective here is not to debate which account is more accurate but to simply point out the important contributions that people of African descent have made to shape our great nation.

We at Brooklyn Legends take great pride in saluting our fallen soldiers and thank them for all the sacrifices they have made.  It is our honor to pay tribute to them.

Happy Labor Day Jamaica!

photo kingston aerial

On Thursday, May 23, 2013, our sisters and brothers in Jamaica celebrated Labor Day.  When I think of Labor Day in New York City, I can clearly see the elaborate costumes, the bands marching with precision and the grand floats that participate in the annual Labor Day parade, held on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York.  People come from all over the United States, and Canada, to enjoy the festivities.  Many of our sisters and brothers from Jamaica take the lead in planning a range of events leading up to this special day.

As I was preparing to write this post, I thought surely the celebration in Jamaica is equally, if not more, spectacular?  So I decided to do a little research and was so impressed with what I learned.  Yes there are indeed wonderful celebrations in Jamaica.  Additionally, great emphasis is place on the importance of volunteering in the community.

History of Labor Day in Jamaica

Labor Day was originally known as Empire Day in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s birthday.  On this day flags representing Jamaica and the United Kingdom were raised and patriotic songs were sung to honor England and the British Empire.

In 1961, a legislative act was made to drop Empire Day and to introduce the concept of Labor Day.  However, Labor Day celebrations drew tensions from opposing labor groups and sometimes ended in violent clashes.

After witnessing the various disruptions throughout the country, in 1972, Prime Minister Michael Manley introduced a new chapter to the celebration of Labor Day, filled with activities designed to integrate volunteer work and community outreach to foster a spirit of unity.  Since that time, emphasis has been placed on repainting schools, hospitals, police stations, churches, and roads.  People from all walks of life proudly participate in these activities.

photo jamaica waterfront

The day always ends with a huge celebration that is held either in the national stadium, or at the waterfront, in Kingston.

A Tribute to the Victims, and Survivors, of Oklahoma’s Recent Tornado

photo Pres Obama Oklahoma

On Monday, May 20, 2013, our sisters and brothers in Oklahoma were hit with a category 5 tornado which resulted in a path of destruction that stretched for 17 miles.  This hurricane took place during the day and many residents were completely caught off guard.  When the storm finally barreled through the state, 24 lives were lost.  There is an eerily haunting picture and caption on the cover of Time magazine that says it all:

photo Time mag cover

Shortly after the tornado, John D. Sutter, a journalist who writes for CNN’s Opinion column went to the rural town of Newcastle, Oklahoma and found the cul-de-sac where the tornado was born.  He decided to walk the full 17 miles to provide a daily account of what he found.  He also took to his twitter page and provided real-time tweets of his experience.  On the CNN page, he shares brief vignettes of Americans doing what they always do in times of hardship; pulling together to provide food, shelter and comfort, praying and holding each other up.  To read John’s account, please click here.

During his recent visit, he encountered many people who were also affected by the tornado of 1999.  Their resolve was strong and their faith unmovable.  Understandably, their spirits were a bit low but they were not broken.  People from all over the country have mobilized to assist in the cleanup, rescue and recovery efforts.  I know that the residents of Oklahoma will always be grateful for the assistance they have received.  While nothing will ever replace the lives that were lost, including the 7 children at Plaza Tower Elementary School, it is good to know that during our weakest movements we are not alone.  To learn more about ways that you can support the relief efforts, you can begin by visiting the Red Cross’ website.  For more information, please click here. These photos provide a glimpse at the recent devastation.

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Here are some tweets from John Sutter’s twitter page.

John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/24/13
First hour.  3.15 miles.  Still in the EF0 or EF1 part of the storm.  Tornado was building strength.  Thankfully not much damage #tornadowalk
John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/24/13
Jason crawled out of a cellar find his home gone. First move/ Dig out the neighbors across the street #tornadowalk
John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/24/13
Coming up on a block in SW OKC that was leveled in 99 tornado and again this week.
John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/24/13
Briarwood Elementary in Moore.  Kids survived here but that’s hard to believe looking at it.  Stunned  #tornadowalk
John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/25/13
Don’t expect today to be easy. Going by the elementary school where kids lost their lives.  And a hospital. #tornadowalk
John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/25/13
PlazaTowers Elementary, where7 kinds died.  In rubble: plastic easter egg, chocolates, soggy cat in hat. #tornadowalk
John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/25/13
Ok im getting away from the elementary school.  Too sad.  No emotional capacity.  Feel like a–hole voyeur. #tornadowalk
John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/25/13
“You see it on TV but to see it first hand? It’s like you’re in a dream.” Fernando Ayala #tornadowalk
John D. Sutter @jdsutter 5/25/13
Memorial to the 7 elementary school victims.  One wood cross for each #tornadowalk

Sadly, on June 3rd, another tornado hit the same area in Oklahoma that was impacted on May 20th.  This storm claimed 18 lives.  At times like these, there are not many words we can say to provide comfort to those who are suffering.  However, we will continue to remember them in our prayers, and extend to them our best wishes, for that is who we are as a people.  Our natural instinct is to be of comfort to those who are in pain.

We at Brooklyn Legends salute the victims, survivors and first-responders of this tragedy.  We will remember them in our thoughts, prayers and conversations.  We have sent a modest donation to The Red Cross to support the relief efforts.  Please join us if you can.  Remember, every bit helps.

photo closing photo


The US Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
United States Flag –
President Obama at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 2013 –
Arlington National Cemetery –
Flag of Jamaica –
Photo of Kingston Jamaica –
The Waterfront in Jamaica – Pinterest via Kamizzie
President Obama and the FEMA Team –
Time Magazine
John D. Sutter –

Slide show photos:
Teacher finds one of his students – Pinterest via Britney Campbell
Flag on the Ruins of a home in Oklahoma – US Air Force on Flickr
Dog lost during the storm –
Policemen assisting recovery efforts –
Two friends console each other –
Thoughts and Payers –