Thank you to all who joined me Feb. 27 St. Philip's Baptist Church to celebrate Black History Month! In honoring the 50th anniversaries of the Selma marches and the Voting Right Act, we paid tribute to a new generation of leaders on Staten Island who have stepped up to help others locally and globally. I recognized them, not just because they deserve to be honored, but because I want their work to inspire others. I want young people to see what their parents and grandparents are doing, so that they can aspire to be leaders themselves. Below are some excerpts from my remarks. Thank you again, and mark your calenders for our next event, Women in History, Thursday, March 26.
This year, we’re reminded of two significant milestones: the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery, and the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. ... As we look back on those events, honoring those who gave so much during the Civil Rights movement, we recognize that, in New York City in 2015, the struggle for equality and justice persists. We keep in mind the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And we see that the struggle for freedom, justice and equality is not over.
The last year has not been an easy one. I have shed a lot of tears as we faced tragedy, disappointment and struggle in the last seven months. This is a new year, and I know we’re all committed to moving forward. But in doing so, it is important that we heed our past and the sacrifices that lead to the passage of significant civil rights milestones such as the Voting Rights Act.
The Selma marches were significant acts of protest to further social justice and were planned as part of the strategy to pressure Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. In 2015, we respond the same way we did a half century ago — with peaceful protests calling for justice, asking for reform to the grand jury process, asking for improved police-community relations, and reminding the powers that be that “Black Lives Matter, and All Lives Matter.” We know from our history that protests are a vehicle for change.
Before we leave here tonight to continue that struggle tomorrow, I want to recognize and honor several Staten Islanders. ... So many people in our midst, many of them our neighbors, do selfless work that might otherwise go unnoticed. I want to recognize them, not just because they deserve to be honored, but because I want their work to inspire others. I want the young people here to see what their parents and grandparents are doing, so that they can aspire to be leaders themselves, whether it be on a community, city, national or global stage. The next generation needs strong leaders, and I know that many of them, whether they realize it or not, are here today. In fact, I think we’ll be recognizing several of them tonight!