In her annual celebration of black history Tuesday night at St. Philips Baptist Church, Councilwoman Debi Rose honored several individuals and groups who have worked to improve the North Shore, including Rev. James Bestman, Shaw’nae Dixon, Kelly Vilar, Brothers Care, Distinguished Gentlemen, Occupy the Block, True2Life, Choices for Hope, Choice Not Chance, Leadership Through Sports and 2x Grown/Uncle Chase.
"We cannot pretend that we live in a society that is color blind or class blind," the Councilwoman said at the event. "The opposite is true, and the signs are all around us. I know many of my constituents fear whether they will be able to remain in New York City. Whether from Ecuador or Liberia, Sierra Leone or Sri Lanka, that fear is real. Our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters fear for their safety as well"
“Throughout history, we have always had to fight for our rights and to make our world a better place,” Councilwoman Rose added. “Today is no different. To all of you who have marched, protested and stood in the cold at vigils in recent months, know that your presence, your activism, your persistence makes a real difference. We summon the spirit of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King as inspiration to move forward. And that is one of the reasons I wanted to honor some of the many people who work every day for a better, more just world for all. Each of these honorees is an inspiration to me personally. They have done so much, often with little or no resources.”
The evening also included performances by spoken word artist William “Starda” Perry, vocalist Trevor McGhie, the Brighton Heights Reformed Church Youth Orchestra, St. Philip‘s Adult Choir, the #D4G – Destined for Greatness dancers and actress Christine Dixon portraying Harriet Tubman.
“We celebrate because we have a proud history, a history of resiliency, of overcoming and of achieving,” Councilwoman Rose said at the event. “As Maya Angleou so eloquently said, ‘Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
“And as we rise, we stand on the shoulders of those who come before us,” the Councilwoman added. “The honorees whose community work we paid tribute to embody the energy and inspiration of those who have come before us, and they have made our communities better places. Their inspiration provides a firm foundation for the next generation to rise and make a difference, carrying us ever forward.”
In introducing actress Christine Dixon's portrayal of Harriet Tubman, Councilwoman Rose noted that Sandy Ground was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and that she has launched an effort to name one of the new Staten Island ferries after the settlement.
"You may have seen in the news last week that I launched an effort to name one of the new ferry boats after an important chapter in Staten Island History, the Councilwoman said. "Too few New Yorkers know about this rich chapter in the history of our borough and our nation. My hope is that the Sandy Ground ferry boat will honor the lives and legacies of the settlers of Sandy Ground by prompting future generations to learn more about this settlement, which was, appropriately enough, founded by a ferry captain."