By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
DC 37’s Black History Committee and local unions celebrated African American heritage in February and Census 2020 and the November elections were constant themes at this year’s events.
“Our theme resonates with the needs of our communities and stresses the importance of being counted in Census 2020. Our voices are heard as we bring seats to the table by completing the census form,” said Local 1930’s Nina Manning, the new BHC co-chair with Local 372’s La’Nette Murphy. With distinguished speakers, singers, dancers and drummers, the committee presented programs to uplift and motivate.
“We need to talk about institutional racism, and talk about segregation and talk about government providing for the very few, at the expense of the many,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido.
At the BHM Finale Feb. 28, Census 2020 spokeswoman Nichole Yearwood explained, “We have to normalize the Census. Counting begins online March 12. You can respond by phone, in person or with a paper questionnaire—but please respond. The information is not shared and neither is one’s immigration status.”
Elected officials at union’s events included NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer; Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; Assemblyman Michael Blake (DC 37-endorsed candidate for Congressional District 15); City Council Member Donovan Richards (DC 37-endorsed candidate for Queens Borough President); and others.
Labor leaders Garrido; SSEU Local 371 Pres. Anthony Wells; Local 372 Pres. Shaun D. Francois I and Vice Pres. Donald Nesbit; DC 37 Treasurer Maf Uddin; Local 924 Pres. Kyle Simmons; Local 2627 Pres. Laura Morand; Local 154 Pres. Juan Fernandez; Rev. Terrence Melvin, CBTU president and secretary-treasurer of NYS AFL-CIO; Anthony Harmon, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Transit Workers Union Local 100’s Charles Jenkins, New York Chapter CBTU president were also present.
New York Public Library Guild 1930’s Feb. 6 presented Gates of Equality, a dramatization by Mike Green of Urban Stages, on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
SSEU Local 371’s program ‘Be Counted, Be Heard,’ Feb. 7, featured the Noel Pointer Foundation youth string quintet; a dramatization of historic African royalty, and dynamic speakers U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes and Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.
On Feb. 10, Local 1407 presented the Simba Dance Group, and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who said: “The fight for equal wages, fair conditions and for the jobs and benefits that we enjoy today is because the civil rights movement and labor were intertwined.”
“The Ballot or the Bullet” was NYC Board of Education Local 372’s theme Feb. 20. Francois said getting out the vote, especially in November, was crucial to the future of labor unions and working families.
The New York Chapter of CBTU and Go Party held a gospel concert Feb. 21 with singers Jackie Rowe-Adams, president of Local 299, Lisa Nero and others. Opera Exposures’ Rochelle Small Clifford and Tshombe Shelby sang arias from Porgy and Bess, La Traviata, and traditional spirituals. Grievance Rep and CBTU Vice President Eugene Williams organized the event.
Reflecting on African Americans who survived the Middle Passage and slavery, Jim Crow and civil rights struggles, Wells said, “The Black experience is rich in contributions and pain. Black history serves as a reminder and a path to progress that was shared by the union movement to move this nation forward. It’s about dignity and respect.”
Additional reporting by Mike Lee and Rudy Orozco. Photos by Clarence Elie-Rivera and Mike Lee.