BY TRONE DOWD
City Hall commemorated Black History Month, celebrating black New York City trailblazers, including Southeast Queens’ Archie Spigner, who was the city’s first African American City Council member, last Thursday.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans)—co-chairman of the council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus—and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Brooklyn) organized the event to honor people who have dedicated their lives to helping communities of color in their respective parts of the city. Hosted by Hilda Rodgers, the program also honored Melvin Faulkner, the community liaison for Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) and lifelong educator and Bronx native Madaha Kinsey-Limb, the founder of the Mind Builders Creative Arts Center. City Hall’s main chamber was filled to capacity with New Yorkers and elected officials.
“It is so important that we celebrate that history and have an opportunity to tell our story,” Miller said. “To honor our heroes and sheroes this evening as we should.”
Rodriguez said that he was happy to help facilitate the event.
“It has been a long journey for all of us, especially when it comes to blacks in America and those from the Caribbean,” he said. “Still, today we are in the process of finding a common ground for all of those who have the same ancestors. We come from thousands of years of history of culture. Unfortunately, our history was interrupted. We have been fighting very hard. Even in 2018, we can’t say that this fight is over.”
Rodriguez noted that while the council celebrates black excellence, it is important to remember many injustices that minorities face—including mass incarceration—are fights that are continue today. He said he hopes that through the work of his colleagues in City Hall and the caucus, these issues will one day become a thing of the past.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), who attended Friday’s event, also had a few words for the audience.
“Together, we here in the City Council, we fight for policies that can combat inequality where ever it rears its ugly head,” he said. “Racial inequality, socioeconomic inequality and gender inequality. Many of us here are working hard to protect communities of color. But we can’t do it alone. We need poets, activists, teachers, doctors and all of you. When people have the courage and conviction to stand up to injustice, make our voices heard and work together towards a more equal vision of society—that is how change is made.”
After an invocation by Rev. Darryl Frazier and a stirring recitation of the Black National Anthem by Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), the honorees were presented with a proclamation from the city.
Madaha Kinsey-Lamb thanked the audience for its recognition and support.
“We are all committed to building our community and young people, our families and our city,” she said. “I am so grateful.”
Faulkner praised his staff for helping him in his mission to serve the community.
“I am truly honored to be here this evening,” Faulkner said.
Spigner was honored for his steadfast fight against prejudice in the city, both before and after his 27-year tenure as councilman of the 27th District, as well as his many contributions to the city’s policies and Southeast Queens developments.
“It’s been a long struggle,” Spigner said. “We’ve done a lot so far, but there’s still a lot to do.”
He thanked his successors, both state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Miller, for carrying on the work that began during Spigner’s time in the council.
The event also featured performances by Southeast Queens locals, including saxophone virtuoso Ashley Keiko, the Edge School of the Arts and Joe’s Music Center and Performing Arts group.