BY DR. WILMA HUNT-WATTS
It is our personal responsibility to never forget those who came before us and paved a way forward for us to realize our dreams and help us discover our true purpose. Many Americans may not know the numerous contributions of Clarence L. Irving, Sr., a great American who devoted the majority of his life to community service. If you had the honor of knowing him, you knew that he was a strong advocate for personal responsibility in tandem with public policy.
Irving’s teachings resound loudly from all that he has left on this earth for us to build on, such as the young players from his championship winning baseball team in 1955, the young performing groups of the 1970s who swept New York State with all-city winning performances and the unforgettable Black Heritage Stamp Series, which is now a global phenomenon.
Due to his hard work, tenacity and determination throughout the Southeast Queens community, many advancements were achieved as well as realized. Irving was able to bring many of his ideas to fruition by working closely with his elected officials. This could not have been accomplished without the cooperative work of those in charge of public policy and individuals in the community who knew the value of personal responsibility. Irving learned early in life that when these two factors are successfully coupled together, they produce real, long-lasting results that survive many generations.
Irving eloquently and strategically brought together sports, music and history, mentoring young people to become successful, productive citizens. He successfully taught his players the art of life through America’s greatest pastime—baseball.
As a historian, Irving celebrated postage stamps as a result of his being an avid stamp collector. He also divulged information regarding the Jamaica Post Office. Did you know that the Jamaica Post Office goes back to the early 1700s when it was the British Colony of New York? In April 1896, Jamaica—in what was known as the Triboro District—became the first post office to appoint a Negro clerk and letter carrier. Jamaica again made history in 1971 when General Foreman was named the first black postmaster. This is just some of the history that Mr. Irving shared with our community.
Irving never forgot that strong communities are the fabric to help build a strong society for our children and grandchildren. He came from a generation who saw and lived through a tumultuous time in our country, but did not let experiences dismay dreams or efforts to build the community in which he wanted children to grow up.
On many occasions, he would meet personally with elected officials to discuss the needs of the community and how budgets could be structured to meet the needs of that community. While building on his personal relationships with elected officials, he made indelible partnerships that helped to instill trust among all parties involved.
To Clarence L. Irving, Sr.: Thank you for leaving a legacy for the world to appreciate the contributions of African Americans. Irving left this world on March 23, 2014, but his legacy through The Black American Heritage Foundation lives on. In his own words, he stated: “I want to leave something on this earth the same way others left something for me. I don’t have all the answers. All I have done and am still trying to do is that which I could do as an individual.”
Because of Clarence L. Irving, Sr., we will never forget the motto of The Black American Heritage Foundation: “To remember our past…to protect our future.”