BY SAM RAPPAPORT
On Tuesday evening, rousing applause greeted U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) at a banquet hall in East Elmhurst.
Crowley, hosting his 19th annual Black History Month event, had just been introduced to the crowd of approximately 200 as the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Crowley’s ensuing speech criticized President Donald Trump’s administration’s policies and aimed to establish the Democratic Caucus chairman as one of Congress’ most ferocious defenders of progressive values.
“Whether it’s slashing access to health care and vital community programs or making it harder for offices like mine to help immigrants—the president and his cronies are hell-bent on undoing the progress we’ve made together,” Crowley told the crowd. “This summer, President Trump’s bigoted attitudes were laid bare when he compared hate-spewing white supremacists to peaceful community members and civil rights activists. That moment—both the events that took place in Charlottesville and the president’s response to them—highlighted how we all must treat this administration as the threat to freedom and civil rights that it is.”
Crowley stated that decades of progress have been undone since Trump took office. Specifically, he identified Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ easing of private prison regulations and his directive to enhance prosecution of drug crimes, both of which disaproportionately affect communities of color.
“Every American who values equality, fairness, justice and peace must…oppose this administration,” Crowley said.
“So, during this Black History Month, I think it’s incredibly important to look back on how the giants of an earlier era coped with what they faced. Champions like John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., the Little Rock Nine and Rosa Parks channeled the negativity hurled at them and turned it into positive change. If they could maintain confidence in the face of overwhelming adversity, surely, we can too.”
Among those present at Tuesday’s event were State Sens. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Councilmen Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
In addition to his fiery indictment of the Trump presidency, Crowley honored Rev. Gilberto A. Hinds, the interim priest at the Episcopal Church of Grace and Resurrection, and Detective Adriane Johnson, the community affairs officer for the 115th Precinct.
Hinds, who has led the East Elmhurst church for two and a half years, said that he was humbled and slightly overwhelmed by the award.
“I was surprised by the size of the crowd and all of the politicians,” Hinds said. “I’m grateful, but it is a little uncanny to receive an award for doing the Lord’s work.”