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Cuomo joins Harlem dignitaries at 10th annual African-American Day Parade Breakfast

CRAIG D. FRAZIER Special to the AmNews | 9/24/2011, 7:16 a.m.
Harlem prepares for annual African American Day Parade

This past weekend, elected officials, community leaders and Harlem residents joined Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright for the 10th annual African-American Day Parade Breakfast at the Schomburg Cultural Center in Harlem. Every year, before the parade begins, the African-American Day Parade Breakfast Committee (AADPBC) honors community leaders and those who make a positive impact in the community with a breakfast and award ceremony.

This year, the AADPBC award ceremony honored Lynda Ireland, president of the NY and NJ Minority Supplier Diversity Council; retired Thurgood Marshall Academy Principal Dr. Sandye Johnson; and 1199 SEIU President George Gresham.

"The first African-American Day Parade Breakfast was developed to recognize the accomplishment of the Harlem Little League, making it to the 2002 Little League World Series," said Wright. "Now we do it every year and I am proud to be a part of this celebration."

Before the awards ceremony, Wright and Rep. Charles Rangel presented congressional certificates to Rice High School seniors.

"We believe in you. You have to succeed," said Rangel. "Not just for yourself, your family and your community, but it is going to be rough out there with technology. Never give up, never give in and never stop believing that you can do it."

AADPBC Executive Director Tamara Frere welcomed the Harlem dignitaries, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and Bill Thompson. New York City Council Members Inez Dickens, Robert Jackson and Christine C. Quinn and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares were among the elected officials in attendance.

Cuomo, Rangel, Wright and Schomburg Director Dr. Khalil Muhammad each spoke to the audience before the recipients received their awards.

"The Schomburg Center is committed to the celebration of Afro-American culture, not only in the past but also in the present," declared Muhammad. "This day is an opportunity to reconnect with the community. To remind the community that this is a community institution."

The governor congratulated the honorees. He also addressed some of the issues that have had an adverse effect in communities of color in New York City, such as gun violence, recidivism and unemployment.

"This recent rash of gun violence should concern us all. We know that we have a plague of guns in this city," Cuomo explained. "We have turned a blind eye to it for a long time," he said. "For decades we have been fighting Washington for sensible laws controlling guns. We need those laws. We need those laws fast. We need those laws now."

The governor reminded everyone there that he wants to empower, not punish. That is one of the reasons he closed prisons. He wants to recycle state monies into community-based programs that will assist in training and jobs.

"It is not just about gun laws. We know that there are other things that we can do that will work," Cuomo continued.

"When young people feel the lack of opportunity, that's when the level of violence goes up. We know that there is a connection between violence and unemployment. Congressman Rangel has taught us that empowerment zones work. Community-based services work. Anti-violence programs work."

Gresham thanked the AADPBC for giving him an award. "I remember when my parents moved me up from the South. The first place we lived was Harlem," said Gresham. "It's an honor to be recognized as a leader of a great institution like 1199."