Cosmopolitan Review: 4/21 - 4/27
Yvonne Delaney Mitchell | 4/22/2016, 10:06 a.m.
I don’t quite smell spring in the air, but I know it’s coming. Daffodils are everywhere. But where are the lilacs and gardenias? They are two of my favorites because their aromas just fill up a room with the sweet scent of nature.
Also filling up a room were those who gathered at Bard College, where the Center for Curatorial Studies honored Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum of Harlem. Golden received special recognition and an award. A few more tidbits about what has been going on around town: The Citizens Budget Commission honored United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, which now I guess makes it official, and producer, director, actor, writer, activist Spike Lee teamed up with actor Alec Baldwin to host the 50th Anniversary Gala of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, held at Jazz at Lincoln Center-Frederick P. Rose Hall, located in the Time Warner Center.
In the purple mountains of Massachusetts, where Williams College resides nestled in the purple valley, the Alumni Relations Department, partnering with the Williams Black Alumni Network, Alumni Partners and several other colleges, hosted a Bolin Legacy Celebration. In attendance were alum from all over the country including John Bolin Hobby and his family of Brooklyn, N.Y.
As the legend goes, in the fall of 1885, a young Black man from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., by the name of Gaius Charles Bolin set foot on the campus at Williams College. Bolin was the first in his family to attend college, and in 1889, he was the first Black student to graduate from Williams. While a student at Williams, he wasn’t permitted to live on campus because of residential college policies, and instead had to reside off-campus with one of the 20 Black families in Williamstown. Nonetheless, Bolin engaged in campus life, studying Latin and Greek, becoming captain of the football team and valedictorian of his graduating class. If he had any unpleasant, discriminating encounters, he never spoke of them, as the only record of his personal experiences were of the unbearably cold winters and muddy grounds during the mud season. The only other Black men (Williams was then an all-male school) to come to the campus were Abe “The Bunter” Parsons, who found his way to Williams after having been enslaved in the South, and Bolin’s younger brother, who entered a year after him.
After graduation, Bolin returned to his home in Poughkeepsie, the city his family had called home for more than 200 years. He joined his father, working in the poultry business before gravitating to his chosen field, which was the law. He established himself as a prominent lawyer, activist and public servant, while raising his children as a single father after the death of his wife, Matilda. Tempering “justice with mercy,” Bolin became a founder and active member of the Duchess County branch of the NAACP, achieving racial justice for Black people living in upstate New York.
Of his four children, Anna Amy, Gaius Jr., Ivy Rosalind and Jane Matilda, Jane Bolin became the first Black woman to both graduate from Yale Law School and become a federal judge in the United States. Jane Bolin has been quoted as saying, “My father instilled in us great pride in ourselves and our race.” My mother, Harriet DeLaney, who was a court liaison in New York City Family Court representing the Probation Department, had the pleasure of working with Judge Bolin, when she presided as a Family Court Judge during a period in her career. Although rather reserved, as my mom would say, Judge Bolin knew how to make her feel at home. And so, my mother invited Judge Bolin to join her and a few of the court officers for lunch at a local Chinese Restaurant one Friday (that was my mom, ever the social events director). The judge had such a good time that they made it a monthly ritual.