“There is no better [teacher] than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”—Malcolm X.
What better way to start this column in the New York Amsterdam News, which will be on the newsstands Thursday, than with a quote from Malcolm X on what would be his 91st birthday? Quotes come and go, but this one is universal, fitting every time, place and person.
For those in an activist mood, the play, “A Man of His Time,” is a must-see. Performed May 19-21, at the Actors Studio, 432 W. 44th St., 7 p.m., the play focuses on a conversation between two people who meet at a diner somewhere along the New Jersey Turnpike.
The people were no ordinary people, and theirs was no ordinary conversation. The root of the conversation arose from the 1857 United States Supreme Court decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, denying Dred Scott, an enslaved man living in Missouri, standing to sue for freedom.
In our legal system, no one can bring a case to court unless they have standing. To have standing, the person must have a personal, vested interest in the outcome of the case. In other words, it is not enough to bring a case seeking relief for someone else; it is the person himself or herself who must receive the benefit, justice or relief.
Although Scott was seeking his freedom, which no doubt would mean freedom for countless others, Taney in his decision wrote that Scott had no standing to sue for freedom because he was Black, and Blacks could not be citizens. “They were so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Accordingly, this decision is believed to be the worst legal decision in American history—or at least one of them.
Interestingly, the one-act play is written by Kate Taney Billingsley, the great-great-great grandniece of Taney. Billingsley confesses the inspiration for writing the play came from the years of conflicted and unsettled feelings she had about being a Taney descendant. Her father, Charles Taney (the great-great grandnephew), taught her to be both proud of Roger Taney’s accomplishments—he was the second-longest-serving chief justice in history—and dismayed over his decision in the Scott case.
Whether Taney was inwardly sympathetic and just doing his role as society expected or genuinely believed that Blacks were three-fifths of a person, we will never know. However, after the May 21 performance, there will be an onstage conversation about race, reconciliation and their famous forebears between Lynne M. Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott, and Charles Taney. “Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”—Malcolm X
More than 2,000 women leaders in community, philanthropy, corporate and government gathered at the Marriott Hotel for the annual New York Women’s Foundation breakfast honoring the Young Women’s Initiative, launched in 2015 by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council. YWI is the first-ever effort solely dedicated to improving and supporting life outcomes in economic security and justice, education, health and safety for girls, young women and transgender youth of color in the United States.
Recognized at the breakfast for their leadership and philanthropy are Tory Burch, CEO & designer of Tory Burch LLC and founder of the Tory Burch Foundation, and Elizabeth A. Sackler, Ph.D., human rights activist, president of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and founder of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. When the New York Women’s Foundation began in 1987, it invested $50,000 in four organizations. In 2015, it granted $6 million to 90 partners. For more information, visit www.nywf.org.
Kofi Yankey and June Ambrose looked absolutely stunning as they sat at the table surrounded by lilacs and next to Paris Hilton, who was taking a selfie, as did H. Carl McCall and Dr. Joyce Brown, during the 125th anniversary of Carnegie Hall black-tie dinner dance, held at the Waldorf Astoria. Honored was fashion designer Dennis Basso.
The New York City Mission Society hosted its annual Champions for Children Gala at the Mandarin Oriental, where they honored the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance founder and artistic director, and multiple Grammy Award winner, Arturo O’Farrill, with their Visionary Partner Award.
Former New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. introduced Medgar Evers College/CUNY President Rudolph Crew, who previously served as New York City School Chancellor and delivered the keynote address. As many know, the Mission Society sponsors Camp Minisink, and if you didn’t go to Atwater, you went to Minisink. They continue to do great things for children throughout the metropolitan area, and the proceeds from the gala help to support the Mission Society’s myriad programs and services.
They also have a most interactive Facebook page, which you should check out. One interesting post advises parents to stop passing on your own “math phobias,” by telling kids they are bad at math. Recent research by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel of the U.S. Department of Education has found that telling children about math anxiety isn’t actually helpful. However, getting comfortable with math, which supports getting a good education, is helpful.
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world.”—Malcolm X.
Until next week … kisses.