We are getting there, slowly but surely. The month of March was in true form this year with the temperatures going up, down, up, down, up, down. Finally, it is the last week of March and only a minute before we will have April showers raining down upon us in preparation for the May flowers. It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.
Continually looking forward is the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the NAACP, which celebrated Women’s History Month with the Women in Media Awards. The program began with the business meeting announcement and opening remarks by President Geoffrey E. Eaton, who it is always a pleasure to see. A stirring invocation was given by the dynamic Hon. J. Machelle Sweeting, followed by a resounding rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and musical selection performed by Michelle Payne. Talk about first-rate entertainment!
Next on the program was the presentation of the Shirley Stewart-Farmer Woman of Excellence Awards. Honorees along with their presenters included, Faye Rodney, presenter Ruth Clark; Michelle S. Rodney, Esq., presenter the Hon. J. Machelle Sweeting; Jeanne Parnell, presenter Kyndall Reid, Esq.; Victoria Horsford, presenter Garry Johnson, first vice president of the branch; Theda Palmer Saxton, Ph.D., presenter Dolores Brinkley; and yours truly Yvonne DeLaney Mitchell, presenter the Hon. Franc Perry. A special honor was given to Pat Stevens, who was unable to make the event as she is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She was however represented by a loving and sincere companion, who stated Stevens is in good spirits and thanks everyone for their love and support.
I was honored and humbled to be among a gifted and talented group of women. Faye Rodney, who is publisher of the Carib News, was noted for hosting the annual business trips to various islands in the Caribbean, where many gathered to experience different cultures while discussing matters pertinent to their businesses. Rodney’s daughter, Michelle, was celebrated for her sharp legal eye and acumen. Radio personality Jean Parnell delighted the audience with her effervescent charm and wit as she expressed gratitude for the long-awaited recognition. It is always a delight to see Victoria Horsford, my contemporary at the New York Beacon, who among her illustrious career is also a product of The Modern School. It was my first time meeting Theda Palmer Saxton, wife of jazz musician Bill Saxton, and I was totally amazed and in awe of her dedication to preserving the arts. Her history with the Mid-Manhattan NAACP dates back to when she was instrumental in starting a writers group. The group continues to meet, honing the craft of writer’s both young and old. Saxton also played a major part in establishing the Professional Performing Arts School, from which many of our most talented performers are graduates. Most recently, she has penned a book, “The Seasoned Woman Speaks,” giving “a firsthand, anecdotal guidance regarding complex issues that confront over 12 million women, discouraging negative thinking in regards, to aging, while offering sustainable jewels of wisdom, and authentic content.”
Although all of the presenters gave glowing accolades worthy of the Academy Awards, I have to give a personal thanks to Perry, who has noticed things about me that I didn’t even know myself. The words can’t fully describe my gratitude and appreciation to him for the time he allotted to not reading my bio but writing one of his own—about me. Really, wow! The program concluded on a very high note with keynote speaker the Hon. Letitia James, public advocate for the City of New York, taking the podium. It was an honor to have her in our presence, live and in color. A special thanks has to be extended to Geoffrey Eaton, Kyndell Reid, Claire Theobalds and all of the members who worked tirelessly to organize a wonderful evening with ease, class and distinction.
It is worth mentioning that the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the NAACP has consistently over the years provided a safe haven for discussing the problems and providing solutions for the issues that plague our community and affect our country. The branch has brought together like-minded individuals while welcoming those looking for a civic-minded home of social justice.
An honorable mention has to be given to Shirley Steward-Farmer. Farmer, who died in 2014, was a founding member of the Mid-Manhattan NAACP. She was born and raised in Chicago and was first drawn to the arts before turning to the law. After receiving a B.A. in English, she obtained a J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Once in New York, she practiced law for 12 years, which included serving as associate counsel in the Office of the General Counsel of HRA under the Hon. Bruce Wright. During this time, she did the legal work to consolidate the Harlem Lawyers Association and the Bedford Stuyvesant Lawyers Association to form the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, of which she became the first president. Among her artistic achievements she has sung both classical and jazz/pop and performed the national anthem at a Yankees baseball game. She appeared as a guest artist at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Randy Weston, at the 110th birthday tribute to Eubie Blake and with Lionel Hampton at Lincoln Center. Those are some pretty big shoes to follow. Receiving an award in her honor sets a high standard but one that all of the honorees are delighted to strive for.
The Mid-Manhattan NAACP’s next big event will be the branch breakfast with a religious theme. Save the date for May 6 and come hungry. For more information and about becoming a member (if you’re not already, then you should be), call 212-749-2323.
While we’re holding dates, mark off the following Saturday, May 13, at 4 p.m. for “an Evensong Conversation” with the Hon. Stephen G. Breyer, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in honor of Thurgood Marshall Law Day 2017. As you know, Marshall was the first African-American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and one of the most effective civil rights crusaders of the 20th century. The event will be held at St. Philip’s Church, 204 W. 134th St.
Until next week … kisses.