Friday, June 15, East Harlem’s Taino Towers hosted a special tribute to several local elected officials—past and present—during a Father’s Day Dinner. Recipients included the Hon. Mayor David Dinkins; the “Lion of Lenox Avenue,” Congressman Charles Rangel; Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz; Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez; and “Mayor of Taino Towers,” Doyle Cross.
“I’d like to thank all these magnificent fathers who have dedicated many years to our children in our communities,” stated Maria Cruz, executive director of Taino Towers, to open the festivities.
Manhattan Borough President Gayle Brewer expressed, “Congratulations to all the fathers, and men and women, from this community, because you have made it very great.” She thanked Diaz “for coming down to Manhattan,” Dinkins, “my former employer,” her ex-colleague Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, “the Mayor of Harlem Charlie Rangel” and District Leader Eddie Gibbs.
“Whatever is going on nationally, we know that in a community, we can work together,” Brewer said before a moment of silence was called to memorialize late Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell.
Dickens noted how Farrell “helped Black and Latino attorneys to become judges, to raise women up in the legal field when it was unpopular and not sexy to do so.” She added, “I wanna thank you on behalf of the Farrell family for giving this honor and recognizing him.”
Dickens continued, “That Rodriguez, myself, Assemblyman Al Taylor and Senator Brian Benjamin have formed a coalition to work together to ensure that East Harlem, West Harlem and Washington Heights will legislatively and through budgetary means, will receive the most we can secure and better our communities.”
The Last Poets’ Filipe Luciano paid homage to Farrell. “In order to make it in politics you better form a gang, a group of men who are loyal to each other,” he said. “There were four men who literally transformed Harlem: David Dinkins, Charlie Rangel, Denny Farrell and Basil Patterson, and we gotta give them great credit.” He added, “Also Percy Sutton.”
“[Farrell] fought a good fight,” Luciano noted. “Let us remember the warriors who came before us.”
A letter from Mayor de Blasio was read: “Parenthood has been one of my life’s greatest journeys and it comes with profound joy and great responsibility. … On behalf of the City of New York, we congratulate all the honorees.”
Visiting from Albany, Hersh Ferret added, “I bring greetings from Governor Cuomo. To all the fathers here, congratulations and thank you for all the work you do in raising this community to become the powerhouse it is.”
Dinkins received a standing ovation before thanking “all the mothers first, because without you there would be no fathers.” He added, “What little I’ve been able to achieve, it’s been because of an awful lot of help, many of them are standing right here with me. I thank you so much.”
Luciano referred back to 1990, when Dinkins became NYC’s first African-American mayor, to rousing applause. “People were being rounded up, race relations were horrible, we had no hope, were in despair and were depressed,” said Luciano. “Dinkins comes along saying, ‘I think I can make it as mayor.’ We were amazed when he earned the pinnacle of political power!”
Rodriguez mentioned that his father “planted seeds that I pass on to my children, the sense of community, service, opening new doors, work-ethic, persistence,” He continued, “All those values that we know exists in our communities because our fathers made sure they were instilled in us. Make sure you’re present for those important moments in your children’s lives.”
Senator Brian Benjamin gave “a special shoutout to all the wrongfully incarcerated fathers who are not with their loved ones.” He added, “We have to make sure we have the right laws in this state.”
He then presented Diaz with the Father of the Year award.
“This award means the world to me,” said Diaz. “Being a father has been the most important thing in my life.”
Rangel concluded, “This is a very moving occasion. Nothing gives me more sense of accomplishment than to see all the family here, united. I wish I could personally thank and hug each one of you because I never could’ve reached the heights, politically, without your support. Thank you.”