“The ship is in,” said former Congressman Charles B. Rangel, putting a veritable capstone on the Infrastructure Workforce Initiative named in his honor and bringing to the close an evening of celebration last Thursday at City College’s Shepard Hall. “This is the beginning of what we have to do and it’s going to be exciting.”
Much of that excitement resonated throughout the vast Great Hall as a number of notables assembled to pay tribute to Rangel’s peerless legacy with opening comments from Dr. Vincent Boudreau, president of CCNY. After praising Rangel’s long and productive leadership in Congress, President Boudreau cited that the Charles B. Rangel Center for Infrastructure and Workforce Development, “will not create dead end jobs. It will be a place to prepare people for jobs, even those out of prison…and those jobs will help build the infrastructure of Harlem and the city.”
Earlier this year, at another much smaller ceremony, Rangel was welcomed on campus as statesman-in-residence, and President Boudreau recalled that moment, noting that Rangel “talked about an educational program designed to meet the vast needs of America’s crumbling infrastructure in a way that provided training and career pathways to residents of historically underserved communities.” These actions and sentiments were echoed by Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Rangel’s successor as representative in the district. The center, he said, “would not only be for Harlem, but Harlems of the world.” Back in March, Espaillat announced $1.5 million for the Rangel Center to bolster the college’s $400,000 investment. “We still have a lot of work to do,” he added.
Among the dignitaries hailing Rangel and summoned to the podium by moderator Lloyd Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, were such former and current elected officials as David Paterson, Inez Dickens, Cordell Cleare, Gale Brewer, Robert Jackson, Alvin Bragg, and William Thompson. Former Gov. Paterson noted that Rangel “feared no issues or persons, and has brought to the community a whole new vision to this inaugural moment.”
Manhattan District Attorney Bragg recounted his early years when he first heard of Rangel’s achievements in the Empowerment Zone and his record on public safety; NAACP stalwart Hazel Dukes also recalled Rangel’s effective leadership, noting that he was “all about business, and getting things done.” Some of her comments were also included on a short documentary, highlighting several key events in Rangel’s illustrious career, none more celebrated than 22 terms in office as Harlem’s voice and as a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
This momentous occasion will have to be included in Rangel’s long and eventful odyssey, and as he often said, “I haven’t had a bad day since,” recalling his life being spared during those perilous days in Korea when he narrowly escaped death.
Though not as robust as in the past, he remains the “Lion of Lenox Avenue,” and at the Center young students have already heard his roar, and lined up to meet him.