Last month on Saturday, Sept. 17, New York State Senator Mrs. Cordell Cleare, sponsored a tribute to two trailblazing Harlem politicians during an outdoor block forum at Morningside Ave. and 114th St. Several notables paid homage to the distinguished legacies of Bill Perkins and Charlie Rangel, who’ve served their communities for many decades.
Sen. Robert Jackson remembered how Perkins chose to back Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential elections while most other local elected officials endorsed New York State Senator Hillary Clinton.
“He wasn’t looked upon favorably because he didn’t go along with the status quo, but Bill isn’t a status quo person,” Jackson noted, prior to reflecting on Rangel: “He’s the ambassador for Harlem. He’s a leader that has put his life on the line for our community. For so many years he served in the U.S. Congress representing us.”
Sen. Kevin Parker explained how Rangel inspired him to participate in politics, and that Perkins pushed for the Healthcare Act, as well as banning solitary confinement in prisons, “He was the first one leading that charge when they weren’t popular.” And how “he’s an intrepid voice, a vanguard” who “represented not only Harlem, but also other unheard voices.”
Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, thanked the two progressive politicians “for their decades of contributions.” And thanked Perkins for “fighting and standing alone when it was an unpopular issue, but he knew it was the right thing, he stood up anyway and took a lot of flak for it.” She also noted that his wife, “Pam is his wings.”
Adding: “When the republicans said we’re going to do away with social security, [Rangel] stood up and said, ‘No you will not!’” She also mentioned the Charles B. Rangel Infrastructure Institute at Harlem’s City College, “which is in our community to educate our kids. God bless and thank you so much.”
Next up, Rangel abbreviated his stay and thanked his wife before saying, “I’m not leaving until I pay tribute to my old buddy, Bill Perkins. I am reminded that life is just a short run and what all of us can accomplish is what we’re here to do. Things have changed dramatically since I was elected in 1971, things have changed dramatically when I retired in 2017, but as the Sam Cooke song goes: ‘It takes a long, long time to turn things around.’”
He also mentioned “Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Lloyd Dickens, Hulan Jack, and so many others who’ve passed the baton that you’ve never have met. My wife and I sincerely thank y’all for all you’ve done.”
Pam Perkins praised “Charlie Rangel, the living legend,” prior to thanking “the voters for always having his back, and sending him back [to office],” and her husband’s staff, as Bill stood nearby; “Things don’t happen just because.”
Sen. Cleare expressed: “That’s what it’s all about, community. No matter what your ideology is, these are two legends who have served us,” as well as thanking several other attendees.
A gracious Yusef Salaam––as his mother, Sharon, stood beside him––from the Exonerated Central Park 5 case, recalled: “Bill Perkins came to our assistance from the very beginning, when it wasn’t popular. Because of the malicious actions the system had sought for us, my mother told us to refuse [to cooperate]. The beautiful way Bill Perkins rose to assist us to ensure we had a fair shot, and even after we went to prison he ensured we had the opportunity to succeed.”
Former Manhattan Borough President, C. Virginia Fields, added: “There was never a time that we called on Bill and he didn’t answer.”
Assemblyman Al Taylor, John Liu and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine; were among the presenters.