Brooklyn courts present “I AM Program” celebrating progress since emancipation
In its continued celebration of Black History Month, the Kings County Courts Black History Month Committee presented the “I AM Program” this past Friday. Sponsored by the Brooklyn Defender Services, the “I AM Program” showed the progression that Blacks have made since emancipation.
Members from the Brooklyn legal community introduced the audience to figures of Black history, known and unknown, past and present. Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Desmond Green played the role of famed baseball player Jackie Robinson from the Brooklyn Dodgers. “I wore a jersey and gave a brief bio of Robinson,” said Green. “I was honored to portray the time when Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball: 1947.”
Cyril Jefferson, Esq., court attorney for the Brooklyn criminal courts, portrayed James Madison Hemings. For Jefferson, Hemings — the son of President Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings — felt close to home. “This is my skin color,” said Jefferson. “I felt as though this was where I came from.” Jefferson is presently on a quest to track his genealogy to the Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings’ bloodline.
Originally suggested by Jamie Burke, Esq., a case supervisor at the Brooklyn Defender Services, each participant ended their scripted biography with the phrase “I Am Black History.” “We needed a continuing theme throughout the bios,” Burke noted. “Ending with that phrase made the conclusion of each story pack a powerful punch.”
Burke portrayed Elizabeth “Mumbett” Freeman, the first slave to sue for her freedom and win. “Mubmett was the stepping stone to emancipation,” Burke said.
“It was a really inspiring program,” noted Izetta Johnson, co-chair of the Black History Month Committee.
In addition to the commemoration of leaders in Black history, Brooklyn Supreme Court Criminal Justice William Miller was recognized for his 30 years of service in the court system. The tribute was presented by Criminal Court Judge Michael Yavinsky and Supervising Court Attorney Hiriam Bell. Miller received a plaque for his “integrity, compassion and generosity.”
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