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Brooklyn’s Family Court celebrates Black History Month

February 27, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hon. Jeanette Ruiz (left) and the Brooklyn Family Court hosted a Black History Month event at the courthouse entitled “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture” with Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam (right) as the keynote speaker. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Kings County Family Court hosted its second annual Black History Month celebration at its courthouse on Thursday with a powerfully energetic program of special guests and a musical performance.

“The theme of this year’s Black History Month celebration is a ‘Celebration of Black Life, History and Culture,’” said Hon. Jeanette Ruiz, supervising judge of the Family Court. “Our program today really exemplifies history and culture.

“Our keynote speaker, Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam, is the embodiment of history as the first African-American woman to be appointed to the highest court of our state,” Ruiz said.

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The program was kicked off by students from the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice, who led the courthouse in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Hon. Jacqueline D. Williams gave brief remarks before Ama Dwimoh presented the court with a proclamation from Borough President Eric Adams. Hon. W. Franc Perry also read a statement from Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.

There was a special acknowledgement for Hon. Michael Milsap, who has recently left the Brooklyn Family Court to serve as a judge in the Bronx. Richard Spegele gave a touching introduction before his friend got up and spoke about what an honor it was to receive special acknowledgement from the court.

“I was being told that I was invited to this celebration, but I did not know that I was being recognized like this,” Milsap said. “This has been my home, and all of you have been my family. All of the things I’ve accomplished on a professional level, I would not have done without all of the people that work diligently at this court.”

Ruiz introduced Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the keynote speaker. Abdus-Salaam discussed her roots and her unlikely ascension to the New York State Court of Appeals, where she became the first African-American woman appointed to the court.

Abdus-Salaam credited her mother’s effort as well as her heroes including Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives in 1968, and Constance Baker Motley, the first African-American woman elected to the New York State Senate and to the position of Manhattan borough president and first named to a federal judgeship.

“If my mother wasn’t such a smart and resourceful woman, I might have ended up in foster care or worse,” Abdus-Salaam said. “Although she dropped out of school, my mother realized that a good education would help us escape the poverty that we were trapped in.”

The program ended with a performance called “Mookestueck,” which was written by Brooklyn composer Alvin Singleton and performed by violist Martha Mooke.


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