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President of NAACP New York calls for focus on education during Black History Month opening

February 2, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Kings County Courts kicked off Black History Month with an opening ceremony that featured Hazel N. Dukes (second from left), president of the New York chapter of the NAACP. Pictured from left: Hon. Reginald Boddie, Hazel N. Dukes, Hon. Deborah A. Dowling and Leah Richardson. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Kings County Courts kicked off Black History Month with its opening ceremony in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the New York state Supreme Court on Jay Street.

However, this year’s event was not as uplifting as in the past as the keynote speaker Hazel N. Dukes, president of the New York chapter of the NAACP, came with a warning — there could be an educational crisis if Betsy DeVos is confirmed as secretary of education in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

“[DeVos has] never been in a public school, she knows nothing about education. She knows about money,” Dukes said. “This is a crisis, but we’ve been in crisis before. We’ve always been in crisis. We’ve never had a good life. Everything that we’ve earned, everything we’ve got it was hard work.”

Dukes talked about being raised in Montgomery, Alabama, being taught at Sunday school by Rosa Parks and about how her education changed her life. She then went on to explain how it is a duty of everyone in the room to ensure that today’s youth has access to education and opportunities for success.

“Every success in life comes from us making a sacrifice,” Dukes said. “In this time of crisis, we must buckle up, put on our shield of courage and meet this time that we have. Our children deserve it. Somebody gave it to us and we have to give it back. It’s our duty and it’s our time. This is the moment for us to shine and address this crisis. It’s not just a theme for Black History Month; it should be a theme for every day.”

The annual event was hosted by Hon. Reginald Boddie and included speeches from Hon. Lawrence Knipel, administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term; Daniel M. Alessandrino, chief clerk for Criminal Matters; Hon. Deborah A. Dowling, co-chair of the Black History Month Committee; Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix and Helene Black, past presidents of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association; Aimee Richter, president of the Brooklyn Bar Association; and Michael Cibella, president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. Wé McDonald, a finalist for TV show “The Voice,” Season 11, sang the national anthem and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black national anthem.

Awards were also given out during the event. The first was given in recognition of Hon. Maxine Archer, who is expected to retire this month. Awards were also given out to Roderick Randall and Harold Williams Jr., two court employees often active behind the scenes at similar courthouse events. When presenting Randall and Williams with their awards, Dowling remarked that it would be a shock to them since they weren’t informed that they would be receiving an award and it certainly was as both were clearly moved by the honor.

“These two gentlemen are hardworking and whatever I ask them to do they do,” Dowling said. “They were the ones who got me involved with the summer youth internship program. They are tremendous individuals and hard working. I have to give them their due.”

A moment of silence was also held for Izetta Johnson, a former court employee who helped to pioneer the Black History Month programs within the court and the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who passed away from cancer last year.

“We could not have a Black History Month program without mentioning these two names,” Dowling said. “Certainly, Izetta Johnson is legendary for creating a Black History Month in the courthouse. She worked long and hard for 19 years and was great at her craft. We also have to mention the late Kenneth Thompson, our district attorney. He accomplished much in the short time that he served.”


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