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U.S. Attorney’s office hosts annual Black History Month event

February 21, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Attorney for the EDNY Robert Capers presents Dr. Michelle A. Williams with the 2017 Trailblazer Award, given out every year during Black History Month. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York held its annual Black History Month celebration in Downtown Brooklyn on Friday where it honored Dr. Michelle A. Williams with its 2017 Trailblazer Award.

The event lasted about an hour and featured remarks by U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tanisha Payne and Dara Olds. Before Williams gave her keynote speech, there was a musical selection by Deborah Bingham. Karen Francis introduced artist Joan Samuels, whose work was on display, a historical presentation was made by Alicia Washington and a moment of silence was held for late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

“In 2013, Ken became the first African-American district attorney in Kings County,” said Antoinette Woolridge. “He was also the first candidate since 1911 to defeat a sitting district attorney in Brooklyn. When asked about his position as DA in Kings County, he said, ‘The main duty of the DA is to do justice. That means to protect our citizens, but it also means that we have to ensure that the criminal justice system is based on fundamental freedoms.’”

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Lots of local school students were also involved in the event, including students from Mott Hall Bridges Academy, who led the audience in reciting the pledge of allegiance, Students from the High School for Legal Studies were honored and students from Brooklyn High School for the Arts gave a short performance.

The presence of the students was no coincidence, as the theme for this year’s event was “The Role of Education in African American History,” and Williams spoke about the importance of education in her keynote speech. Williams, the dean of faculty at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, emigrated from Jamaica, grew up in East New York and attended public school in Queens prior to getting her doctoral degrees in epidemiology from Harvard University.

“As lawyers or future lawyers, you will search for the truth in service of justice and you are going to do this, largely, through evidenced-based decision making,” Williams said. “We do this through education. Education, I believe, is the single greatest path to human progress.

Finally, “celebrity judges” Hon. Pamela K. Chen and Hon. Steven L. Tiscione judged the annual “Top Chef”-style competition that Jessica Watz won with her peanut butter and chocolate cake.

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