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Brooklyn Courts host first-ever Caribbean-American Heritage Month celebration

June 30, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Hon. Devin P. Cohen, Hon. Sharon Clarke, Hon. Lillian Wan, Hon. Kenneth Sherman, Hon. Larry D. Martin, Hon. Carl Landicino, Hon. Bert A. Bunyan, Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Hon. Dena E. Douglas, Hon. ShawnDya L. Simpson, Hon. Carolyn E. Wade and Hon. Sharon Hudson. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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When Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix started her career on the bench in Brooklyn, she was one of a very small group of Caribbean-Americans working in the court system. Today, the courthouse and the local legal community have a thriving population of Caribbean-Americans contributing as judges, clerks, court officers, attorneys and in every position possible. 

That’s why Hinds-Radix, along with Justice Sylvia G. Ash, helped to organize the first-ever Caribbean Heritage Month celebration, which was held at the NYS Supreme Court, Criminal Term, in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday, June 28. 

“Judge Ash and I were thinking that we’ve been in the court system for over 15 years and we never celebrated Caribbean heritage so we decided that we needed to do that,” Hinds-Radix said. “We called up Judge Ruth Schillingford and every other judge that had Caribbean background and said, ‘we need to get this done.’ Charmaine Johnson got together a whole group of people and you will see the incredible work that these people have done.”

What came together was a celebration of Caribbean culture that included an art display by renowned Jamaican artist Michael Escoffery, a doll exhibit donated by retired Justice Maxine Archer, steel pan music by Patrick Davis and court office Thorance Scott sang.

Justice Ash, along with Hon. Ruth Schillingford, served as mistresses of ceremony for the event. Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez spoke, along with Aimee Richter, president of the Brooklyn Bar Association; and Michele Mirman, president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association. Court employees Daniel Alessandrino, chief clerk for criminal matters; Charles Small, chief clerk for civil matters; and Hon. Lawrence Knipel, administrative judge for civil matters, each spoke briefly as well. 

“People in the Caribbean, we always say, ‘Out of many one,’ meaning out of many Caribbean countries and islands, we do have one culture,” Small said. “If you travel from one island to the other, you’ll see our cultures are very similar. By celebrating, you are educating the people around you of why you do things a certain way, why you are a certain way.” 

Hinds-Radix was the keynote speaker. In her remarks, she discussed forming the committee and how it was important to her and the other court employees of Caribbean descent. She reminisced about sitting on her mother’s leg and her parents supporting her desire to become a lawyer. 

“Caribbean parents never think that there is anything that their children cannot do,” Hinds-Radix said. “When I told my father that I wanted to be a lawyer, he never said, ‘But you’re a little girl.’ As a matter of fact, his goal for me was to be the prime minister of Barbados. There had never been a female prime minister, but that never stopped him from hoping that was a job I would take.” 

Hinds-Radix also spoke about the African-American community, and explained that even though its history differs from each other, the Caribbean-American community still owes much to it.

“We celebrate Caribbean history, but we are also very grateful and mindful of our African-American brothers and sisters because we stand on their shoulders,” Hinds-Radix said. “We wouldn’t be able to trail-blaze if there hadn’t been a Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King or a Thurgood Marshall. As we celebrate our Caribbean heritage, we are able to celebrate because of the road that you have paved.”


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