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Court employees channel Ida B. Wells and Harriet Tubman at Brooklyn Supreme Court

February 21, 2019 By Hannah Grossman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Tribune Society of the Courts of New York hosted a Black History Month event at the Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term, on Wednesday, where a pair of court employees portrayed Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells in a historical presentation.

The Brooklyn courts have adopted the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History’s 2019 theme of “Black Migration,” which it emphasized as court employees Maris Mike and Marleen Jasper told the stories of Tubman and Wells, respectively, through dramatic speeches.

Maris Mike portrayed Harriet Tubman. During her dramatic speech, she said, “I’ll never forget the feeling of freedom when I crossed those Pennsylvania lines.”

Maris Mike (left) and Marleen Jasper drew a standing ovation from the roughly 80 court employees in attendance.

One of the writers for the Harriet Tubman bit, Gail Gibbs, said that by doing research for the script she learned a lot about black history and has a new admiration for the values Tubman embodied. In particular, her “selflessness” in the way she returned to the South to help others attain freedom.

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“We were trying to point to her role as a conductor of the Underground Railroad,” Gibbs said. “The fears, the feelings she felt when she had crossed over the line into freedom, and her desire to go back. Her selflessness to go back.”

From left: Silas Pratt, Gail Gibbs, Howard Wright, Maris Mike, Marleen Jasper, co-chairpersons of the Black History Month Committee Hon. Deborah Dowling, Leah Richardson and Joyce Hopkins.

“Some call me Moses for leading my people to freedom,” Mike said while in character as Tubman. “I was a conductor. I never ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger.”

Marleen Jasper played Ida B. Wells, a civil rights activist famous for launching journalistic crusades against lynching.

“Somebody must show that the African-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so,” Jasper said while in character as Wells.

Wells’ journalistic investigations lead to real changes in legislation. She was also a co-founder for the NAACP.

From left: John Coakley, Hon. Michelle Weston and Roderick Randall.

“I wanted to portray somebody who is rarely mentioned. [Ida B. Wells] doesn’t get a lot of shine,” Jasper said right before she acted out her rendition.

Jasper explained that relative to the large impact Wells left in the canon of black history, she often doesn’t get mentioned as prominently as other leaders. This is because, she said, there was a desire for less radical voices as the Civil Rights Movement began to accelerated.

“Voices that were articulate, a little more passive, that could work in a communal sense,” Jasper said “But Wells was very radical. She had to be.”

Leah Richardson with Roderick Randall, president of the Tribune Society of the Courts of New York.

The event was organized by the Tribune Society of the Courts of New York. It’s a fraternal organization of African-American and other minority employees of the courts, including both judicial and non-judicial personnel. It was created in 1968 by a group of eight court officers who realized that they were being passed over for promotions.

At the event, Roderick Randall, president of the Tribune Society, mentioned that he was going to have to cut his two-year term short due to his impending retirement from the courts. He then introduced Leah Richardson, one of the co-chairpersons of the Black History Month Committee along with Hon. Deborah Dowling, as the person who is likely to replace him as the president of the Tribune Society.

Hon. Deborah Dowling (standing), co-chairperson of the courts’ Black History Month Committee, addresses the crowd with judges Hon. Craig Walker (left), Hon. Robin Sheares and Hon. Ruth Shillingford (right), president of the Judicial Friends Association, looking on.

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