“Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. The many expressions of kindness, support and love everyone has shown us during this time. It has been a comforting blessing to each of us.
May God bless you all for your thoughtfulness and concern.”
With acknowledgement to some of the people that supported the Griffith and Sandiford families, that statement along with presentations of 11 awards to some of the significant individuals who showed solidarity with the families, the third memorial tribute to Michael Griffith reflected on the New York tragedy that shook the nation 30 years ago.
Inside a space adorned by walls of sketches, Joe W. Papin, a former Daily News courtroom artist recorded throughout the lengthy trial, the matriarch, Jean Griffith-Sandiford issued her family’s sentiments to an audience filled with individuals she thanked for their roles in securing prosecution of the perpetrators of the notorious Howard Beach tragedy that took the life of her son Michael, just five days before Christmas 1996.
Among them were: activist preachers Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Herbert Daughtry, Rev. C. Vernon Mason, former Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Joe Hynes, former NY Gov. David Paterson, Nina Krauss, a former juror that decided the guilty verdicts, Stephen Murphy, one of the defense lawyers, Richard Green, founder of the Crown Heights Youth Collective and reporters from print and electronic media that covered the notorious racial case.
Surrounded by her children, grand children and great grandchildren, and other family members, Griffith-Sandiford epitomized the strength of a woman who inspired mothers who have lost children to racial intolerance and bigotry.
Reflecting on Christmases prior to the murder of her son Michael, and the untimely death of her husband Cedric, she said the holiday has not been the joyous occasion she celebrated prior to Dec. 20, 1996 with her family making sorrel, ginger beer, mauby and various culinary delights from her homeland Trinidad & Tobago.
However, instead of wallowing in grief and remorse, three decades later the avowed Christian lauded the efforts of 11 individuals she said bolstered her confidence in the criminal justice system.
In accepting the symbols representing Civil & Human Rights Award, the three preachers recalled the pervasive atmosphere of hate that precipitated the crime.
Hynes, the former special prosecutor who was elected Brooklyn district attorney explained how his team of assistants helped to win convictions against the culprits.
Former Gov. Paterson accepted the governmental award on behalf of his colleague, mentor and friend, former Mayor David N. Dinkins and elaborated on the role the first Black mayor played in bridging the abyss that may have contributed to the egregious crime.
One of the most poignant moments of the ceremony was being able to reunite with colleagues and scribes that recorded the trial in Queens three decades ago.
Yours truly — who was honored five years ago with a journalism award — was privileged to make presentations to journalism awardees — Amsterdam News reporter Herb Boyd, former WLIB/WBLS reporter, Dominic Carter, former New York Times reporter, Joseph P. Fried, former WCBS reporter Magee Hickey (who now reports for WPIX-TV), WPIX-TV’s, Mary Murphy, former Village Voice reporter, Peter Noel and former WABC TV reporter Sarah Wallace who now reports for WNBC-TV.
Magee and Noel were unable to attend the Brooklyn event.
Following the presentations, the immigrant, widow, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and role model further punctuated the memory of her son by releasing 30 white balloons into the night sky.
Guests were handed white, oval-shaped, helium filled rubber encasements with LED lights that seemed to ascend to join the galaxy above.
Green delivered a keynote address.
Boyd along with Lenny Green, WBLS radio personality co-hosted the commemorative event.