Brooklyn’s Caribbean community on Monday mourned the passing of Mary Bishop, the Trinidadian-born, long-standing director of Constituent Services in the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, represented Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke.
Bishop died on May 9. She would have been 59 on June 25.
Mourners paid tributes in person and online at the funeral at Holy Innocents Catholic Church, 279 East 17th St. and Beverly Road, Brooklyn. Among mourners were Congresswoman Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants; Clarke’s mother, Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, the trail-blazing former New York City Councilwoman; New York Attorney General Letitia James; and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants.
Clarke told mourners that she was “in the throes of grief and gratitude, as I’m still processing the transition of our beloved Mary.
“I’m grieving because my dear sister, friend, co-worker and staffer was so full of life, so vibrant, so strong and so conscious of her own self-care,” she said. “It’s just hard to believe that she has departed. She seemed so invincible. Yet, like all of us, she was vulnerable.
“I feel very blessed to have walked part of my life’s journey along with Mary, who was walking hers,” she added. “It’s just amazing how God places people in our lives for a season, so that we assist each other to walk through life by walking together.
“I had a unique bond with and view into who she was as woman, a mother, a grandmother, a friend and a public servant,” Clarke continued. “I am grieving Mary’s departure as a recipient of her love, her caring, her empathy and compassion for others. Her smile and the twinkle in her slanted eyes sitting above her high Caribbean cheek bones, were hallmarks of her persona.”
Clarke said she grieved through memories of Bishop’s loyalty and commitment to her and her constituents, “the people who she willingly loved to serve in the 9th Congressional District and beyond.”
“I loved that Mary was her own woman, so unique in her mannerisms and her style,” she said. “I loved that Mary worked hard, played hard, partied hard and loved hard. As they say in T&T (Trinidad and Tobago), Mary was ‘de hardest’”.
Clarke said she first met Mary through her mother, Dr. Clarke, when she challenged Mary with the offer of an internship in Clarke’s Congressional campaign, “in exchange for an interview that Mary requested of her to complete a college assignment.”
“Mary wasn’t a no-show,” she said. “She showed up and showed out.”
Over the last 16 years, the congresswoman said Bishop was “all in” on Team Clarke.
“Representing to the fullest, so proud and personable, Mary Bishop went above and beyond to serve the people,” she said. “Let me also say how grateful I am to Mary’s family for creating the space for Mary to grow and expand in her love for others and to let you know that you were her pride and joy.
“Mary would run the streets with me, march in parades with me, represent me while I’m in Washington, D.C.,” Clarke added. “She ran one of the best constituent services operations in Brooklyn. She was driven by helping others resolve their issues and helping them through the most challenging of circumstances, some of the most difficult times of their lives.
“Her care, empathy and compassion were always on display,” she continued. “She took pride in her success, and she fed that feeling of pride with even more success.”
Culturally, Clarke said she and Bishop bonded through their love for carnival.
“She loved being from Trinidad and Tobago, and we had a standing date to party together in Pt. Fortin on Borough Day,” she said. “If it’s the Lord’s will, I intend to make my way to Borough Day, and I will take the spirit of Mary Bishop with me.
“I loved Mary Bishop,” Clarke added. “That love will continue to grow and serve as an inspiration and motivation to live out her legacy of service, love, empathy and compassion for the people we serve.”
Anita Taylor, Clarke’s 9th Congressional District director, and Bishop’s immediate supervisor, said Bishop “gave everyone she encountered the freedom to express and embrace their own opinions.
“Her work ethics helped me and others in the office accent our integrity as servants to the people, by the people and for the people,” Taylor said. “She gave us permission to work with emotion and passion.
“It has taken me some time to understand how much I owe to Mary Bishop since her passing,” she added. “In hindsight, Mary has been teaching me lessons since I met her. The principal lesson was this: ‘Handle your business: it is not always easy. Remember, life’s not a fairy tale; it is grown folk’s business.’”
Since her illness, Taylor said Bishop took her “down a course of learning — learning about life, friendship and forgiveness.
“With her words and action as guide and colleague, I can hear her urging us to follow our own path of pain and love, to think with it and to go beyond it,” Taylor said. “Everyone knew what Mary was, but not everyone knew what kind of friend she was to me. And we never took each other for granted. Friendship is a gift from God.
“So, Mary, my friend, sister, ride or die, you would always be in my heart,” she added. “Until I see you again, may you rest in peace, my sister.”
Trinidadian community activist, Ernest Skinner wrote on Facebook that: “Sis. Yvette Clarke summed it up nicely when she said that she is between grief and gratitude. We all feel that way. Sincere condolences to Mary’s family. RIP, Mary. Job well done.”
Vincentian pastor Louis Straker, Jr., also said on Facebook: “Tonight, we bid farewell to one of our precious gems in our beloved community, Sis. Mary Bishop.”
Bishop’s body will be interred in Point Fortin, Trinidad.