Community Mayor of Harlem, New Future Foundation director, Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, and the youth she represents, this week offered heartfelt condolences to family and friends, on New York City’s loss of “our beloved Mayor Edward I. Koch.”
“May his memory be for a blessing!” she said, adding: “When remembering Mayor Edward I. Koch, our organization cannot be overlooked. As congressman, Koch was the first to herald New Future Foundation’s platform of radical change,” Blakely recalls.
Like Koch, a resident of Greenwich Village, Blakely saw the former mayor as a man of the people. “No matter how important he became,” tells Blakely, “he remained a good neighbor, walking amongst us, at one with his constituency.”
It was Koch’s humble characteristic of everyday strolls through Greenwich Village that Blakely equates with the true mark of his greatness; the reason he will be sorely missed.
“One could always reach out to Ed Koch,” she explains. “We had a familiar kind of relationship. If I didn’t run into him at the local coffee shop, I would go to his office. His door was always open and he was accessible. He listened, and he delivered. He was the last of a unique breed of politicians.”
Thus, Ed Koch and Dr. Blakely shared a common commitment to New York City’s future. A few years after New Future Foundation was formed, in 1969, Blakely confronted Koch with her plan to establish the first inner-city program devoted to the inclusion of minority children in all aspects of city life. A multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, recreational and educational winter weekend and summer day program partnering with the Board of Education’s extra curricular activities, in a reversal of attitudes, inviting Black, Chinese, Spanish and White students to share experiences and newly integrated identities
“We envisioned a better future, in which our children would overcome cultural differences and prejudices, by nurturing mutual respect,“ Blakely says. The curriculum-related educational component of New Future Foundation would be a remedial reading clinic carefully developed by experts from community universities; it’s goal: to raise citywide reading scores for participating students who, otherwise, might fall behind, would eventually be sponsored by the New York City Board of Education.
Ed Koch stood with Blakely, a feisty young Black woman, during a historical time of racial divide. She was then a 26- year-old Catholic nun, who had recently left the convent, to bring her church ministry to the streets, in the same way Koch did his politics. Both championed a changing world.
“He trusted me,” says Blakely. To implement the program, Koch introduced Blakely to Yeshiva University Prof. Dr. Lawrence Kadem, a specialist in teaching reading and early childhood development, and civil rights leader Doxey A. Wilkerson, chairman of Yeshiva University’s Education Department of Curriculum and Instruction from 1963-73, who was also responsible for the Head Start Education Program, advised and mentored doctoral candidates.
Koch urged Blakely to apply for a Federal Grant at the Department of Health Education and Welfare/ ESSA – Emergency School Aid Act, which authorized grants to nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and local education agencies (LEAs) to desegregate, or to reduce minority group isolation and its effects. The NPO program provided financial assistance to community organizations assuming that certain activities related to school desegregation could be effectively performed by organizations outside the regular school district.
Blakely teamed with doctoral students from both New York University and Yeshiva University, to create what would become the “demonstrated model” for the development of new city curriculum. In addition, a group of film students, from the two neighborhood universities, joined together to make a documentary about the New Future Foundation, narrated by Mo Patterson, and, in which New Future Foundation’s then-chairman, the Hon. Judge William H. Booth; Honorary Chairwoman, former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and Congressman Edward I. Koch appear, along with famed personalities, including that of then-Mayor Abe Beam, who Koch would soon follow as mayor.
On April 13, 1973, the students were awarded ‘Proclamations of Youth Excellence’ at the Great Hall in the New York City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on Wall Street, with proclamations given out by Percy Sutton. Koch was filmed attending the groundbreaking event, where former Congresswoman Chisholm pledged to do all she could to support Dr. Blakely’s dream.
Edward I. Koch became a three-term mayor and Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely became the first woman to be elected Community Mayor of Harlem, as well Ambassador of Goodwill to Africa.
“New Future Foundation holds Ed Koch close to our hearts. He will be in our thoughts and prayers, today and always. We remain ever thankful/grateful to him for all he did on our behalf, for the youth of our city,” relates Dr. Blakely.