New York mayor honors Una Clarke, democratic group

Mayor Bill de Blasio reads part of a proclamation to Dr. Una S.T. Clarke as she looks on.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Mayor Bill deBlasio on Sunday bestowed special honor on his former City Council colleague, Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, and her Brooklyn-based Progressive Democrats Political Association (PDPA) at a gala ceremony commemorating the 25th anniversary of the group that was founded by Clarke.

“You did something powerful that will help everyone,” said the mayor, after reading part of a New York City Proclamation declaring Sunday, April 22 “PDPA Day,” at the group’s Silver Jubilee celebrations at Tropical Paradise Ballroom on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn.

Prior to bestowing the honor, deBlasio described PDPA’s 25th anniversary as “extraordinary,” stating that the organization has the ability to reach many.

“There was a time when many doubted PDPA,” he said. “I had the honor to serve as Yvette’s [Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, Dr. Clarke’s daughter] campaign chair. So, I wanted to be here to celebrate, because everyone in this room has made a profound difference.

“And I must tell you, I wouldn’t be Mayor of New York City if it wasn’t for PDPA,” he added. “I want to congratulate PDPA.

“Obamacare — look today Obamacare is still the law of the land,” the mayor continued. “And our congresswoman [Yvette D. Clarke] was there. It’s an organization that’s not just celebrating the leaders but [has] made a difference.”

State Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, representative for the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn, also dispatched a State citation to PDPA, read by PDPA Vincentian-born president Veronica Phillips.

PDPA, in turn, honored 14 community figures during the four-plus-hour-long gala celebration. They comprised: Special Honoree Veronica Airey-Wilson, former Deputy Mayor of Hartford, CT; Norma Amsterdam RN; Carmen Charles; Monica Foster; Leonie Francis-Bryan; Barbara Griffith; Hulbert James; Ernie Jones; Janet Larghi; Sylvia Lavalas; Ray and Geneva Trotman; Dolly Williams; and Winston Wellington.

“We have come to celebrate our Silver Jubilee, our 25th year, as a strong political movement within Central Brooklyn,” Dr. Clarke said. “We honor those early pioneering members who had faith in the future of our central Brooklyn community. They were the bold ones who endorsed me for my first New York City Council campaign, thus laying a solid foundation upon which we have built a movement.

“Their names have been here from the beginning,” added the Jamaican-born Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to be ever elected to New York City Council. “They were few but committed.”

Clarke said her first campaign movement was hosted by Ms. Foster in her business place on Atlantic Avenue.

“We were joined by Ms. Norma Amsterdam, not only to encourage the participation of the labor movement but also to raise funds for our campaign,” Clarke said. “Ray Trotman was my treasurer, and, with his wife, Geneva, were my first African American friends as I settled here in America.

“These faithful were the foundation from which I built the political movement, which we are today, she added. “We were originally the Caribbean American Political Organization, which banner allowed us to show the Caribbean American community its potential. However, following the election, in order to be inclusive as all people of African descent we changed the name to Progressive Democrats Political Association of Central Brooklyn.

“Under this banner, we have essentially continued the work in order to maximize our potential in the areas of citizenship, voter registration and voter participation,” Clarke continued.

She said PDPA has become “a strong political movement, which has conducted many successful campaigns, successfully electing not only our Congress Member the Hon. Yvette D. Clarke but also other federal, state and city officials, including judges and community leaders.

“We have never intended to be a social club but a political organization, so that our people can see their potential and understand their participation in the political process as full citizens of the United States,” Clarke said. “So, these 25 years have been a great and fruitful journey, and we look forward, with you the next able generation, to another 25 years of effective service.”

Brooklyn Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene, representative for the 40th Council District, said he had no “clue about politics” until he met Dr. Clarke.

“I joined PDPA because I wanted to be part of an organization, where you can learn about politics,” he said. “It was first by the grace of God, then it was by the PDPA.”

Brooklyn acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez disclosed that PDPA had “helped to sustain” him and the community.

Congresswoman Clarke, a PDPA executive member, said the political organization “could not be successful if ordinary people did not support” it.

The ceremony also featured, among other things, musical tribute by Tobagonian Hilton Samuel and dance performance by Sade Phillips.

Una S.T. Clarke with proclamation, surrounded by her family, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Progressive Democrats Political Association members.
Photo by Nelson A. King

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