Brooklyn Assemblyman Nick Perry on Friday night bestowed special honor on 11 outstanding community figures at a gala Awards Ceremony at Tropical Paradise Ballroom on Utica Avenue, Brooklyn.
The honorees were: Dennis Ifill and Michelle Akyempong (Distinguished Labor Leader Award); Orin Tucker (Distinguished Business Community Service Award); the Rt. Rev. Sylveta Gonzalez (Distinguished Ecumenical Leader Award); and Kuldeap Krish Prasad (Distinguished Leadership Award for Sports and Culture).
The others were: Dr. Joseph Radix (Distinguished Community and Dental Health Service Award); Tomora-Lutreast Ellis (Distinguished Educator Award in Early Childhood); RN Mary Bell-Downes (Outstanding Health and Community Service Award); Vivienne Bent and Joyce Marie Gilman (Outstanding Community Service Award) and Judge-Elect Sharon Clarke.
Jamaican-born Perry, who represents the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, said the honorees “exemplify the words of W.E.B. DuBois who so eloquently stated that ‘now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year…’”
“I know this prominent group of men and women, who we gather to honor this evening, will continue to seize the moment, as tomorrow is never promised, and continue to put in the hard work – not for themselves, not in hopes of obtaining another award or personal accolade – but to ensure that our society continues to move in a direction where present and future generations alike can enjoy prosperity and live in peace and harmony,” added the State Assembly’s deputy leader.
“To their friends and relatives who have joined in our celebration, I commend you for standing by these heroes, who, by their unselfish deeds, touch so many lives in so many positive ways,” continued Perry, a former chair of New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators.
Barbadian-born Bell-Downes said she was “really honored to receive this award from our long-serving Assemblyman Nick Perry.
“I hope he continues to serve the community,” she said, adding: “As a registered nurse at Kings County Hospital, we also deliver some of the greatest healthcare in New York.”
Trinidadian Gilman said she was “so thankful. I’m honored. I’m giving glory and praise to the Lord, thanking the Hon. Nick Perry.”
“I accept this award on behalf of all the beautiful people out there,” she added.
Ifill, president of Rent Regulation Service Employees Local 1359, brings a very broad perspective to the executive board.
As rent examiner 1, he is passionate about housing issues. A native of Guyana, he is a strong supporter of immigrant rights.
As chair of the DC 37 Political Action Committee, he helps shape the union’s political agenda.
Thompson-Bent was born in the heart of downtown Kingston, Jamaica at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, and raised in Rennock Lodge in the Eastern section of Kingston.
As special assistant to Perry, Thompson-Bent has assisted numerous constituents in obtaining citizenship, senior housing and resolving a host of various other issues.
Wilkins Ellis was raised in Greenville, South Carolina. After completing her bachelor’s degree with a double major in history and theatre from East Tennessee State University, Wilkins Ellis lived in Atlanta, Georgia. There, she worked as model and with the 1996 Olympics.
While living in Atlanta, Tomora met Garey V. Ellis, MD, who shared the same vision and dreams of educating the youth and later, through marriage, they became life partners.
As business partners, Tomora and Garey co-founded Inner Force Economic Development Corporation, a not-for-profit organization and re-located to Brooklyn.
Bell-Downes, head nurse/coordinator of the ophthalmology department at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, is also president of Kings County Hospital NYSNA labor bargaining unit for the professional nurses.
She has served as a chairperson, trustee of New York City Health and Hospital Corporation and the Welfare Fund Benefits and is a member of New York State Nurses Association and the American Nurses Association.
Akyempong is a labor leader for one of the largest Unions (18,000 members) under District Council 37.
She is in her second term as vice-president of Legislative and Political Action at Social Service Employees Union- Local 371, DC 37, AFSCME.
Akyempong, a Barbadian native, is the co- chair of the Political Action Committee and chair of the Black History Committee for her union, P.E.O.P.L.E, coordinator (DC 37), member of the Political Candidates Screening Committee for DC 37 and represents her union as a political director for Central Labor Council. Dr. Radix is the Grenadian-born dental director at the Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center (BMS), a federally-qualified health center (FQHC). He has held this position for the past two years. Prior to his elevation, he was a staff dentist for seven years.
Prior to his employment at the Brownsville Multi- Service Family Health Center, Radix held the position of Dental Director at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Health Center in Bedford Stuyvesant. His responsibilities at BMS include both clinical and administrative duties.
Radix is a 1984 graduate of the renowned Howard University College of Dentistry in Washington, D.C.
Guyanese-born Prasad is a significant contributor to the growth and development of cricket in the New York Metropolitan area.
He is a well-known and respected cricket player, enthusiast, supporter and organizer. He has been a player and member of Everest Cricket Club of New York since 1973 and its president since 1980. He currently plays in the Cricket Masters Tournament in New York.
Prasad is a member of the board of directors of the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA). He has represented USACA at the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) cricket conference at Lord’s, England in 2000. He is currently the New York Representative to United States of America Cricket Association’s Board of Directors.
An outstanding and civic-minded individual, Gilman promoted Caribbean culture for about three decades and held part ownership in CARICOM Charters and Tours.
She also was the head section leader for Roy Pierre and Associates, prominent J’ouvert band in Brooklyn.
Gilman has carved a name for herself as volunteer par-excellence because of here active roles in myriad organizations. She is president of the East 45th Street Block Association, a block she has resided on since 1970; co-founder of the Women of Faith; Board member of Community Board 17; Member of the 67th Precinct Community Council; and member of the Grassroots Democratic Club, among others.
Hamilton-Gonzales is the Jamaican-born founder, chief executive officer and bishop of QKingdom Ministries, Inc.
Bishop Gonzales is actively involved in the community and is the recipient of several awards. She has been recognized as an inaugural member of the International Biographical Center, Cambridge, England as one of the Top 100 Educators 2007.
Guyanese-born Tucker is the founder of Foodsaver New York and Good Food for Less, two Brooklyn-based corporations serving the restaurant community and the general public. Both companies occupy a combined space of 28,000 sq. ft. In 2013, sales exceeded $15 million.
Perry said Clarke, who was born in Guyana and raised in Barbados, was not mentioned in the program’s journal because of judicial ethical issues.
Clarke, who has been a lawyer for 10 years, however, promised to be “a fair judge,” adding: “I promise to do my best on the bench.”