It was billed as an evening to celebrate exclusively the men who have contributed significantly to the development of the community, but most politicians also used the gala awards ceremony Sunday, at Tropical Paradise Ballroom in Brooklyn, to express outrage over an upsurge in racist attacks and gun violence across the nation.
“This has been a difficult week in Congress. It has also been a difficult week in the U.S.,” said Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, representative for the 10th Congressional District, referring to the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, in Louisiana, and Philandro Castile, in Minnesota, which sparked outrage and protests in communities across the country, including Dallas, TX.
“One of the reasons behind the Black Lives Matter movement is that we want young Black men to grow up and to be like any of us,” added Jeffries, a member of Congressional Black Caucus leadership and the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, at the honor ceremony of the Brooklyn-based Progressive Democrats Political Association (PDPA), founded and headed by the trailblazing former New York City Council Member Dr. Una S.T. Clarke.
“We support the police. We think that the overwhelming number of police officers are there to protect and serve, but we want to make sure that those who are [rogue cops] are held accountable,” he continued.
Earlier, Jeffries, in a statement, said the “unspeakably tragic events in Dallas, suburban Minneapolis and Baton Rouge shock the conscience.
“Sadness and despair have descended on America,” he said. “Outrage is festering in many quarters. In times like these, America must rise to the occasion through unity under the umbrella of love. Violence is never the answer to injustice. We are all God’s children.”
State Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, representative for the 44th Assembly District in Brooklyn, said she is the mother of an African American son, “and we’re going through a lot.
“We’re under attack,” she told the ceremony. “This is a pivotal moment.”
Her Assembly colleague Latrice Walker said: “They’re also killing our elected officials. We’re all under siege.
“There are spiritual wickedness in high places,” she added.
Turning to the seven honorees, Public Advocate Letitia James said, “these fine men are the reason why Black Lives Matter.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer also addressed the ceremony, saying: “We’ll root out all the racists. We’ll stand together.”
In a statement, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, representative for the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, noted that, in Dallas, TX a peaceful protest against the “outrageous killings of unarmed Black men by police officers was disrupted by sniper fire, killing five police officers and wounding seven.
“There seems to be this idea that if you value Black lives that you devalue the lives of law enforcement officers, and we must not let this narrative drive a wedge between our dialogue,” said Bichotte, the first Haitian American from New York City to be elected to the State Legislature. “Every one of the individuals that transpired this week whose story has risen to the top of the news cycle, transpired due to needless violence. None of these people deserved to die.
“The shootings that have occurred over the last few days are alarming, and they are tragic no matter by whose hands they resulted from - a police officer’s or a mercenary sniper,” she added. “My heart breaks for Alton Sterling, and Philandro Castile, and their families, as well as for the police officers who were wounded, and killed, and their families.
“We cannot continue to see each other as the enemy; hate and racism are the enemy,” Bichotte continued. “My condolences and prayers go to all the families affected by this violence, not just within the last week, but each and every day.”
On Monday night, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and The Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, were expected to hold a candlelight vigil at Grand Army Plaza with police officers, interfaith leaders and community members in the wake of recent acts of violence nationwide, including two men fatally shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, as well as five Dallas law enforcement officers killed during a protest of police-involved shootings.
Adams and Bishop DiMarzio convened Brooklynites to mourn the lives lost and to pray for an end to violence and the healing of community-police relations across the country.