Union Celebrates African American Heritage

Photos: Clarence Elie-Rivera

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS

This month’s ongoing celebration honoring African American pride and purpose continues to attract hundreds of DC 37 members and retirees to its 38th annual Black History Month events. In addition to local events at union headquarters tonight, next week  there will be events on Feb. 21 and 22.

Black History Committee Chair Deborah Pitts, who is also DC 37’s Secretary, and Local 1113 will host Finale Night on Feb. 28.

“This is the time of year we come together to celebrate African Americans as a people and share our heritage and culture,” said Pitts, the union’s Secretary and president of Local 1113.

To kick off the union’s Black heritage month there was a ribbon-cutting opening ceremony Feb. 1 led by Pitts, Associate Director Oliver Gray and Treasurer Mah Misbah Uddin, who is also president of Local 1407. Afterwards, hundreds of SSEU Local 371 members packed Rooms 1-4 to hear from leading women in politics including New York Attorney General Leticia James, and a special Skype message from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who announced her candidacy for U.S. President in 2020 in January.

“We are celebrating African American history of the past and history in the making, and to give the ancestors the respect they were denied in their lives,” said SSEU Local 371 President Anthony Wells. “Now that a new U.S. Congress is in place, I challenge the leadership to examine the banking system that mistreats working people and overcharges them for access to their own money!”

At the union hall were City Council members Vanessa Gibson and Andy King, a former SSEU Local 371 member, Jumaane Williams, candidate for Public Advocate, state Sen. John Liu, Bronx DA Darcel Clarke, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and others.

On Feb. 7, Local 1930 celebrated the African diaspora with traditional Haitian songs struggle and freedom. In a call-and-answer singalong, an intimate group of union members and retirees joined musician Anais of Urban Stages, who played the n’goni a West African harp.

“We fought to be free and respected,” said Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez at the Feb. 8 tribute to HBCU, Historical Black Colleges and Universities. Local 1549’s salute to the traditions and pageantry of HBCUs and higher learning for African Americans who for centuries were denied education and access to academia. The event featured Brooklyn United Music and Arts marching band and majorettes and Chosen Onz Steppers. Waving colorful HBCU pendants, the audience cheered the electrifying performances reminiscent of campus scenes depicted in films like School Daze, Drumline and Stomp the Yard.

Reflecting on the importance of HBCUs and his experience at Chaney University of Pennsylvania that was founded in 1837, Local 1549 rep Kevin McLaurin said, “I saw professors who looked like me. I learned my history and how to be a man. I learned to hold my head high and not be ashamed to be Black.”

Please plan to attend the following Black heritage events at union headquarters:

Feb. 15          Local 420 NYC Hospitals Employees

Feb. 21          Local 372 Board of Education Employees

Feb. 22          CBTU NY Chapter Coalition of Black Trade Unionists presents Gospel Night

Feb. 28          Finale Night sponsored by DC 37 and Local 1113

For more information, please call the White Collar Division at 212-815-1060. All events start at 6 p.m. at 125 Barclay Street, Room 1 in Lower Manhattan, unless otherwise indicated.

 

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