Black History Month Special Edition
This is the third of four special Black History Month articles that will run in The Wave this month.
Rather than run the usual and sometimes mundane material that traditionally runs in Black History Month
sections -- Martin Luther King’s "I Have A Dream Speech," or the story of how Jackie Robinson broke into major
league baseball in 1948, we will feature stories of local people from the world of education, politics, business and
community affairs, who will speak from their hearts about growing up and about the role models in the
Black community that made they who they have become.
Pols, Community Activists Speak Out For Black History Month
James Sanders Jr
(James Sanders Jr, a long time Rock away resident. He served his nation in the U.S. Marine Corps and his community in various capacities including stints as president of Community School Board 27 and youth coordinator for Community Board 14. He represents district 31, including the eastern end of the peninsula. Sanders submitted the following composition.)
It is now the time of the year to pay extra attention to our countless ancestors who sacrificed their lives so that African-Americans today could share in freedom and liberties to experience the American Dream. It was only yesterday when Ruby Bridges was being escorted by U.S. Marshals into a segregated school system in New Orleans. It was only yesterday when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood at the podium in Washington D.C. saying, "Let Freedom Ring." It was only yesterday when Jim Crow laws prevented Blacks from sharing in the American Dream.
It is now February 2004, most African-Americans of today progressively strive to break down the walls of injustice, despite obstacles. They continue to excel in various careers of: medicine, science, politics, business, law, engineering, entertainment, athletics, radio, media, education, fashion, etc. African-Americans such as Mar cus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Carter G. Woodson, Nelson Mandela and many more have all paved the roads of success for Blacks in America today. Their sacrifices and hardships have made it possible for people like Franklin D. Raines, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fannie Mae Corporation; Oprah Winfrey, Chair man and CEO of Harpo Inc.; Stanley O’Neal, Chief Operating Officer of Merrill Lynch; Ken Chenault, Ameri can Express CEO and Richard Par sons, CEO of AOL Time Warner. These Black executives have all topped the list of Forbes 500 most powerful CEO’s in America. This is why our ancestors must be honored not only in the month of February, but all 12 months of the year.
Black History Month is a time for reflection and reevaluation of all great Africans and African-Americans. Afri can-Americans in our society today are one of the main ingredients in the pot of Lady Liberty’s favorite soup called American. As the wounds from the pain of the past and present start to heal and sometimes abruptly open, let us all continue to seek brotherhood, justice and equality throughout the world. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and I hope we all one day can live to see it fulfilled. God Bless and have a great Black History Month.
"This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"
—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
(In addition to her work as executive assistant, Zandra Meyers is also the director of fundraising, government relations and facilities at the Addabbo Family Health Center. She was the executive director of the Claddagh Inn, Rockaway’s oldest soup kitchen, for 10 years. Meyers was the Com munity Relations Director for Assemblywoman Paul ine Rhodd- Cummings and a Managed Care Specialist for the Jewish Community Council for many years.)
Zandra Meyers was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the state’s second largest city – known as the birthplace of many modern marvels such as the washing machine, but also as the origin of stereo sound, juke boxes, the National Basketball Association and the first women’s basketball team.
Meyers’ early role models included her family, particularly her grandmother.
She was also inspired by the people she saw in church – such as her Sunday School teacher, Ms. Cox.
At age 9, Meyers traveled to India napolis, her state’s capital city. There she visited the headquarters of Ma dam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist who founded her own hair care company.
In the early 1900s, Walker invented Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, and went on a tour of the south to sell her products. Walker, who became one of Meyers’ role models, became rich in the process.
"She had built a giant building – one whole block – it amazed me," Meyers recalled. The building was not as busy or as gleaming as it had been in its "heyday" but it left a lasting impression on the young Meyers.
"She started with an idea and she empowered people85 she was my first role model that I didn’t know," Meyers said of Walker referring to the way she trained salespeople and "hair culturists."
Then Meyer’s discovered Rosa Parks, who in 1955 sparked the first major confrontation of the Civil Rights Movement when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white person.
"Rosa Parks made me aware of civil rights as a child," Meyers said "She’s been a role model throughout my life.
Meyer’s next inspiration was Hazel N. Dukes, who was born in Alabama and would later lead the New York State National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
"She fought for a cause that was dear to me85.[she was] such a lady – such dignity and class," Meyers said.
Fast-forward a few years. Meyers relocated to New York, making her home in Rockaway.
She became involved with the Claddagh Inn soup kitchen and began to learn the art of making contacts and networking from JoAnn Shapiro, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer’s chief of staff.
"She taught me how to set up my own network," Meyers said.
But her most significant Rockaway role model was the late Josephine Johnson, Congressman Gregory Meeks’ chief of staff.
"She was a God fearing woman who raised a family and worked for someone she loved and respected," said Meyers. "In doing her job as Con gressman Meeks’ chief of staff she was able to do what she wanted to do – help people."
NAACP Chapter Chair
(Ed Williams serves as the Chapter
Chair of the NAACP as well as Con gressman Gregory Meeks’ Executive Assistant. Williams is also the president of ENPHRONT, a national organization representing 2.2 million people in public housing and defending their interests.)
Ed Williams has lived in the Rock aways for the last eight years. As a lifelong New Yorker, Williams moved to Rockaway to recuperate at his sister’s home after losing his leg. In those eight years since his operation, Will iams has plunged headfirst into politics and activism in the Rockaways.
"I’ve always been an activist," says Williams. "I still see the civil rights of many poor folks in public housing being violated."
While Williams works tirelessly to improve civil rights nationally, he points to the Rockaways as a model for cooperation. "When we’ve come together as one, and for the better of the community, we have had some successful results," said Williams.
With a resume fitting the mold of a politician, Williams prefers to work behind the scenes with Congressman Meeks.
"I think I can effect more change working for Congressman Meeks. He is more of a statesman than a politician."
Always an optimist, Williams sees relations in the Rockaways and nationally improving, but warns "there’s still a lot of work to be done, although I do see the light at the end of the tunnel."