“There’s so many people in our district who are of African American descent, who are doing amazing things, and we want to recognize them and celebrate with them in this month in front of their friends, their family and their neighbors,” Van Bramer said after the event. “It’s a great honor to be able to do that.”
As the first African American woman elected to citywide office, James was an honoree at the celebration. She said that while she appreciated the award, it was important to remember, “such opportunities were not available to our people not too long ago.”
She humbled herself before the crowd in the packed gymnasium, telling the children in attendance all they have to do to achieve big things is “dream high.”
“I did not think that I would be making history. I ran for the office of public advocate because I really wanted to make change,” James said. “I have seven sisters and brothers. Some of them made it, some of them didn’t. There’s nothing particularly special about me. I just dreamed.”
In total, 15 were honored at the ceremony, including WBLS 107.5 co-founder and Make the Grade Foundation advocate Doctor Bob Lee. Three students, Talisha Morejon, Sirsha Hassan and Abid Hossain, were honored as the winners of the PS 204 Oliver W. Holmes 2014 essay contest.
Malik Wood, an active student leader, professional dancer and also one of the evening’s honorees, told the audience, “To be a leader means to lead others in the right direction, to inspire them to be a better person—better even than me.”
Providing entertainment for the evening were PS 111 students enrolled in Alvin Ailey’s AileyDance Kids’ Residency program. Wood also performed a tap dance inspired by moves crafted in the genre’s 1930s heyday as a feature for the night.
“Black History is a reminder of all the great accomplishments that African Americans have made, as well as a challenge to move forward,” James said.