STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On Saturday, February 21st, the Fourth Annual Town Hall Meeting was held at the First Central Baptist Church in Stapleton, Staten Island. The theme of our Town Hall celebration was “Reflecting on the Past to Empower our Future.” All the pews were filled with those who came to not only honor Black History month, but to celebrate African-American heritage with neighbors, family and friends.
The Rev. Demetrius S. Carolina, Sr., the minister of this beautiful church, welcomed all that attended, some members of the congregation and others joining in the celebration. Rev. Carolina, Rev. Barrett-Layne, Min. Marcia St. Juste and many others sang and spoke of a great past, of struggle, sadness, joy and victory. The FCBC choir along with the St. Philips Baptist Church, lifted their voices and everyone in the audience joined in singing praise and love. Ms. Ros Joseph offered a poetry reading of “Heroes, Hopes & Possiblities” while a large screen projected images of those heroes from Paul Robeson to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to President Barack Obama.
The introduction of the keynote speaker was given by Democratic Congressman Michael McMahon, NY-13, who was previously the New York City Councilman for this same district. Most in the church knew the newly elected Congressman, and referred to him as “Uncle.” Congressman McMahon, though pleased at being included in the family of the church ministry, thought of himself more as a “brother” or “cousin” as he put it. He spent many years in this district and knew Rev. Carolina well, and recounted stories of how he watched some of those in the church grow up. The Congressman then went on to introduce Congressman Charles B. Rangel of Harlem, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. He spoke of when he was called to the Capitol for his first meeting with members in Washington, and was to meet with Congressman Rangel. He couldn’t imagine that the illustrious Congressman even knew who he was, and then he recounted that “I was walking down the hall to meet Congressman Rangel and he saw me…he said from across the hallway ‘I have waited 30 years for you, what took you so long!’”
Congressman Rangel spoke eloquently about the time when he marched “54 miles” with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and he said “I cussed all the way. But I had no idea we were making history.” It had been a long winding road for him to travel, but he said he savored every minute of it, and wakes up each day happy to be serving the people.
Also in attendance was Debi Rose, who is currently seeking the City Council seat that McMahon vacated when he won the election for Congressman. Both Congresspeople acknowledged Ms. Rose for her hard work and dedication to the community. The results of the special election held this past Tuesday, February 24th, are still inconclusive – the Board of Elections will do a full recount on Wednesday, March 4th.
Awards were given, everyone was in an extremely exhuberant mood, and it was great to be involved in a historic day.