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SEEN UP NORTH: Tribute paid to Chisholm


Tony Best

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As Americans think about who should be their next president in November, many of them are casting their minds back to a historic event that occurred decades ago.
It was the decision of a slender, yet feisty Barbadian American woman to enter the Democratic Party’s presidential sweepstakes in 1972.
By taking that bold step at a time of great racial divisions, Shirley Chisholm earned a place in American history as the first woman to be a candidate in her party’s race for the White House and was the first black person to do so.
Forty years have passed since Chisholm shook up the political establishment by capturing 152 first-ballot votes at the Democratic nomination convention in Miami, a contest that was eventually captured by Senator George McGovern. But even before then, she had become a national political figure known for her outspokenness in the House of Representatives and across the nation.
As the first black woman sent by voters to Capitol Hill, the Brooklyn Democrat, who won the 1968 House seat, went on to serve for 14 years before retiring in 1983.
Many of her achievements laced the reminiscences of a long list of prominent New Yorkers when they spoke at Brooklyn’s historic Borough Hall the other day during a tribute to the woman who, at the age of three years, was sent from Brooklyn to Barbados by her mother in 1927 to live with her relatives and go to school there. She spent seven years in the island before returning to New York.
“I have no doubt that it was her bold, historic move that laid the foundation and carved the pathway for President Barack Obama,” said Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn’s Borough president. “That path was set right here in Brooklyn.”
William “Bill” Howard, a trusted aide of the congresswoman for much of her career in public life, agreed.
“Her passion was the education of people, especially people of colour,” he said. “She was passionate about improving the economic and social conditions in which the less fortunate lived,” he told the SUNDAY SUN after the tribute he organized.
“Ms Chisholm drained every ounce of herself for the people. Unfortunately, many youths today don’t know much, if anything at all, about Chisholm,a trailblazer. We are trying to correct that.
“That’s why we are using the Shirley Chisholm Cultural Institute to help students at a variety of colleges and universities so they can get a sound education.
“She was fearless in her advocacy for young people and others. She also spoke fondly about Barbados, about the country’s famous educational system,” he said.
Today, the scholarships and awards given in her name are part of Chisholm’s legacy, added Howard.
“Her legacy is alive.”
Dr Lemuel Stanislaus, a former Grenada ambassador to the United Nations and a close friend of Chisholm’s during her many political battles, said she was a vigorous supporter of public spending increases for health, education and other social services.
Barbados’ Consul General at New York Lennox Price reminded the gathering about the way she fought “for the rights of women and persons of African descent” in and out of Congress.
“One cannot help but admire this giant of a woman, who was brave enough to think about campaigning for the highest office in this great nation, bold enough to believe such a campaign was possible and, most of all, talented enough to put the necessary machinery in place to execute a presidential campaign,” he added.

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