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Public Employee Press

36th annual Black History Month celebration

The Struggle is real

PEP photos by Clarence Elie-Rivera, Mike Lee and Kwesi Abbensetts
Committee chair Deborah Pitts and Executive Director Henry Garrido, with local leaders, cut the ribbon to kick off the union’s month-long celebration.

DC 37 kicked off Black History Month reflecting on the legacy of President Barack Obama and preparing to stand strong for unions and working families in the current adversarial political climate.

“This year’s theme is, ‘The Struggle is Real,’ ” said Deborah Pitts, the chair of the union’s Black History Month committee and president of Local 1113, sponsor of the opening night festivities. A large crowd attended the ribbon-cutting led by Pitts and DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido.

“New labor union rights, civil rights and human rights movements are needed now,” Pitts said. “In the wake of the November election results and the chaos that is looming in our United States of America, it is only fitting we get ourselves moving against all the crazyiness to come.”

Administration for Children’s Services choir performs at L. 371’s event Feb. 3. FAR LEFT: Teen dance troupe entertains at DC 37 Black History Month celebration.
Local 1407’s keynote speaker Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams.
DC 37 President Eddie Rodriguez, who is also president of Local 1549, extended a warm welcome to all opening night. The Local 1113 event featured gospel singer “Sunday Best” runner-up Michael Pugh, whose electrifying vocals put a new spin on classic Mahalia Jackson spirituals.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, retired state Assembly member Annette Robinson, and City Council member Andy King, a former Local 371 member, came to hear civil rights leader Congress member John Lewis (see pg. 9) at Local 371’s Feb. 3 event.

Garrido urged the standing room only crowd to support DC 37’s 100 Days of Resistance by attending actions set through April, see

“We learn tremendous lessons from examples of resistance throughout our history,” Garrido said. “Toussaint L’Overture freed Haiti from France; Nat Turner led a slave rebellion, and during the civil rights movement, African Americans marched alongside people of all races and backgrounds to win equal rights.”

New York Public Library Guild Local 1930 hosted a one-person play, “Mabel Madness,” on Feb. 2, by the theater group Urban Stages. The play starred Trazana Beverley, a Tony Award winner for her role in Ntozake Shange’s Broadway play “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf.”

The show traced the life of Mabel Mercer, a leading 20th century jazz and cabaret performer, from her childhood in England through her 40-year career in the United States.

“Everything I learned about phrasing I learned from Mabel Mercer,” Frank Sinatra once said. Mercer influenced many music icons, including Billie Holiday, Nat (King) Cole, Johnny Mathis, cabaret singer and pianist Bobby Short and Barbara Cook, who starred in Broadway musicals “Candide” and “The Music Man.”

Young dancers at union’s Black History event.
Cody Childs and the Soul Legends Band had the audience dancing in the aisles Feb. 8, in a tribute to Motown great Stevie Wonder. Childs, Local 2627’s 2nd vice president, and his band, played Motown’s early Hitsville songs and explored Wonder’s catalog.

Local 420 reached back to the black church with Pastor Owen E. Williams, Kings County Hospital Chaplain and a Local 299 member, poetry and praise dancers at its Feb. 10 event.

Local 1407’s Feb. 13 program, “Fight for Justice— Struggle Continues,” featured keynote speaker Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s borough president. He surprised many as he focused on health issues— specifically diabetes—and not politics. Diabetes is an epidemic among African Americans and the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Adams said he overcame diabetes by changing his diet. Physicians usually prescribe medication, he said, and few urge patients to change their diet and lifestyle. The traditional treatment addresses the symptoms, not the cause, Adams said, so people often believe diabetes is not reversible and they stay on medication for life.

The program also included Anthony Harmon, president of the New York City NAACP chapter, Charles Jenkins, president of the New York City chapter of Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and Local 1407 President Maf Misbah Uddin, the treasurer of DC 37.

Additional reporting by Gregory N. Heires

Gospel singer Michael Pugh on Opening Night Feb. 1.
Local 2627’s Cody Childs sang Stevie Wonder hits Feb. 8.
Sax player at DC 37, whose events
honored the culture and contributions of African Americans over the centuries.