By Michael Horowitz
BRONX, NEW YORK, February 20- David Dinkins, the city's only black mayor, was center stage at the borough's Black History Month celebration, which Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., held in Co-op City's Dreiser Loop Community Center auditorium.
Dinkins, the guest of honor at the celebration that an estimated 200 Bronxites attended, stressed that the African-American trailblazers who came before him, most notably the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, set the stage for his election as the city's first and only black mayor in 1989.
The former mayor stressed that he would not have been elected as the city's mayor if it had not been for the increased voter registration of blacks that was spurred by Rev. Jackson's presidential candidacy and the ground work that former Borough President Sutton laid during his tenure in office.
Fittingly, Lori Stokes, the anchor for ABC-TV Eyewitness News, the daughter of former Rep. Louis Stokes, and the niece of former mayor Carl Stokes from Cleveland, served as mistress of ceremony for the Feb. 13 celebration of black contributions to the nation's vitality.
Stokes, in her introduction for the borough's black-history program, noted that she, like many other African Americans, has “lived black history,” witnessing the notable progress that people of color have made in the U. S. since the 1960s.
“Black history is American history,” Stokes declared. “That is the measure of the progress that African Americans have made, when we can talk openly about the contributions that black Americans have made to the fabric of our country.”
Borough President Diaz, for his part, pointed to the African heritage that he and many other Latinos share in terms of history, as well as physical appearance.
Ticking off the contributions of black to American life, Diaz pointed out that blacks invented the clock, the incandescent electric light bulb, the potato chip, and a new method for cataract-eye surgery.
“We have so much we need to celebrate during Black History Month,” Diaz stressed. “Black History Month is a teachable moment. It is a time to celebrate the progress that we, as individuals, have made, and it is a time to celebrate the progress that the Bronx has made in recent decades.”
Praising Dinkins, Diaz said that the former mayor's “Safe Streets, Safe City” initiative set the stage for the decline in crime that New York City has seen in recent decades.
Dinkins, for his part, stressed, “So much had to change for me to be elected mayor of New York City. I never expected to hold an office higher than borough president. In fact, it took me three tries before I was elected as Manhattan's borough president. I got elected as mayor of the city in 1989 because of all that went on before that election.”
Those honored in the celebration of Black History Month included, in addition to Dinkins, Francine Reva Jones, an African-American activist who serves as a member of Co-op City's board of directors, and Donald Arthur, a heart-transplant recipient in 1996 who lives in the Co-op City community.