Culture in the courts: Kings County jurists celebrate Black History Month

Culture in the courts: Kings County jurists celebrate Black History Month
Photo by Caroline Ourso

History is now.

Brooklyn justices ushered in Black History Month with a ceremony at Kings County Supreme Court, which drew a more diverse crowd than ever since they began the kick-off celebrations two decades ago.

“There was a record number of judges of all color,” said Justice Sylvia Ash. “Each year we get a larger turnout.”

Each year, the jurists choose a theme for the opening ceremony based on current events. And their 21st-annual event centered around “The Great Migration,” recognizing both black Americans’ move from the southern to northern United States to escape segregation and Jim Crow laws over the last century, and the treks residents of war-torn countries in Central and South America make to the U.S. today, Ash said.

“We basically choose themes based on current events and there’s a lot of talk now about immigration,” she said.

Attendees began the Feb. 1 festivities with spirited renditions of the National Anthem and the Black National Anthem, before Brooklyn Board of Elections Commissioner Dr. John Flateau — who is also a professor at Crown Heights’s historically black Medgar Evers College — addressed the crowd as the keynote speaker at the event, where he also received an award for distinguished service.

Flateau spoke eloquently and made important connections between migration then and now, said Ash.

“Dr. Flateau was a very captivating speaker, being a professor he has a wealth of knowledge of black history and migration,” she said. “He was able to impart that knowledge to a captive audience.”

The kick-off event marked the first of many Black History Month celebrations at the local courts, including a health and wellness seminar on Feb. 14, and a closing ceremony on Feb. 28, when the jurists will become judges of a different sort during a celebratory fashion show.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Three cheers: Justice Deborah Dowling presents Dr. John Flateau with a Distinguished Service Award.
Photo by Caroline Ourso