Legacy of late Bed-Stuy icon Albert Vann honored at two-day celebration

Members of the Nation of Islam attend a community block party honoring the late Albert Vann on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Albert Vann, a Bedford-Stuyvesant native who served in the New York State Assembly and New York City Council, was honored in a memorial ceremony on Aug. 12 followed by a community block party on Aug. 13. Vann passed away peacefully on July 15 at the age of 87.

A “Memorials and Reflections” was held Friday at the Boys & Girls High School on Fulton Street, where friends, family and former colleagues and constituents came together to remember Vann. The event celebrated the highlights of Vann’s life and career through spoken remarks, performances, photos and videos.

The following day, a community block party at Bed-Stuy’s Restoration Plaza celebrated Vann’s life with some of the things the late pol loved: music, dancing, basketball, food and togetherness.

Family members of Albert Vann attend a community block party at Restoration Plaza in his honor.Photo by Caroline Ourso

“Al Vann was a giant,” tweeted Mayor Eric Adams following the Friday memorial. “We know that because of the good he did and the family that loved him. And we felt that love in Brooklyn tonight. Rest in power, brother.”

Prominent politicians spoke at both the memorial and the block party to honor Vann, including Adams, Public Advocate Letitia James, Commissioner for Cultural Affairs and former Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, former Councilmember and Vann’s successor Robert Cornegy, former Assemblymember Annette Robinson, and current State Senator Jabari Brisport.

Attorney General Letita James, left, speaks to Assemblymember Annette Robinson.Photo by Caroline Ourso

Vann was a prominent politician and activist from Bed-Stuy. A lifelong Democrat, he began as a teacher, where he founded the African Teacher’s Association. As a politician, Vann served in New York State Assembly for three decades. Later, he served three terms in the New York City Council. He was also a founder of Medgar Evers College.

The Albert Vann Legacy Scholarship Fund was developed with Vann’s commitment to education in mind. The scholarship supports students attending Medgar Evers College in pursuit of a degree in social justice, public service, and/or community involvement.

Former Councilmember Robert Cornegy, right, at the Bed-Stuy block party for Vann.Photo by Caroline Ourso

“You can chronologize his achievements and accomplishments and what he’s meant to the community. The sentiment, though, is hard to capture and how people are now feeling this profound sense of loss in their community,” said Cornegy after Vann’s passing.

Cornegy was not only Vann’s immediate successor in the Council, but he says he owes his career in public service to Vann, who mentored him.

“There are people who can impact and make change in communities but are less likely and less willing to share the opportunity to lead, and I’m a direct product of his willingness for someone else to lead or to take the reins or to exercise a sense of continuity in a community that desperately needs that,” he said.