2019 grand Marshals Bios
Brian a. Benjamin
New York State Senator for District 30
Brian Benjamin currently serves as the New York State Senator for District 30. He is the chairman of the Committee on Revenue and Budget. This Harlem native has been an active agent of change through his career.
After earning his bachelor's in public policy from Brown University and MBA from the Harvard Business School, Benjamin returned to Harlem to use his education to strengthen the community. His works include, but most certainly are not limited to, developing affordable housing units in partnership with the Genesis Company, implementing career development initiatives and programming for Harlem youth, serving as a 2012 delegate for president Barack Obama and as a member of president Obama’s National Finance Committee, and collaborating with Harlem’s historic First Corinthian Baptist Church (which he is an active member of) to create community organizations that service under-served children and families such as the Dream Center and the Hope Center.
Benjamin continues to create progressive initiatives to create a fairer and freer New York.
Manhattan borough president
Gale a. Brewer is the 27th Borough President of Manhattan. She has been a steadfast supporter of the African American Day Parade and a social justice champion throughout the state of New York.
Since she took office in 2014, she has successfully passed legislation to reform the deed restriction process, add ‘caregivers’ to the city’s anti-discrimination law, remove criminal history questions from initial employment applications (the “fair chance act”), and enforce requirements for street numbers on buildings in Manhattan (to aid emergency workers). She has also spearheaded community planning initiatives at the south street seaport, in east midtown, and in other neighborhoods to address development and zoning issues.
In 2018, Brewer served as chair of the large cities council of the national league of cities, and has been named a member of their 2019 Human Development Federal Advocacy Committee, which advocates NLC policy positions on issues involving social services, children and learning, poverty and income support, employment and workforce development, equal opportunity, social security and seniors, individuals with disabilities, public health care, mental health parity, and immigration reform.
Brewer previously served on the city council for 12 years, serving as the founding chair of the technology committee and leading the government operations committee. There, the council passed her legislation guaranteeing paid sick leave for most hourly employees, requiring all city data be published online, and protecting domestic workers from abusive practices.
Prior to that, she served as chief of staff to council member Ruth Messinger, NYC deputy public advocate, director of the city’s federal office, and executive director of the mayor’s commission on the status of women. Brewer has an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and did her undergraduate work at Columbia university and Bennington College.
New York State Senate for represents District 35
Andrea Stewart Cousins is a member of the New York State Senate who represents District 35. Cousins made history this year by becoming the first woman to serve as the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate.
This Yonkers native has been and continues to be a driving force in the New York political arena. In 1992, Cousins began her historic tenure as the director of community affairs in the city of Yonkers. She was the first African American to serve in this position. As director, Cousins aided in the establishment of well-known community programs such as “Art on Main Street” and the “Yonkers Hudson River-fest”. She also created internship programming for youth and the hearing-impaired. Four years later, she was elected to the Westchester County Board of Legislators where she served for a decade.
Cousins decided to further her career in politics by running for the state senate in 2004. Although she lost that race, she decided to try again just two years later. On November 7 of 2006, Andrea Stewart Cousins was elected to the New York State Senate to represent District 35. As a senator, Cousins has helped implement a wide variety of legislation which include criminal justice reform legislation such as increasing the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, labor laws such as advocating for the increase of the minimum wage in New York State to $15/hr, and gun control laws such as aiding in the passing of the NY Safe Act.
Also, during her current tenure as Senator, she was elected by her colleagues to serve as the leader of the 2012 Senate Democratic Conference. In turn she became the first woman to lead a legislative conference in New York history. Andrea Stewart-Cousins continues to strive for excellence as she breaks both gender and racial barriers in the field of politics and government.
New York State assembly member for District 70
Inez Dickens currently serves as the New York State assembly member for the 70th district.
Inez Dickens has always had a passion for social justice and politics. She grew up watching her father, the late Lloyd Dickens, advocate for the Harlem community as a New York State Assemblyman and work alongside prominent leaders such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. to fight for equal opportunities for people of color. Though Dickens eventually went on to pursue a degree in real estate and land economics, she has used this knowledge to further her social justice initiatives. This is shown in her work with New York City’s Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE). With this, she aims to increase economic empowerment among minorities.
In 1974, Dickens was elected as a state party committeewoman. She served 32 years in this position. In 1990, she was elected as a New York district leader. In 2006, she furthered her political career and became a member of the New York City Council for the 9th district, a position she served in for a decade. Shortly after, Inez Dickens made New York history by becoming the first African American woman of the New York City Council to be appointed chair of the subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions and deputy majority leader. Lastly, in 2017, Dickens was elected to the New York State Assembly for the 70th district.
Throughout her political tenure, she has been a driving force of change in the state of New York. The New York State Assembly further states that Inez Dickens “brought millions of dollars in services and resources to her community and to economically distressed communities throughout the city of New York. She has fought to make our great city a welcoming place for all, assisting in building futures of promise for her constituents and all New Yorkers.”
renown organizer-activist, political strategist, & faith leader
The reverend Leah Daughtry is a widely recognized organizer-activist, political strategist, and faith leader.
Standing at the intersection of faith and politics, Leah is principal of On These Things, LLC, a boutique project management firm that works with community activists and organizations, political entities, businesses, and faith leaders and communities to assist them in building coalitions and partnerships that advance the common good.
Daughtry has served as chief of staff of the Democratic Party, as well as CEO of the 2008 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions, making her the first person in democratic party history to hold the position twice.
For her work with and within communities of faith, religion news service named her one of the 12 most influential democrats in the nation on faith and values politics. She has also served as resident fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, where she focused on the role faith and values play in American politics.
She is co-author, along with Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, and Minyon Moore, of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics (St. Martin's Press, 2018). In it, four of the most powerful African American women in politics share the story of how their friendship changed politics in America. Their book was honored to receive the NAACP Image Award for outstanding nonfiction literary work.
The daughter of reverend doctors Herbert and Karen Daughtry, Leah represents the fifth consecutive generation of clergy persons in the Daughtry family. She is a native of Brooklyn, New York, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and she serves as executive minister of the house of the lord churches.
Us Representative for New York's 13th congressional district
Adriano Espaillat currently represents the 13th congressional district of New York. This trailblazing leader is the first Dominican American to serve in Congress.
Espaillat has been a dynamic advocate in the community. The White House even describes him as “a steadfast champion for working-and middle-class New Yorkers”. After graduating from Queens College with a bachelor’s in political science, Espaillat was determined to be the change his wished to see in his community. Adriano Espaillat landed a position as a court services coordinator of the New York City Criminal Justice Agency in which he worked to help reduce unnecessary pretrial detention. He furthered his passion for public service by later working as director of the Washington Heights Victim Services community office in 1992 and Project Right Start in 1994. With much perseverance, Espaillat was elected to the New York State Assembly just two years later and served as Assemblyman for over a decade.
In his current position as an US Representative, he is actively involved in a wide cross-section of social justice initiatives. These initiatives include affordable housing, labor rights, environmental protection, criminal justice reform, and increasing educational opportunities for youth. Adriano continues to pursue new avenues to expand his advocacy for the people.
Us representative for New York's 8th congressional district
Hakeem Jeffries currently represents New York’s 8th Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens. In November 2018, Jeffries was elected head of the House Democratic Caucus, making him the 5th highest ranking democrat in the House of Representatives.
From his tenure as a lawyer to his current tenure in Congress, Representative Jeffries has always been eager to fight for both social and economic justice. In 2010, he sponsored a bill which disseminated the NYPDs’ “stop-and-frisk” database. This made it illegal for an officer to enter the personal information of every individual stopped and frisked into database used in criminal investigations. After hurricane sandy, Jeffries actively advocated for the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, legislation that provided funds for recovery efforts to assist those impacted the 2012 super storm. In 2015, he, along with 3 other congressmen, created the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Caucus which aims to foster bipartisan reformation within the American prison system. Hakeem Jeffries furthered his progressive initiatives for criminal justice reform by supporting the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act (FIRST STEP Act) of 2018. One of this acts’ main goals is to establish programs that support the formerly incarcerated as they return to society, hence decreasing recidivism.
When asked about his work, Jeffries expresses “...it’s become clear that you have to do the job that you currently have, do that job well and not get distracted. The rest tends to take care of itself.” Jeffries continues to strive to reach greater heights in the field of politics & government.
American politician and lawyer
David Dinkins is an American politician and lawyer. In 1990, this iconic leader made history by becoming the first (and only) African American Mayor of New York City.
After completing service in the US Marine Corps and then earning his bachelors in mathematics from Howard University, Dinkins decided to study government and law. In 1953, he enrolled in the Brooklyn Law School and earned his law degree three years later. As Dinkins began his private law practice, he began to get involved in other political organizations such as the Carver Democratic Club. At this club, he grew a close bond with three other raising African American political leaders of the time: Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton, and Basil Paterson. Together these four leaders became known as the “Gang of Four”. They created various initiatives which focused on the development of Harlem’s economic and political capital.
As Dinkins’ political started to advance, he decided to run for elective offices such as the New York State Assembly, Manhattan Borough President, and later Mayor of New York City. As an assemblyman, he represented the 78th district for two terms. In 1985, he was elected Manhattan Borough President after running and losing twice before. Four years later, he broke racial barriers by winning the 1989 mayoral election for the city of New York. During his time in each elective office, he implemented a plethora initiatives to advance the city of New York. These works include: providing support for community-based aids services, revitalizing public libraries, providing funding for afterschool programming, collaborating with the Walt Disney Corporation to revitalize New York City’s most popular attraction Times Square, and decreasing crime rates.
Following the completion of his reign as mayor, Dinkins worked at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs as a professional practice professor, hosted a radio show on WLIB for a decade, and speaks around the city inspiring a new generation to be leaders in the field of politics and government.
Tony Award winning actress & 4 time Grammy nominated vocalist
Melba Moore is a Tony Award winning actress and a 4 time Grammy nominated vocalist. Moore has also had 8 top 10 hits on the R&B Billboard charts.
Melba Moore made her recording debut on Mercury records with I Got Love, followed by Look What You’re Doing to the Man. She starred in Purlie, which earned her a Tony Award for her portrayal as “Lutiebelle". Shortly after, she was nominated for a Grammy award for ‘Best New Artist’. In 1990, Melba Moore released her highly acclaimed rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing. This song was later entered into the United States Congressional Record as the official national Negro hymn and also added by the National Recording Registry to the Library of Congress. More recently, she starred with Beyoncé and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the motion picture The Fighting Temptations. She is currently producing an album entitled Forever Moore, which will be released on her new label A' Moore Music, Inc.
Presently, she is working on an autobiography detailing her achievements over the span of her career. She has a deep passion for children, especially those who were abandoned, abused, and born with aids and addicted to crack. She is committed to giving of her time to organizations involved with children.
American politician & lawyer
Charles Rangel is an American politician, lawyer, and former member of the us congress. Rangel served 23 terms in the house of representatives making him one of America’s longest-serving members of congress.
This iconic Harlem leader has led and still continues to lead a life of service. At the age of 18, Charles Rangel served in the US army during the Korean War. During the battle of Kunu-ri, Rangel bravely led 40 US soldiers out of a deadly encirclement despite being wounded himself. He was later awarded both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart medals of honor for his service. After his tenure in the army, Rangel completed high school, earned his Bachelor of Science from New York University, and completed his JD at the St. John’s University School of Law. He decided to further his passion to serve in politics.
Rangel worked as a private lawyer, and shortly after, served two terms in the New York State Assembly advocating for the Harlem community. Rangel advanced his political career by deciding to run for Congress in 1970. With much persistence, Rangel earned his seat in the US House of Representatives. As a congressman, Rangel worked on a wide cross section of initiatives which included the areas of health care, housing, employment, education, and retirement security. He even helped in the establishment of the Congressional Black Caucus, an organization within the US House of Representatives that aims to address the legislative concerns of African Americans as well as other minority groups in the US. Rangel is one of its 13 founding members.
Furthermore, Charles Rangel became the first African American member and chairman of the Congressional Ways and Means Committee, has fought against the apartheid movement in South Africa, helped curate federal enterprise zones in Manhattan along with low-income tax credits to stimulate affordable housing development in urban areas, created various initiatives in regards to drug abuse in the US, and proposed legislation to increase funding for public school. Rangel has built an astounding legacy in the field of politics and government.
American politician & director of government relations at davidoff hutcher & citron llp
Keith wright is an American politician. He currently serves as leader of the New York county democratic committee. This Harlem icon has made countless contributions in the political arena.
After earning his bachelors’ from Tufts University and his JD from Rutgers, Keith Wright looked for opportunities to exercise his knowledge of law and his leadership skills. Wright worked as an associate for the Law Office of Ruffin E. Cotton Jr., then as a special assistant for the Human Resources Administration, worked his way up landing the director position of the Uptown Office for Manhattan borough president David Dinkins, and served as assistant director of government relations for the New York City Transit Authority.
In 1993, Wright became a New York State Assembly member representing the 70th district. He served in this position for over two decades. As an assemblyman, Wright helped establish various progressive initiatives. These initiatives include developing and renovating property to create affordable housing across New York City, protecting tenants’ rights, providing resources for small businesses, increasing worker’s rights, and making high quality education accessible to all NYC children. During his time as an assemblyman, he was appointed assistant majority whip and served as chair of numerous committees including the Labor Committee and the Assembly Housing Committee.
In 2009, he became leader of the New York County Democrats and, three years later, co-chair the New York State Democratic Party. In addition, Wright has chaired the Harlem Community Development Corporation, an organization that strives to strengthen and revitalize the Harlem community and is currently the director of government relations at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP. Keith Wright continues to be an active leader in the field of politics and government.