Approximately 75 students, teachers, non-profit members and government officials attended Stand Against Racism at the Jay Estate on Friday, April 27, 2012. Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, NY State Assemblyman Bob Castelli, Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett, former Rye City Mayor Steve Otis, Rye Town Supervisor, Joe Carvin, Director of Westchester Veterans Service Agency and Office of Drug Prevention, Vito Pinto and more were effusive with their praise for the gathering and meaningful joint collaboration. Members of the Westchester Human Rights Commission and the Black Bar Association echoed their sentiments.
The event was spearheaded by the YWCA of White Plains and featured poet, painter, writer, and playwright, Iyaba who performed a portion of his current play produced by Tony Award winner Jane Dubin. Perhaps the most impressive and genuinely inspiring part of the program included readings of original poetry created by the GEMS (Girls Empowered through Meaningful Support); viewers described the afternoon as emotionally moving.
This is the second year that the Jay Heritage Center has (JHC) hosted this endeavor at the Jay Estate. This landmark site continues to be a meaningful touchstone for dialogues about human rights. It is here that one of our nation’s Founders and a leading anti-slavery advocate grew up and found inspiration and refuge. Jay’s legacy today continues as his home is being transformed into a 23-acre educational campus and community center offering programs on Social Justice, American History, Architecture, Landscape and much more. Archaeology shows that the Jay Estate was also the home and burial site of several generations of people, both free and enslaved, who worked for the Jay family. We know many of their names—Mary, Clarinda, Plato and Peet. One man, Caesar Valentine, inspired the very first significant African American character in an American novel—James Fenimore Cooper’s book, “The Spy.”
JHC hosts a full calendar of programs related to African American History and Social Justice. Both the American Women of African American Heritage Martin Luther King Literary Celebration and Westchester Trailblazers Awards ceremony is held at the site annually. The venue is also the home of the acclaimed interactive play “Striving for Freedom,” which is offered for free to all middle schools in Westchester County; bus transportation for this cultural field trip is also free through New York State Parks.
All photos by Cutty McGill