“The cycle of justice is broken and must be changed,” stated Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of NY State in a keynote speech delivered at a Raise the Age program on October 29, 2014. The community forum was sponsored by the YWCA White Plains and the Westchester Children’s Association. The event was part of a Stand Against Racism initiative hosted for the 5th consecutive year by the non-profit Jay Heritage Center, stewards of the National Historic Landmark site where NY State’s first Chief Justice, and first Chief Justice of the United States John Jay grew up as a child.
“We need a system that is focused on rehabilitation, and getting children back on the right track, that offers supervision, mental health treatment, remedial education and other services and programs.” Lippman underlined the importance of “getting to the root of the child’s conduct,” and impressed upon a crowd of almost 200 attendees that “a unique opportunity [exists} to provide rehabilitative services at a time when individuals are much more capable of change.”
Raise the Age was an appropriate topic to unpack at the Jay Estate in Rye because of the Jay family’s involvement in the abolition of slavery. This legacy 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.”
The Jay Estate 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.