Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a long-term human rights leader and New York State senator, will be the featured speaker at the Mamaroneck-Larchmont 23rd annual Martin Luther King celebration to be held at 7:30 p.m., January 13th at the Emelin Theater. The theme this year is “Continuing the Struggle for Equality.” The honorees are Doris “Mother” Jackson and Kids for World Health.
Senator Stewart-Cousins’ trademark, according to several fellow political leaders, has been determination, patience and the ability to build consensus among both colleagues and opponents.
NYS Assemblyman George Latimer served with her in the Westchester County Board of Legislators and drew a parallel between her and “the man in the White House.” He said, “She’s an African-American woman who won her Senate seat against a powerful opponent in a primarily white district.” She represents the 35th district which includes Yonkers, Greenburgh and Mt. Pleasant.
Senator Stewart-Cousins has had experience in several levels of government, as has the President, Mr. Latimer noted. She was the first African-American to serve as the director of community affairs in the City of Yonkers. For a decade she served in the County Legislature, becoming vice chairman. Then, in 2006, she was elected to the state Senate. She has been the Senate’s presiding officer for much of 2009.
Championed Human Rights Law
As a county legislator, Ms. Stewart-Cousins authored and helped push through Westchester’s Human Rights Law which, in turn, established the Westchester Human Rights Commission. She also helped pass laws on: living wages, tougher gun control, anti-predatory lending and tax cuts for veterans and seniors. In the State Senate she has advocated for human rights, quality education, accessible and affordable health care, and youth development, among other issues.
While sharing many of Assemblyman Latimer’s recollections about Senator Stewart-Cousins, County Legislator and Majority Whip Judy Myers added a new one: “Not only is she a nice, good person to work with, she can be very funny. She is a great impersonator. She can imitate someone and it will be right, exactly right.”
From Public Housing to the Senate
Senator Stewart-Cousins was born in a public housing complex in the Bronx in 1950, the younger of two children. Her mother, Beryl Stewart, had high expectations for her and encouraged her to work hard and seek success. Her father, Robert Stewart, was awarded bronze and purple heart medals for valor in World War II. He supported the family as a technician repairing Western Electric teletypes and later as a repair technician for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Senator Stewart-Cousins worked as a journalist, a personnel manager and a teacher in the Yonkers public schools before becoming Yonkers director of community affairs.
In another segment of the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, Doris “Mother” Jackson, a grandmotherly champion of the downtrodden, will be given an award as an individual who embodies the ideals of the historic civil rights leader. A second award will go to Kids for World Health, an international movement, started in 2001 by students in Chatsworth School guided by their teacher, Kay Kobe. The founders, who still work for world health as seniors in Mamaroneck High School, will accept the award on behalf of their organization.
Beverly Brewer-Villa, recently retired executive director of the Community Action Program (CAP Center), will be given special recognition for her long years of social service contributions to the community.
Among other program segments are:
- A performance by the Mamaroneck High School String Quartet
- Singing by a choir of Saints John and Paul directed by Rasaan Bourke
- A presentation by a Rye Neck High School American History class
- A presentation by the Multi-Cultural Club of Mamaroneck High School.
The program is hosted by the Mamaroneck/Larchmont Human Rights Committee, under the leadership of Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe. Larchmont Trustee Anne McAndrews is coordinator of the upcoming program and will be its chairperson on January 13.