L to R: Ralph McDaniels, Scott M. Stringer, Shaun D. Francois I, Timyiaka R. Noel, Rev. Elaine Flake.
Celebrating African American History Month, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, hosted a program and award ceremony at Jamaica Performing Arts Center on February 6, 2019.
The program awarded four outstanding activists in the fields of entertainment, social service, union organizing and criminal justice.
Before a table full of notable “who’s who” in New York, we were introduced to our awardees.
Recognized for her numerous programs in the south Queens area, Reverend Elaine M. Flake was given her award for developing the Allen Women’s Resource Center which houses women and children who experience domestic violence. She acts as advisor/coordinator of the Allen Women’s Ministry Department. The Conference attendees raised $64,000 for Women of Darfur; and in 2010 they raised $20,000 for Women in Haiti. She is the author of a popular book, God in Her Midst: Preaching Healing to Hurting Women, and co-authored two books with her husband, Rev. Floyd Flake. This is only a small portion of her accomplishments. Reverend Flake said, “When you reach out and touch somebody, your life will be better for it”
Shaun D. Francois started working with the New York City Department of Education over 25 years ago as a Substitute Senior School Lunch Helper. After a visit to D.C. 37, he was impressed by the membership’s activism. As they say, the rest is history. His dedication to supporting the labor movement did not go unnoticed. He became Secretary of Local 372’s Cultural Committee, and concentrated on mentoring and recruiting new members. Soon after this, he became the first Chairman of Local 372’s New Wave Committee, which prepares the next generation of union leaders. In January 2019, Francois became the first “Next Waver” to be elected to high office.
Francois has launched a campaign to increase the minimum wage to $15 for Local 372’s lowest paid workers. He has signed a contract with New York City Mayor to increase the salaries of more than 2300 school crossing guards, among other accomplishments. Francois proudly reminded the gathering that New York is a union town, and that we must fight to keep it that way.
Timyiaka R. Noel works at The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision as a New York State Senior Parole Officer. Her job involves monitoring the whereabouts of convicted felons. Noel ensures to incorporate any available resources towards the offenders becoming gainfully employed and socially reintegrated into their communities. She focuses on training law enforcement professionals in advanced life saving techniques and related criminal justice topics.
Noel is a member of the New York State Women in Law Enforcement, The Fraternal Order of Police, and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She serves as Co-Chair to the Dr. Jeanne L. Noble Delta GEMS Committee. The GEM program serves to enhance the lives of young ladies aged 14-18 who live or attend school in Queens. Noel said, “We all have to pay attention to our youth and to ourselves – you can never stop. A big part of doing what’s right is never giving up. Pick people who make us work harder.”
After her daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2008, Noel became a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is a motivational speaker for the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. As Controller Stringer said, “She goes far and beyond to serve her community.”
From the world of entertainment comes the man responsible for the 1980 Video Music Box, “Uncle” Ralph McDaniels. Uncle Ralph, as he is affectionately known, was influenced by the music his parents listened to – music with a message. “I got this love for good messages listening to The Last Poets, Jill Scott and such. I developed a love of music with a message.”
In 1982 a local TV station gave Uncle Ralph the opportunity to host a music-video show. By 1983 he was able to produce the show which he called Video Music Box. He has a long list of hip-hop icons he featured during this period. At one point, the show was number two in its time not, second only to Oprah.
In addition to engaging the untapped urban audience, Uncle Ralph registered over 10,000 voters throughout the City of New York. He is also a consultant/visual producer for the Queens Library system, programming Hip-Hop to over 60 branches.
Joe’s Academy Music quartet opened the evening’s award ceremony with some smooth sounds, and performed again after the awards were handed out. Vibrant young dancers regaled in African attire, plus a Sunday-style meal, made for a truly delightful celebration which the rainy weather could not dampen. The ancestors would be proud!