SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Office of Diversity & Inclusion
2015 – Fourth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Award
Leadership Award Menu
United States Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke Receives Downstate Medical Center's 4th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Award.
On January 24, Downstate paid homage to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the presentation of the 4th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Award. Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, this year's award went to U.S. Congresswoman Yvette D. Clark, 9th Congressional District of New York.
The theme of this year's event was "What's Going On? Contemporary Civil Rights Issues." In his welcoming remarks, Kevin Antoine, JD, Assistant Vice President of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the creative and organizing force behind the MLK Leadership Award, explained that, in his opinion, fifty years after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Acts, recent federal court decisions have eroded much of federal oversight in voter registration. AVP Antoine commented that if a person cannot register to vote, she cannot serve on a jury or grand jury, which could impinge on a person's 6th Amendment right to a jury of her peers. Recent events in American cities have illustrated these points, Antoine added.
Congresswoman Clarke struck a similar theme in her keynote address. She explained that the voting rights act exists today only in form after it was "gutted" by conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. Since that decision many states have enacted laws that limit some Americans access to the right to vote. In addition, Congresswoman Clarke praised Downstate Medical Center for the healthcare it provides to the residents of Brooklyn and it efforts to reduce health disparities in Brooklyn. Additionally, Congresswoman Clark praised AVP Antoine and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and AVP Michael Harrell and the Office of Community and Government Affairs for their outreach and inclusiveness efforts within the Borough of Brooklyn.
A Brooklyn native Congresswoman Clarke is proud of her Jamaican heritage, attended the New York City public schools, graduated from Oberlin College, and was a recipient of the prestigious APPAM/Sloan Fellowship in Public Policy and Policy Analysis. She serves on three U.S. Congressional Committees, Energy and Commerce Committee, Small Business Committee, and the Ethics Committee. Michael Harrell Assistant Vice President of the Office of Community and Government Affairs presented Congresswoman Clarke with a Proclamation from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Students from the Parkside Preparatory Academy and P.S. 235 were excited by remarks given by 7th grader Michael Antoine, son of AVP Antoine. Michael read an original poem he wrote telling the audience that based on recent current events "Get ready America its time for the young folks."
A bonus at this year's program was Insight Into Diversity Magazine co-owner Holly Mendelson. Ms. Mendelson presented the Higher Education Excellence In Diversity (HEED) Award to Downstate Medical Center. The award recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity.
Several downstate employees and offices were honored for their efforts in helping Downstate achieve the national award including; Dr. Moro Salifu, Brooklyn Health Disparities; Dorothy Fyfe, Associate Vice President, Policy and Planning; Dr. Gerald Deas, Director of Health Education Communications; Shaundelle Goldsmith, JD, EEO Advisor; and Ferdinand Mindanao, HRIS Analyst, Anika Daniels-Osaze--Health Careers Opportunity Program; Kristine Paulsson of STEM; Dr. Jeffrey Birnbaum Health and Education Alternatives for Teens Program; Dr. Marilyn Fraser-White, MD Arthur Ashe Institute. Ms. Mendelson also presented the magazine's Diversity Visionary Award to AVP Antoine, the only national honor of its kind The program ended with a spectacular acapella rendition of the traditional African-American Gospel song "Wade in the Water" performed by the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir.