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MJoTA first published Jan 15 2007
The Long Shadow Cast by Shirley Chisholm. SJ Dodgson MJoTA v6n1 p0128

Yesterday afternoon, Sunday Jan 27, 2013, in Brooklyn, I witnessed the in-district inauguration of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. The halls - the official hall and the overflow hall - were on the campus of the Pratt Institute, which is filled with large iron and marble sculptures, befitting an established school for artistic creative geniuses.

The first sculpture I saw was a huge head of a woman. She could have been north African, or Mediterranean, a Greek goddess. Very fitting, because all evening I felt I was in the presence of a goddess, or an angel. Someone whose earthly life ended in 2005, but whose physical presence is remembered and whose spiritual presence was felt throughout the afternoon: Congressmember Shirley Chisholm, the very first daughter of Africa elected to congress.

The statue was not of Shirley Chisholm, but it could have been. Hopefully, when my favorite sculptor Manuelita Brown has finished her life-size bronze sculpture of Sojourner Truth, she will start on one of Shirley Chisholm. They are linked in history and in sprit, and they were linked in the inauguration speech by Hakeem Jeffries.

In the congressman's speech, he talked about Sojourner Truth, who knew the power of a pure heart and focusing on a good idea. He also talked about Shirley Chisholm, because a lot of his congressional district had been hers. The congressman knows where he came from, and with the continuing support of the good people who came out last night, he knows where he is going.

I was excited to know that Sojourner Truth is known in Brooklyn! The Congressman told us his priorities are gun control and immigration reform. We know his first act as congressman was getting aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy. He is off and running.

And so is the daughter of Haiti, District Leader Rodneyse Bichotte. I first met her at a CACCI meeting, and had seen her occasionally, when I heard her speak at Brooklyn College in Sep 2012, when the president of Haiti visited her district. As District Leader, she welcomed the president, and electrified the audience. I saw this young, confident, beautiful woman stride onto the stage, on front of the table of male leaders from Haiti, and electrify the audience of more than 1000 cheering sons and daughters of Haiti.

Rodneyse was the first person I saw when I entered the hall for the congressman's inauguration, and later, at the reception in the huge gymnasium of the Pratt Institute, I asked her to sya something about Shirley Chisholm.

She pointed me to a man who is the last living aide of Shirley Chisholm, Mr William Hamilton.

I learned from Mr Hamilton that the portrait in Brooklyn Borough Hall that hangs outside the courtroom was commissioned and paid for by him, and that Rodneyse is very much recognized as a rising star by those who knew Shirley Chisholm.

Aha! I said! I discovered Rodneyse Bichotte second!

I am expecting great things of Rodneyse Bichotte, and of Hakeem Jeffries.

I came away with an enormous sense of optimism. A large number of elected officials were at the inauguration. Jumaane Williams, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Assembly member Nick Perry. The borough presidents of Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx; state assembly members and state senators, New York City council members. I got a great sense of unity behind the congressman, a great sense of unity on the Democratic Party in New York.

And afterwards, in the reception, as the elected officials and proud citizens drifted away, I saw the congressman cheerfully shaking hands with one citizen after another, and posing, smiling, for photographs with anyone who asked.

Congratulations Congressman! Never lose touch with the citizens who put you in Washington!

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