News > Deesha Dyer and Donna Mossman Awarded at Black History Month Ceremony

Deesha Dyer and Donna Mossman Awarded at Black History Month Ceremony

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

MEC kicked off its 2017 Black History Month events on Wednesday with an opening ceremony in Founders Auditorium that included student entertainers and the presentation of two “Trailblazer” Awards. The awards went to Deesha Dyer, who served as special assistant to President Barack Obama and Social Secretary of the White House, and to Donna Mossman, a renowned affordable housing advocate and a founding member of the Crown Heights Tenant Union.

“They will always be my President and First Lady,” Ms. Dyer said of the Obamas in accepting her award.  A former journalist who covered hip-hop culture, Ms. Dyer went to the White House as a 31-year-old intern in 2009, held a series of appointments there, and was named Social Secretary only after returning to school to earn an Associate Degree in Women’s Studies.

She urged the audience members to enroll in a school like MEC, where they will be embraced and encouraged.

“It is never too late to go back to school,” Ms. Dyer said. She added: “All you have to do to be a trailblazer is do what’s right.” 

Ms. Dyer described years of working as a secretary – fetching coffee and answering telephones – and being told that she could rise no higher.

“We all have things inside of us that we don’t know that we can do yet,” she said.

Ms. Mossman told the audience that her journey to becoming an affordable housing advocate began after her family was kicked out of a deteriorating rent-controlled apartment without heat or hot water.  She has over two decades of experience working with a variety of organizations, including the National Urban League and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.  Ms. Mossman is featured in the 2016 documentary series “America Divided” and Brooklyn Magazine last year named her one of the Most Influential People in Brooklyn.

“When we fight, we win,” Ms. Mossman said of her years in the trenches, and later led the audience in a protest chant. She added: “We are the voice of the voiceless,” noting that 99 percent of landlords in housing court have an attorney but only one percent of tenants have an attorney.

Crown Heights is now “ground zero” for gentrification, with a battle for a Bedford Armory deal that includes a recreation center, affordable housing, and space for community groups, Ms. Mossman said.  No one will save us but ourselves, she said.

“If you are looking for someone to lead you, look in the mirror,” she said.

Roderick Hurley, a Psychology major and the Student Government Association Day Vice-President was master of ceremonies for the program.  Felice Patton, an English major, performed the National Black Anthem.  Jennifer Searles, an English major, read her poem “Travelled Road,” (a metaphor for the black struggle) and Nikisha Abrahams, a MEC graduate and Pipeline coordinator, danced to “Freedom” by BeyoncĂ©, featuring Kendrick Lamar.

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