MEC students laughed long and applauded heartily as New York State Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson came home to her alma mater â€“ Medgar Evers College â€“ to describe her long, improbable journey from Crown Heights to Albany.
Richardson received the Collegeâ€™s Trailblazer Award in March at a ceremony to close the month-long observation of Black History in February. The College presented a varied lineup of celebratory and informative Black History Month events. They include honoring Brooklyn NAACP President L. Joy Williams with a Trailblazer Award; a Soul Food Festival sponsored by students; and a screening of Stanley Nelsonâ€™s film about Historically Black Colleges.
Richardson, who described herself as â€œa child of the Crown Heights community,â€ had a succinct definition of what it means to be a trailblazer: â€œPutting your head down and doing the work and doing whatâ€™s right,â€ she said. She added that she was â€œhumbledâ€ to receive the award.
Richardson represents Assembly District 43 and was a Public Administration major at MEC. She recalled faculty and staff at the College who helped her find â€œa pathway to elevate my voice,â€ after a troubled start in life.
The thirty-something Assemblywoman, who comes across as both poised and intense, recalled being an unfocused young woman who dropped out of high school in ninth grade and was homeless, pregnant and in an abusive relationship by age 19.
â€œI came here as a broken individual,â€ Richardson said of finding her way to MEC, which offered friendship and belonging, along with an education. She noted that MEC graduates can be found everywhere.Â â€œTo be Medgar-made means to have resistance,â€ she said.
Graduating and finding success is not enough, though, Richardson told the rapt audience of students, faculty, staff and community members. It is important to get political power, to become civic-minded and to avoid erecting barriers based on ethnicity or country of origin, said Richardson.
Rather than building higher walls in these times of political turbulence, she added, â€œBuild longer tables so others can sit with you,â€ Richardson said.