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Office of Workforce Diversity

2015 Black History Month Program

Black History Month Celebration

By Susan Goodman

It was the 25th anniversary of the Black History Month celebration at the New York Supreme Court on February 25, 2015 and quite a joyous occasion. The master of ceremonies for the event was Hon. Milton A. Tingling, the newly appointed County Clerk, NY County and the first African American County Clerk in New York State.

Former Governor of the State of New York, Hon. David A. Paterson was the recipient of the Civic Leadership Award and keynote speaker. “We wish to fulfill the dreams of African Americans and continue to build on a national movement designed to achieve social justice for everyone,” said Paterson in addressing the hundreds gathered in the rotunda of the historic courthouse. “There must continue to be diligence to prevent turning the clock back on important freedoms,” he said.
Paterson, who helped to increase diversity in the judiciary, made 24 judicial appointments during his tenure—18 of which were people of color. Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeals, the first African-American woman to serve on the Court of Appeals, was appointed to the Appellate Division, First Department by Governor Paterson in 2009.  Judge Salaam introduced the former Governor during the program.  

Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York, recipient of the Hon. Theodore T. Jones, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, was also introduced by Judge Abdus-Salaam.  “Judge Lippman has done the work of decades in only six years,” said Abdus-Salaam.
“As proud as I am (of being given this honor), we have many more miles to travel,” said Judge Lippman, “not just in the court system but in the public dialogue…to ensure that everyone gets justice.”

Theodore T. Jones, Associate Judge of the Court Appeals, who passed away in 2012, and whose career was marked by a passionate dedication to promoting diversity in the courts “personified all of the progress of this court system,” said Chief Judge Lippman. “He understood that one conviction of an innocent person is one too many. He made the ideal of equal justice a reality.”

Ernest Owens, President of the Tribune Society, presented the Founders Award to Patricia Pezzella, now retired, who founded the citywide court tour program.  Ms. Pezzella was also a former Tribune Society president. The Tribune Society is an organization of African American and minority judicial and non-judicial court personnel whose chief objectives are to improve the administration of justice and ensure equal opportunity for all who work in or are served by the New York State Unified Court System.

Patricia Pezzella (left), Maj. Ernest Owens, President, Tribune Society, Inc.


Musical Selections by Jon Mark McGowan (right) and Bruce Edwards


Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge, New York State Courts (left), Hon. Sheila Abdus- Salaam, Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeals


Hon. David Paterson, Former Govenor, State of New York


Hon. Antonio Brandveen, President, The Judicial Friends Association


Hon. Jonathan Lippman and Hon. David Paterson


Black History Month Program Chair, Barry Clarke (center), Hon. Milton Tigling, County Clerk, New York County (left) Hon. David Paterson, Former Governor, New York State (right)


Tony Walters, Director, Office of Workforce Diversity (center), Hon. Milton Tingling, County Clerk, New York County (left), Former Govenor David Paterson (right)


Black History Month Commitee 2015