Senator Cordell Cleare Hosts Coat Drive For Harlem’s Newest New Yorkers

January 3, 2024

Harlem State Senator Cordell Cleare rounded out the year 2023, feeding and clothing hundreds of Harlemites and new migrants, at busy community-sponsored events.

Including the adult African migrant winter coat drive at the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque, on 116th Street; and the Community Giveaway and Kwanzaa Candle Lighting Ceremony, at the Children’s Aid Dunlevy Milbank Center in the heart of Harlem.

During the holiday season, Senator Cleare’s well-known concern for her residents, had her practically embracing the whole community, including the migrant community – particularly the African migrants in Harlem, who have been under-reported.

On December 23rd, 2024, the Senate District 30 representative joined with community partners, as the historic Masjid Malcolm Shabazz hosted hundreds of adult migrants, and locals including women, and mothers with children. The staff at the masjid graciously assisted in every aspect, as the office of Senator Cleare distributed coats and food, and provided much-requested resources, including; halal food, and information about shelter, medical and mental health resources.

“We continue to service the needs of our new migrant community, hand in hand with our established Harlem residents, and organizations, and government agencies,” said Senator Cleare. “I want to thank everyone who contributed, and all of our community partners, who provided warm meals, hats, gloves, and other accessories for over 400 individuals while supplies lasted.”

Harlem’s Malcolm Shabazz Mosque is located on 116th Street in her district. These few blocks that make up that corridor have experienced a recent influx of migrants, mostly young men from several West African nations. The immediate need for basic services has become increasingly apparent over the last few months, especially with winter arriving, and the drop in temperature anticipated.

The Village of Harlem, local businesses, and organizations once again gave generously. Since November, last year, the Senator, along with partners such as the Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance, began accepting new and very gently worn coat donations from the community.

In addition to the critically needed coats, the Masjid Shabazz event included additional items, such as socks, sweatpants, shirts, and long underwear. Hot meals were generously provided by local restaurants, including; Baraka Buffet Restaurant, Keur Sohkna, Chick Fil-a, and Halaal Food Court. Attendees received information on area resources including; NYC I.D. applications, the locations of the City’s navigation centers to obtain legal assistance, and the nearest libraries, where they can use computers free of charge. Volunteers fluent in French and other languages that are predominant in West Africa, were also on hand to translate.

“… Harlem’s capacity for kindness …” 

Once again impressed with Harlem’s capacity for kindness to those in great need, Senator Cleare said, “Our community’s response was overwhelming, with generous donations and other assistance from local businesses and organizations like; the Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance joining with Lido Restaurant to help gather coat donations, as well as Metroplus Healthcare, and the South African consulate for their support.”

A week later on Thursday, December 28th, 2023,  the Children’s Aid Dunlevy Milbank Center in the heart of Harlem was the venue where Senator Cleare and several generous community partners, hosted a magnificent Unity in the Community Giveaway and Kwanzaa Candle Lighting Ceremony.

At 3pm on the DOT, residents streamed into the Kwanzaa-themed space. There were families with babies and older children, elders, new migrants, teenagers, and young people. The atmosphere was both relaxed and exciting.

With a spirit of holiday warmth, Senator Cleare kicked off the community interactive event Kwanzaa holiday on the third day – Ujima – which is collective work and responsibility. That feeling was self-evident as volunteers from the neighborhood served pan after pan of donated food from individuals and restaurants including; Chef Devin, Rabbit’s Chicken & Waffles, Akara House, and Manna’s. Denise Mitchell and Vito Jones, and their Harlem Inc., served the lines of people over several hours.

Then there were the masses of donated toys, which had the Milbank Center gym looking like a specialty department store because of generous donors like: Donald Notice, members of the FDNY and the NYPD, Firefighter Khalid Baylor and the Vulcan Society, West Harlem Group Assistance, William Hargraves, Granville T. Woods Association, and Local 79.

“This was a collaboration with community partners to foster a connection with the youth, ensuring that they understand the cultural significance of Kwanzaa and the values it represents,” said Senator Cleare.

“…the seven principles of the Nguzo Saba.”

The Kwanzaa ceremony and the lighting of the kinara were presented by Paul McIntosh, the former librarian for Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts. In awe, excited children sat on the floor and engaged in a wonderful call-and-response, along with Senator Cleare, reciting the seven principles of the Nguzo Saba. 

Mr. McIntosh explained to the audience that it was a celebration deeply rooted in African heritage, as Kwanzaa embodies the principles: of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

“Once again local businesses and our neighbors found it in their hearts to donate food and toys, above and beyond what was anticipated,” said Senator Cleare. “They showed a great example of giving, love, and fellowship. We want to thank everyone who came, who participated in organizing the event, and those who selflessly gave their time serving the community.”

The legendary Rev. Herbert Daughtry, 93, of Brooklyn’s famed House of the Lord Church, traveled from his New Jersey base, and with his new book of the same name, delivered a rousing speech about the “connection between ‘Liberation and Reparations.’’ 

Former Manhattan Borough President and current City Councilmember Gale Brewer spoke on the significance of the wonderful event.

There were tenant leaders, and community organizers joined the celebration. District leaders who came by included: Wilma Brown, William Allen, William Smith, and County Leader Keith Wright, Assemblymen Eddie Gibbs, and Al Taylor. Also present were the Hon. J. Machell Sweeting, and State Committee Member Londel Davis.

Senator Cleare presented proclamations to community stalwarts former District Leader Keith Lily and anti-gun violence advocate John Nathan Allsbrooks. The FDNY came through with fire safety advice, alongside their popular mascot Siren.

There was miniature golf for the children; a book reading corner where community members read to the children; face-painting; a popular 360 camera, and the DJ kept people moving throughout the entire afternoon.

“… families, children, and young people …”

“I was honored and delighted to host such a beautiful community event,” said Sen. Cordell Cleare. “It was such a tremendous success. So, many families, children, and young people told us that they had such a great afternoon. In the cultural spirit of Kwanzaa, it is always inspiring to see our Harlem residents coming together to enjoy great food, and take home so many books and toys. Our Community Giveaway and Kwanzaa Candle Lighting Ceremony embodied all the virtuous principles of the Nguzo Saba – collective work, responsibility, economics, and unity; plus creativity, self-determination, faith, and purpose. We had it all.

“We want to thank everyone who attended and helped make this community gathering the extraordinary event that it was.”

A huge takeaway from both the migrant winter cat giveaway, and the Kwanzaa celebration, was the presence of the new neighbors, and their exacerbated need. To that point, Senator Cleare, Mayor Eric Adams, and other electeds nationwide are demanding that the federal State Department expands its Temporary Protective Status, commonly referred to as TPS, to include additional countries, such as Guatemala, Mali, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. 

Senator Cleare notes that, “Unlike asylum, which many of the migrants in my district are seeking, a TPS designation will allow people from these to receive baseline resources, including access to more stable housing, expedited work authorization, and other assistance.”

Saying that she wanted to make the on-offer resources accessible to all, Senator Cleare said, “Individuals and families from Venezuela, which has a TPS designation, are able to come to places like the Adam Clayton Powell State Office building in Harlem and receive government-funded support for housing, food, and medical care, among other things.”

In addition to providing funding for migrants, Senator Cleare is asking the federal, state, and local authorities, to recognize the influx of new arrivals in her district and provide support for food distribution, mobile showers, job training, and an expansion of the languages that are currently offered through English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. 

Recently, she brought together representatives from the City’s Department of Sanitation and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to discuss ways to increase garbage collection, enhance street cleaning, and ways to mitigate some of the street congestion along the 116th Street corridor, concerns which existed before the arrival of migrants to the area, but that has been compounded because of the increased population in the area.

“…working towards an equitable solution that includes the entire community…”

“As we begin 2024, we want to do so with progress and clarity, working towards an equitable solution that includes the entire community,” determined Senator Cleare. “As our successful coat drive at Masjid Malcolm Shabazz, displayed, it was heartening to see our community unite to support those without resources. But, so much more is needed to help our new and existing community members in need.”

New York State Senator Cordell Cleare

New York State Senator Cordell Cleare was raised in Harlem and her family has lived there for four generations.   Cleare is a product of the New York City public schools, including Brooklyn Technical High School.  Today, she is best known for her fight for Reparations, Truly Affordable Housing, Quality Schools & Equitable Education, Access to Healthy Foods as well as Economic, Environmental, Restorative and Racial Justice. She entered the New York State Senate on an express train from Upper Manhattan, bringing fresh ideas and legislative proposals to make New York, the state of the whole people.

Photo credit: 1-5) Cordell Cleare. By Bill Moore.

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