Bichotte Hermelyn honors Brooklyn’s ‘Sheroes’

The 2023 Women of Distinction honorees on stage with electeds, holding Proclamations from Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn.
The 2023 Women of Distinction honorees on stage with electeds, holding Proclamations from Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn.
Courtesy Office of Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn

From entrepreneurs to environmental activists, seven Brooklyn women “making a significant difference to better our borough” were honored on Sunday at Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn’s hallmark Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony at the renowned Brooklyn College.

Prominent Brooklyn legislators gave speeches recognizing the “SHEroes”, while speaking on women’s progress and leveling the playing field, including NYS Attorney General Letitia James, NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and Councilwoman Rita Joseph.

“We’re not only celebrating Women’s History Month by honoring our past trailblazers but also recognizing the women of today who are speaking up, inspiring others and working hard to put our community on a better path,” said Bichotte Hermelyn, the Haitian American representative for the 42nd Assembly District, who also chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

“There will never be enough ways to thank them, but these Women of Distinction Awards are part of how we can show our appreciation,” she added. “We’re giving much-deserved praise to the Women of Distinction uplifting our community and Assembly District 42 [encompassing Ditmas Park, Flatbush, East Flatbush and Midwood] through their work in vital arenas.”

Many of the other politicians who spoke are trailblazers in their own respect, including James, the first State-wide elected woman of color and Attorney General, and Adrienne E. Adams— “another remarkable trailblazer as the first Black Woman Council Speaker.”

The Honorees and Changemakers in ‘Vital Arenas’

Jennifer Searles, a prolific and passionate poet/writer and Art & Entertainment Awardee. Deservedly known as the “Poetic Jewel”, Searles’ uplifting poetry has been recited across New York and the nation and praised by Dr. Maya Angelou, among others.

Ume-Kulsoom Butt, event coordinator and manager of American Council on Minority Women and Business & Entrepreneurship Awardee. Butt, through the organization dedicated to promoting minority women, develops uplifting community events including the annual Chand Raat festival, food pantries, Toys for Tots giveaways, and much more.

Shawn Alyse Campbell, district manager at Community Board 14 and Community Engagement Awardee.

Campbell has steadfastly ensured that all members of the community have access to vital city agency services for over a decade, including “life-saving resources,” said Bichotte Hermelyn.

Fanny Ralbag, First Lady of the Avenue of Israel K and Education Awardee. Ralbag, while living in Holland, put Herbriac-Jewish studies back on the map through her unique methodology. Since migrating to Brooklyn in the ‘80s, she’s furthered and advanced post-graduate adult Herbriac-Jewish studies in the community.

Lupe Ramsey, director of Economic Development at Flatbush Development Corporation and Environmental Activism Awardee. Ramsey connects small businesses and neighbors to services that promote safe, clean and green streets to make Ditmas Park the best neighborhood it can be for all, and has been a community advocate for over two decades.

Mari G. Milet – president & CEO of Morris Heights Health Center, Inc. (MHHC) and Health Awardee.              Millet’s efforts on structural reorganization, financial stability, building community partnerships, establishing community leadership, and forming relationships to help MHHC save and improve lives. She has worked with stakeholders and electeds to lead the building of 11 additional health centers citywide.

Pastor Donna Baptiste – Founder, President and CEO of Donna Baptiste Ministries and Lifetime Achievement Awardee. Pastor Baptiste travels nationally and internationally to preach and is also the radio host of the Pursuing God Radio Program (airing in the tri-state and nationwide), and developer of the From Seed to Harvest Non-Profit, Business and Ministry Development Seminar.

Also celebrated was Esther Debbie Louis, who was awarded by the NYS Women’s Legislative Women’s caucus for “extraordinary work in community service, in election reform and civic engagement,” said Bichotte Hermelyn.

The event, led by the Mistress of Ceremony Joan Bakiriddin, a lifelong community advocate and “Brooklyn COVID Hero,” introduced a slate of speakers who regaled in the honorees’ achievements while also reflecting on progress made in women’s leadership.

Speaker Adams, stating how “proud and humbled” she was of the awardees, opined on women in political leadership: “I stand here before you humbly and proudly to represent the first ever woman-majority City Council, with 31 women strong.”

Other electeds echoed the sentiment, including Tish James, who stated (virtually) that “these incredible women” also are “examples and sources of pride for this community and empowerment for more to follow in their footsteps.”

State Sen. Kevin S. Parker, who represents the 21st Senate District in Brooklynk also noted that the NYS Legislature has more Black Women serving than any other State in “our entire history.”

The “Women being honored today have broken glass ceilings and broken barriers…and inspired countless women to pursue their dreams and aspirations,” said Councilmember Rita Joseph, the Haitian-born representative for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn, adding that “there is still much progress to be made for women’s equity.”

Special Presenter Dr. Marie Cerat, the associate director of the CUNY Haitian Studies Institute at the venue’s wonderful institution, also presented on the importance of remembering the “women on whose shoulders we stand,” such as abolitionist Harriet Beacher Stowe, to inspire the next generation to “make good trouble.”

The event also featured enthralling musical performances by Tony Award Winner Adriane Lenox and husband musician Zane Mark, and a dance performance by Jahari Mayfield.

“During Women’s History Month – and all year long – we’re not only celebrating these terrific women, but we’re also praising all the women in our community making a positive difference, many of whom are in this audience,” Bichotte Hermelyn said. “So, congratulations to this year’s Women of Distinction Honorees and every ‘Sheroe’ making a positive difference!”