Caribbean American justice creates history

Caribbean American justice creates history
Photo by Nelson A. King

In breaking the boardroom glass ceiling and creating history, Caribbean American justice Sylvia G. Ash has become the first female to chair the board of the $2.1 billion, New York-based Municipal Credit Union (MCU).

Justice Ash, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago to Vincentian and Grenadian parents, was recently elevated to the new position from first vice chair. She’s the first woman to hold the positon of chair in MCU’s 99-year history.

“I’m so pleased and honored to be elected Board Chair,” said Ash, a current justice in Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn. “Municipal Credit Union has done a wonderful job of serving its members for nearly a century, and I look forward to helping MCU do more great things for its members and the New York community.”

Justice Ash, who was vice chair of the oldest credit union in New York and one of the oldest and largest in the United States, replaces attorney Mark S. Brantley, who will continue to serve on the board as a director.

Brantley was chair of the MCU board of directors for five years, and Ash was a member of the board since May 2008. She was also chair of MCU’s Coordinating Committee.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Sylvia Ash on her appointment as our board chair and my sincere appreciation to Mark Brantley for his many years of tremendous service leading our board,” said Kam Wong, MCU’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

“I know that MCU will continue to reach great milestones and meet the financial needs of our growing membership as we move forward”, he added.

In March 15, 2014, Ash was among five Black female justices to receive a United States Congressional Honor during the all-day 3rd Annual Shirley Chisholm Women’s Empowerment Conference at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Ash, who sits on the bench in the 2nd Judicial District in Kings County Supreme Court, was honored by United States Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

Clarke’s mother, the trail-blazing Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to ever hold elective office in New York City, presented the award to Ash and the other honorees at a special ceremony at the culmination of the conference.

The other honorees were Justices Barbadian-born Sylvia Hinds-Radix, L. Priscilla Hall, Cheryl E. Chambers and Sharen D. Hudson.

Prior to her election to the Supreme Court, Justice Ash was the first Caribbean-American woman to be elected as a Civil Court Judge in New York City.

In 1984, immediately after graduating from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., and being admitted to practice law in the State of New York in 1985, Justice Ash accepted a position as a judicial law clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division. She was the first person of color to serve in that position.

Later in 1985, Justice Ash joined the legal staff of District Council 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services Plan in New York City, where she provided legal representation to the council’s 125,000 state, city and municipal employees, specializing in real estate, family, administrative and immigration law.

She was the supervising attorney in the union’s Family and Administrative Law Units and the chief counsel of the Immigration Law Unit.

Prior to taking the judicial bench, 2005, Justice Ash was a practicing attorney for more than 20 years.

In this capacity, she was the general counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Social Service Chapter in New York City, where she provided pro bono legal services to the chapter’s members. The NAACP is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the U.S.

Additionally, Justice Ash was very active in her community, and volunteered her legal talent and acumen to numerous civic, religious, labor and not-for-profit organizations, including youth mentorship programs, and was a strong and vocal advocate of children’s rights issues.