First Black flight attendant wrote little Black book for Black boys

Barbados-born Ruth Carol Taylor gained notoriety in New Yok City when she rode the subways shouting “get your little Black book.”

It’s a survival guide she penned after her son Laurence Legall was mugged in 1985 in Brooklyn.

She had moved to the borough in 1977 after living in Harlem and working as a nurse.

Taylor was distraught to learn that members of the NYPD did not believe her son’s version of the assault. Instead of pursuing the white assailants, the lawmen treated her offspring/ victim with suspicion.

Taylor sold the rules for engagement on trains, at rallies, street fairs and anywhere she ventured. At times she would also carry signs that informed the public “cops don’t shoot white boys in the back.”

Needless to say, Taylor was an agitator, informer and determined mother.

On May 12, Taylor passed away.

Legall informed the entire community that funeral arrangements for his dedicated mother has been finalized.

Taylor will be memorialized on May 24 from 10 am to 1 p.m. at Jubilant Pentecostal Holy Church, 295 Gates Ave. in Brooklyn.

News of her passing, stilled admirers and colleagues who regaled the activist for her persevering role to enlightening the most vulnerable Black citizens of the United States. And while that daunting feat garnered street cred throughout the boroughs, Taylor blazed a trail for her race and gender in the 1950’s when she changed the airline industry by emerging the first Black flight attendant.

Back then the sky-high assistants were known as airline hostesses. As it were, Taylor was first of her race and gender to represent.

For that pioneering act, she received national attention. But she also received nasty letters from racists and trouble makers. Taylor reacted by documenting the hate in a book titled “Butterflies in the Garbage.”

A few years ago, in a British Broadcasting Corporation profile, Taylor reflected on the time she spent as a “negro airline hostess.”

She detailed sobering stories of her pioneering repute. Mostly though, she focused on reveling about her momentous March on Washington in 1963 to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech.

Among her treasured photographs are those she took with actors Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Charlton Heston and Sammy Davis Jr.




Harlem is grieving the loss of former Councilmember Bill Perkins who died at age 74 on May 16. A champion for improved health care, higher wages and relentless advocate for the rights of the Central Park Five, Perkins challenged citizen Donald J. Trump when he paid to promote the death penalty for the teenagers.

The Harlem legislator also served in the New York State Senate and while there he led a campaign to elect the first Black president of the United States when a majority of his colleagues opted to endorse former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“After a lifetime fighting for justice, equality and to make the voices of our community heard, my husband, former city councilman and state senator died at home in Harlem, the community he loved and fought for his entire life,” Pamela Perkins said.

“May he rest in peace and power.”



Calton Coffie, a former lead vocalist of the reggae group Inner Circle died at age 68 in Florida.

His name may not ring with familiarity to music fans but the lyrics he voiced will be recalled in the “Bad Boys” theme to CopsTV, a police caught-in-the action reality television show.

The song spawned the title of a film which starred Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

Coffie led the group from 1986 to 1994.

During that period, he enabled a Best Reggae Album win in 1994 and a nomination the following year with the infectious “Sweat (La LaLa la Long) composition.

“People often think that it is Bob Marley” who sings Sweat, his daughter Eruth Spencer said. She explained that her father might have been denied his own acclaim because the group usually acknowledges members as a unit, not by individual identity.

Her father she said, died in Palm Beach Gardens allegedly from complications from diabetes.

Coffie doubled as a percussionist and with Ian and Roger Lewis and Touter Harvey established one of the genres most reliable touring reggae ambassadors.

He will be remembered for voicing catchy reggae hits and most notably albums which included “Bad To The Bone” and his solo CD “Hot Cup of Coffie.”



Another tree fell when Jim Brown died on May 18 at age 87. Depending on one’s era of reference and awareness the legend holds a place in numerous categories of achievement. While sports fans are hailing his illustrious football career with the Cleveland Browns from 1957-1965 in terms akin to that of a super-athlete, Brown also excelled in track and field, lacrosse and basketball.

There are also those who regard the National Football League’s Pro Football Hall Famer for the 50 film and television roles he engaged audiences.

“The Dirty Dozen” immediately comes to mind.

How he captivated audiences to watch his every action will not soon be forgotten. He was the ‘first Black action star’ when he co-starred with Raquel Welch in the film “100 Rifles.”

“Ice Station Zero,” and “Slaughter,” are among his Hollywood forays from the sport he played best.

But unquestionably, in the Black community Brown will be remembered for his unwavering allegiance to furthering the cause for the Civil Rights movement.

A grateful California community has always showered the four-time MVP winner with accolades.

In Los Angeles, he bridged the divide that separated dueling gangs.

His tiresome effort in uniting the rivals successfully resulted with peace agreements.

Brown will be remembered for boldly supporting heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali when he railed against the US military for drafting him to fight in the Vietnam War.

In latter years Brown did not hesitate to ‘take a knee’ in solidarity of Colin Kaepernick and his quest to spotlight injustice in America.



Lester Sterling, an original member of Jamaica’s premiere ska group died at age 87 on May 16.

The musician had been ailing in Florida after suffering several strokes.

Reports from former manager and Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Paterson is that the legend will be interred in his homeland.

“I’m happy to say that he was my personal friend from school,” Charley Simpson said of one of the founding members of the The Skatalites.

Simpson was bereft after hearing the news. His reflections of the super-achiever contained expressions of nostalgic memories of their comradeship which started when they were students at Alpha Boys School, a Roman Catholic run institution in Kingston revered for nurturing the talents of numerous youths.

Among the most renowned achievers, the ensemble formed in 1964 as a session band that backed virtually every major local recorder and emerged a global attraction and Jamaica’s most acclaimed jazz, rocksteady, reggae and ska band.

“I was the first person to take The Skatalites band on an overseas tour along with two sisters Theresa and Ignatius.”

Simpson said in the early years of their career, the group arrived in Brooklyn to play at Love People One, a nightclub which rallied Jamaican nationals.

Although the group only lasted 14 months, since the dis-assembly of Tommy McCook, saxophonist, flute, Don Drummond, trombonist, Lloyd Knibb, drummer, kLloyd Brevett, bassist, Roland Alphonso, tenor sax, and Lester Sterling, alto saxophone player, numerous iterations have grouped Johnny Moore, Ernest Ranglin, Rico Rodriguez, Jerome “Jah Jerry” Hines, Baba Brooks, Gladstone Anderson, Cedric I’m Brooks, Theophilus Beckford, Jackie Mittoo, Raymond Harper, Doreen Shaffer and other talented musicians.

Some of their hits included “Guns of Navaronne,” Man in the Street,” “Ska Voovee,” “Kingston 11,” “Christine Keeler,” “Ball of Fire,” “Schooling the Duke,” “James Bond Theme,” and countless more.

The group is also credited for inspiring a 2-Tone movement in England with Black and white musicians formed to record ska fused with punk rock. Groups such as the Selecter, Madness, the Specials, The English Beat and Bad Manners attribute their formation as an homage to the Skatalites.

“Go play ‘Lee Harvey Oswald’ with your fellow saxophonists Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso,” Simpson added.

All five good and faithful servants, they made their mark by uplifting the lives of millions.