Vanguards hail legacy of Panamanian icon, Russell

A virtual who’s who in politics and education joined other trailblazers at Brown Memorial Baptist Church recently to hail the legacy and dedicated service made by Panama-born Dr. Carlos E. Russell whose lifelong contribution was to embolden cultural appreciation, racial equity and a Black solidarity Day.

“Long live Dr. Carlos Russell,” Brooklyn Assemblyman Charles Barron urged an ecumenical congregation who faced an imposing image of a Black Jesus staring down from a stained glass window.

With that statement, the entire congregation stood in front of the signature attraction inside the landmark religious institution, to endorse the statement made by the East New York representative.

He spoke at length and throughout lavished platitudes on the former Panamanian ambassador saying that throughout his lifetime the revered activist “spoke truth to power.”

“We are losing Black power,” Barron said adding that “the legacy of a Black Solidarity Day will be a lasting tribute” and one honored on the eve of the midterm elections next month with admonitions to African-Americans to refrain from regular practice and instead commit to a day of absence from work, school, shopping or travel.

On arrival, guests were greeted by red, black and green balloons that decorated the façade of the brick edifice. Some were handed tri-colored buttons with reminders: “don’t work…don’t buy, don’t travel…” Nov. 2…A Black Family Day… Observe it! Your Life depends on it.”

H. Carl McCall, the first African-American to be elected comptroller of New York State in 1993 welcomed benefactors of storied careers nurtured by the Pan-African advocate.

Former Assemblyman Al Vann (1975-2001) extolled the virtues of Dr. Russell as a political and community organizer.

“The creator gave something to all of us. Some of us squander it Carlos used his to work for liberation.”

“He conferred with heads of governments and was recognized in Panama, the West Indies, throughout America and the world.”

Detailing a path from teaching to working with the Board of Education, the former legislator — who is acclaimed for being one of the founders of Medgar Evers College and also served in the city council from 2002 to 2013, he recounted numerous occasions that he and Dr. Russell interacted in order to decide progressive ways in advancing the lot of Black Americans.

Former Brooklyn Assemblyman Roger L. Greene added to the voices of grateful politicians who attributed accomplishments to associations with Dr. Russell.

Revered for serving 26 years in the state legislature from 1981 to 2007, the public school-educated pupil who was derailed from studying in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania after acquiring a scholarship from excelling with triple majors at Southern Illinois University — in government, cultural anthropology and international affairs said it was his father who talked him out of going to Africa.

He explained instead he remained stateside to emerge a political force in New York.

He credited Dr. Russell for being “the ultimate teacher.”

“He shaped my character, inspired me, reared me and I am indebted to him, thanks for raising me up.”

The 69-year-old vanguard assured the audience that Dr. Russell’s legacy will continue. One of the reasons he gave was that his son recently informed him of his intentions of marrying Dr. Russell’s youngest daughter.

In addition to politicians, at least one revolutionary personality testified to the merits of the historian, educator, cultural proponent and immigrant amassed before his July 10, 2018 peaceful, passing at age 84.

Felipe Luciano, a former founder of the Young Lords Party (an activist political group that fought for the independence of Puerto Rico and other issues in the 1960s) explained the divide between mixed race nationals from Latin America and those who consider themselves Caucasian.

The poet, print and broadcast journalist, who now hosts “Latin Roots” — a radio show aired on WBAI-FM — explained his affinity for the Panamanian activist saying he identified with him because of their shared heritage.

They both identify as Afro-Latinos.

In addition to blazing a multi-faceted career path, along with youthful engagement in politically revolutionary causes, Luciano featured in a film titled “Yo Soy Boricia (I am Boricua).”

Russell penned many poems and plays.

In tribute to his legacy, Panamanian national Mwata Nubian paid tribute to the ancestor by reciting “Soy Africano! Soy Negro! Soy Panameno!”

Translated to interpret — “I am an African! I am Black! I am Panamanian!”

Ballet Folklorico Nuestra Panama also performed a dance routine.

Also in attendance were: Esmeralda Simmons, executive director of Center for Law and Social Justice; Job Mashariki, former chairman of Black Veterans for Social Justice and members of the Russell family.

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