Summer is block party season across Brooklyn, New York. It is a time when neighbors take to the streets to celebrate their neighborhood. On Saturday, July 16th the annual block party on Jefferson Avenue (between Throop and Tompkins Avenues) was celebrating big time; and in a big way because the street was being renamed/co-named for one of their own; the Honorable Bertram L. Baker (b. 1899 – d. 1985)
Assemblyman, Bertram L. Baker was the first black elected official in Brooklyn. He was elected to the New York Assembly in 1948; co-authored the state’s fair-housing law, the Metcalf-Baker Act in 1955, and was named the Majority Whip in 1966. Additionally, from 1936 until 1966, Mr. Baker served as the Executive Secretary of the American Tennis Association (ATA). The ATA sponsored and supported the efforts of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe and others; to gain entry to the world of professional tennis. The organization remains active in its commitment to bring opportunities to young black athletes.
The one block stretch now known as Bertram L. Baker Way is at the center of the Bedford-Stuyvesant community he served. It is also the site of the home where he lived, raised his family and died. The family home is still occupied by his descendants; continuing the legacy and maintaining a presence in the vibrant community he championed during his noteworthy tenure in the New York State Assembly. The renaming festivities were held in front of that residence. The proud family was joined by neighbors and politicians as the ceremonial proclamation was issued by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.
It was a joyful event and I am very glad I attended. I must disclose that while I have a feeble familial connection with the Baker kinsfolk; I have a strong feeling of gratitude for Bertram Baker’s accomplishments. As a long time Brooklyn resident and an African-American; I am a beneficiary of all his good works for the community.
Here are a few snapshots from the event.
- Bed-Stuy block to be named after historic Nevis-born Brooklyn politician (repeatingislands.com)
- Bed-Stuy block to honor historic politician (nydailynews.com)