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Editorial: Cynthia’s last hurrah

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Cynthia Jenkins died the way she lived, fighting with her last breath for the chance to make a difference in this world. The former state assemblywoman passed away on October 31, less than one week before Election Day. Her name was still on the ballot when voters went to the polls to elect a councilmember to fill the seat of Archie Spigner.

Although we at times strongly disagreed with Ms. Jenkins, we have always admired her willingness to fight for the causes that she believes in, even at the age of 77. Although she never had much of a chance of winning on Election Day – Leroy Comrie had the Democratic Party line – Ms. Jenkins did see a victory in her final crusade. She had organized community opposition to the building of a multiplex cinema on Merrick Boulevard. The developers have backed away from this project.

Ms. Jenkins was a groundbreaker. She began her activist life fighting to break through the glass ceiling that kept women of color from getting top-level positions in the public library system. Later she would become the first black woman elected to public office in Queens. Said Helen Marshall, the Borough President-elect, who worked with Ms. Jenkins in the Assembly, “She was feisty, but she fought for what she believed in.”

Feisty is an understatement. Ms. Jenkins was a fighter who took on every aspect of the system from developers to party bosses. On Tuesday, November 6, Queens elected its first Asian-American councilmember and its first African-American borough president. But in the year 2001, such breakthroughs are taken for granted because people like Cynthia Jenkins paved the way.

We offer our condolences to Ms. Jenkins’ husband, her family and friends. We trust that they will take comfort in the fact that hers was a life well lived.

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