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Neighbor to Neighbor: Students honored at stamp unveiling ceremony

Our playbill featured an enlargement of the Marian Anderson Stamp. Her beauty reflected self-assurance and contentment in her well-earned success. The producer of this particular show was James J. Burns, Jamaica postmaster. The mistress of ceremonies was Bernice Wallace, manager customer service, USPS, who opened the program following a prelude of recorded musical performances by Marian Anderson.Wallace's first introduction was the Color Guard, Air Force Junior ROTC, NY-96l, Franklin Knight Lane High School, under the command of C. Alfonso Duarte, USAF (Ret.) and CMSgt. Jose Silviera, supervised by Norman Cohn. All of these people and the principal of the school, Evan Ahern, are very proud of the approximately 21 students who participated in this program with about 300 more awaiting enrollment.For our program there were 11 students all, by necessity, with scholastic averages of 85 percent or above, two of whom were winners in the Marian Anderson Program's essay contest. They were all neatly and crisply attired in their military uniforms. We could all see how this ROTC program benefitted them by preparing them for the bright futures ahead of them.We, too, are proud of each one: Javier Atancuri, Joshua Cortez (contest winner), Bryan Jiminez, Stephanie Lennard, Ravindra Mangal, Nancy Mejia, John Ochoa, Biquana Rivas (contest winner), Melinda Rivera, Sonia Ruiz and Luz Vicioso. The program has been ongoing at Franklin K. Lane High School for nine years. Congratulations to all of them.Following audience participation in the Pledge of Allegiance, a young student, Lakeima Lee-Wheeler, recited an opening quotation, followed by the Juilliard School's mezzo-soprano, Ronnita Nicole Miller, singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." The invocation, by Charles Jenkins of Allen AME Cathedral who is also a member of the Jamaica Postal Advisory Council, followed.Jamaica Postmaster Burns spoke briefly about the meaning of the program and introduced Carl Clay, founder of The Black Spectrum Theatre. We welcomed everyone to the site that holds such an important place in our community. The theater provides a venue for artists to perform their best, as the ballet troupe from the Theatre of Dance Movement did that day. Performers were Brittany Daughtry, Nichelle Diggs, Iman Abdul-Majied, Stacey Douglas and Victoria Shelton. They personified grace and fluidity.Lily Jung-Burton, USPS district manager, spoke about changes through the years and introduced our special guest, the first postmaster general/CEO, USPS, to ever visit our area, John S. Potter, who did so at the invitation of former co-worker, Jeanne Bouie, present customer relations representative, USPS, and chair of the Jamaica Postal Advisory Council.Postmaster General Potter spoke of the challenges Marian Anderson faced and the help she received to advance her outstanding musical operatic career. He graciously acknowledged and thanked all program participants. Immediately following that he, former Jamaica Postmaster Gino S. Gentilini, Lily Jung Burton, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, state Assemblyman William Scarborough, state Sen. Malcolm Smith and Dora Young, unveiled the Marian Anderson stamp.Postmaster General Potter and Jamaica Postmaster Burns then presented plaques to winners of the Black History Essay Contest: Chenay Wheeler of Jamaica High School; Tanaya Jackson of Theatre of Dance Movement; Biquvana Rivas and Joshua Cortez of AFJROTC-Franklin K. Lane High School; and Zania Rogers and Malcolm McDaniel of Allen Christian School.Following these presentations, Jack Thompson, former long-time president of the Cambria Heights Civic Association and co-chairman of the Jamaica Postal Advisory Council, spoke about the latter group and introduced the members: Jamaica Postmaster Burns, head; Assistant Postmaster Frank Fazio; Chairperson Jeanne Bouts; Secretary Maribel Marcus; and Co-Chairperson Jack Thompson.Other community representatives included Manuel Caughnen, Jamaica and St. Albans; Joseph Herbert, Rosedale, and Robert Mangleri, Kew Gardens, who were both out-of-town; Charles Jenkins, Rochdale; Milagros Rivas, Queens Village, representing Councilman Leroy Comrie, and myself, Springfield Gardens. Program MC Wallace made valuable contributions to this specific event. USPS Area Manager Michael Lowrey has been absent from the council due to temporary assignment elsewhere.Jack Thompson presented a history of the Jamaica Postal Advisory Council to Postmaster General Potter.Hilda Rogers, regional director of the NAACP, gave a salute to Marian Anderson, followed by another performance by Ronnita Nicole Miller, who sang "Ave Maria."Assemblyman Scarborough introduced the program's keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, who spoke about the Civil Rights Movement.The event closed with performances by another group of talented, very coordinated young people from UMOJA - Jamaica High School Steppers: Chenay Wheeler, Tawanda Hutchinson, Tamika Young, Tamara Eutsay, Mayra Mendoza, Nikoma Morton, Shaniqua Murray, Deshawna Polk and Jessica McClelland. Special thanks to all participants and additional praises to our wonderful students. We are proud of each of you and hope you inspire others as you have pleased and inspired us.

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