Community Board 8 member Maurice Braithwaite is going to need to find more space on what he dubs the “Braithwaite Hall of Fame” — two walls at the bottom of the steps of his Fresh Meadows home.
Braithwaite, a Guyanese immigrant, is scheduled to be honored Saturday by Borough President Helen Marshall at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, at 153-10 Jamaica Ave., as part of Black History Month.
“This award is important and I’m glad that I’m getting it,” the 69-year-old said during an interview Monday. “It goes to show that people notice us and people recognize you for what you do.”
Braithwaite, 69, has given back to his community in many ways, volunteering as the speech and debate team coach at St. Francis Prep, staging dramatic productions and once serving as president of the Flushing Suburban Civic Association, where he put his motto on the organization’s letterhead: “Your community is an extension of your home. Get involved.”
“I’m one of those people if I don’t have something to do, I go nuts,” Braithwaite said. “Over the years I’ve always been doing something or other.”
Dr. Juliet Emanuel, a St. John’s University professor and friend of Braithwaite’s, called him a “complete citizen” in paperwork sent to Marshall’s office so Braithwaite could be considered for the award.
“From his days spent successfully at a tertiary academic institution in Guyana and later in the corporate world in the U.S.A., he has maintained his deep interest and love of theater,” she said of Braithwaite. “Active in the life of the community in which he resides, he shares his many talents with a large inter-generational group.”
Braithwaite moved to the city to get his engineering degree at City College and became involved in the Guyana Cultural Association, which put on productions and conducted symposiums, mainly in Brooklyn, and held a Family Day featuring artists, food and a children’s tent.
After college, Braithwaite got a job with Xerox as a senior customer service engineer.
He was also involved in the company’s mentor program, where he brought children in to see the company’s offices.
Braithwaite has awards given to himself and his family hung in a section of his home he calls the “Braithwaite Hall of Fame.”
With Marshall’s award to be presented to him Sunday, he will have to make more room.
“I’m usually a pretty low-key kind of person,” he said. “I never expect awards because I think there are people who are more deserving. But when you get these awards, it’s nice and exciting.”
When Braithwaite moved to his area of Fresh Meadows in the 1970s, he said the neighborhood was predominantly black at the time, but he said racial tension was nonexistent.
“Between me and my wife, our friends are all mixed — black, white, Indian, Jewish,” he said. “The relations we got here is pretty good.”
Braithwaite said the borough’s black and Indo-Guyanese populations also get along despite that not being the case in his homeland, where there are tensions between the Afro- and Indo-Guyanese people.
“We get along, but the politics in Guyana is not good because politics sometimes divides people,” he said. “We never had this racial thing” in Queens. “I have a lot of Indian friends and it’s not a problem. If I had a problem with race, I don’t think I’d succeed in the things I do.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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