NAACP head Leroy Gadsden honored in Cambria Hts.

Honoree George Hulse (l.-r.); honoree Dora Rivas; Hilda Rodgers, director of Alpha Phi Alpha Senior Citizens Center; James Fletcher, chairman of the Alpha Phi Alpha Senior Citizens Center; honoree Kelly Singleton, mistress of ceremonies Cheryl Wills and honoree Leroy Gadsden attend the center's Valentine's Gala. Photo by Nat Valentine
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On the eve of the 103rd anniversary of the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Alpha Phi Alpha senior citizens center of Cambria Heights honored NAACP Jamaica Branch President Leroy Gadsden for his leadership during its third annual Valentine’s Gala Saturday.

Alpha Phi Alpha is the country’s first inter-collegiate African-American fraternity, and in 1974 the local chapter founded the senior center, at 220-01 Linden Blvd., in order to serve the southeast Queens community. The national fraternity counts among its members leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.

“The NAACP has been able to achieve many outstanding things through great leaders,” said center member Halvor James, as he presented Gadsden with the leadership award, recognizing him for his stance on political and social issues.

Gadsden was elected to the position of president four years ago, and since then he has led the branch in its fight for an economic fair share at Aqueduct Casino and taken on issues such as police brutality, discriminatory practices in school closings and voter protection at polling sites.

The Alpha member began by invoking the fraternity’s motto of “First of all, servants of all, we shall transcend all.”

“America still is not right,” he told the hundred or so attendees at the gala lunch at Antun’s catering hall in Queens Village, “Queens is still not right.”

Gadsden said the most pressing current issue for the community is the newly released legislative redistricting maps drawn by a “segregated panel” made up of “a group of white men who make decisions for black folks and everyone else.”

Specifically, he criticized the state’s Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Redistricting for drawing lines he said voters who live upstate a larger voice than those downstate.

“What kind of math is it where you get a decrease in population and increase in representa­tion?” he asked, referring to the addition of a 63rd state Senate seat upstate.

Re-electing President Barack Obama, Gadsden said, was another priority, and he urged the community to interpret a national rhetoric of hate as a warning sign against becoming complacent.

“Don’t get caught up thinking all is well,” he said. “Show up, show out and put him back in the White House.”

Other honorees at the gala included George Hulse of Healthfirst, Kelli Singleton of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Farmbria Food Center of Cambria Heights and Dora Rivas, a senior center employee who has served the community for more than 16 years.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 12:14 am, February 16, 2012
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