One of the best-kept secrets of modern politics is the extent to which Black Brooklyn has spawned the nation’s leading politicians.
Bearing witness to that fact will be the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, who is visiting Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturday, July 16 with First Lady Diane, an attorney, commemorating the life of the first Black elected official in Brooklyn.
Governor Patrick, who in the 1980’s lived on Midwood Street in the Lefferts Manor section of Brooklyn, has always said he owes a special debt to Bertram L. Baker, who in 1948 (when he was elected to the State Assembly representing Bed-Stuy) became the first person of color elected to office in the Borough of Kings.
First Lady Diane is a grandchild of Bert Baker (disclosure: so is this writer, Diane’s cousin); but beyond that, Deval Patrick admired Baker’s pioneering spirit and showed it in references to Baker during the governor’s first attempts at political office several years ago, when Patrick’s Web site was laced with photos of Baker.
Baker was in the Assembly from 1949 to 1970. In the 1960s, he became Majority Whip of the Assembly, the highest position of a Black person in the state at that time. In the 1950s, Baker pushed through first-of-its-kind laws barring housing discrimination. And for several decades, he led the American Tennis Association, the black group that spawned Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe.
The Governor and First Lady will speak at a block party on July 16 celebrating the co-naming of Jefferson Ave. (between Tompkins and Throop Aves.) after Bertram L. Baker Way.
For years, Block Association President Altovise Fleary pushed to get that action through the City Council, and last December City Councilman Al Vann sponsored the legislation for it.
Deval Patrick will also that Saturday be telling Bed-Stuy residents and others about his new memoir, A Reason to Believe, about his early life in relative poverty on the South Side of Chicago and about the spirit that allowed him to later grasp at opportunities to attend the elite Milton Academy and then Harvard College and then Harvard Law School.
Patrick later become head of the Civil Rights unit in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton.
His election to the governorship of Massachusetts – he is the first Black governor – preceded the rise of Barack Obama. In fact, many say that Obama used Patrick’s successful political tactics on his own rise to power. The two are very good friends and political partners.
It’s been pointed out by blogger BrooklynRon – which is to say by the writer of this article – that up until a year ago, there were two Black governors in the United States of America, and they were both from Brooklyn.
David Paterson was born in Brooklyn, and Deval Patrick has claimed it as his home also.