By Brenda L. Watts-Larkins
On Sunday, December 13, 2020 family members, close friends, civic leaders and members of the at large communities, joined a virtual celebration the 95th birthday of our “beloved” Regent Adelaide Sanford.
The tribute was organized by Rev. Shelia Evans-Tranumn who served as mistress of ceremonies.
An impressive list of dignitaries and well-wishers included Al Vann, Susan Taylor, Dr. Leonard & Mrs. Jeffries, Faya Rose Toure, Rev. Gwen Wiggins-Walcott, Rev. Linda E. Hindsman; colleagues (teachers, counselors, former students and their parents shared in the celebration of a “shero,” who transformed a school and a people.
Our “shero” has worked on behalf of our children and community for over 50 years. This educational genius served as teacher, guidance counselor and principal of the Crispus Attucks Elementary School (PS 21) located in Bedford Stuyvesant. The Crispus Attucks school was located in a community where children received the least amount of academic guidance and where parental involvement was almost non-existent.
Under the administrative direction of Regent Sanford, parents were welcomed and brought their children to a renew educational storehouse where the staff nurtured and served the development of children and the involvement of the parent.
As a result, many parents joined the staff working as para professionals became teaches, guidance counselors, social workers principals and professionalism, they began to serve the interest of the community with honor and distinction. The school was a haven where children and families could join together to work and strengthen the community. Classrooms were beacons of activities where children and parents shared skills and talents to create a legacy of academic and cultural excellence. Pictures and paintings appeared throughout the school that showed the beauty and grace of our community.
Queen mother Sanford taught at the school and was elevated to become a member of the New York State Board of Regents. While she was principal everyone was elevated, from student, school aide, para professionals, nine teachers became principals and regents, many are currently working around the country.
My family lived one block over from Chauncey Street. My mother Juanita Watts, affectionately known as Ma Watts was the first president of the PTA. Our house was the neighborhood «Do Drop In». She became a para professional and worked at P.S. 21. We joined our mother at school; my brothers and sister sat in the library as my mother worked sharing the wonders of the written and spoken word. Many parents worked in the school as paras; they became teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, education giants who worked on behalf the children and families of Bedford Stuyvesant. Teaches returned to complete their post graduate education degrees in education and administration contributed to the growth and development of the community. Nine educators earned doctoral degrees under Regent Sanford’s leadership.
When Assemblyman Al Vann nominated Mrs. Sanford to serve on the New York State Board of Regents she and Shelia Evans-Tranunm created a legacy through the Curriculum of Inclusion. They traveled near and far to tell our story. They visited schools, churches, businesses and institutions to tell our story. Textbooks and periodicals changed to show the contribution, wealth and wonders of the African community. They traveled the world to share a story of victory that brought pride, and honor to us all. Her visits a to various schools she inspired and encouraged those in attendance. She made suggestions, dusted off tables, sat in classrooms, libraries, lunchrooms, gymnasiums where ever staff, students or parents gathered. As a result, teachers and administrators (principals) worked harder to improve instruction.
Regent Sanford’s ability to engage the entire staff, and community change the path of education in poor neighbors, the “Bedsty” community was only one part of the equation.
Generations of children (families) have been nurtured loved and cared for at P.S. 21 and throughout our world-wide community. Yet, the most precious memory I possess is of a walk across the across the William Pettus Bridge in Selma Alabama to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that event. President Obama, John Lewis, educators, and community leaders and just plain “folk”, joined a march that would be noted in history.
Many of us have visited Selma Alabama and recalled this walk. I will forever remember the feeling the power of those walking beside me, and the spirit of those lost to history. Faya Rose and Hank Sanders brought greetings from Selma to salute and to acknowledge the grace and mercy of God, and to shine on this mother visionary. Regent Adelaide Sanford, WE SALUTE YOU! Happy Birthday!