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11 Unsung Heroines honored in SE Queens

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Photo gallery

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Councilman Leroy Comrie (l.) with honoree Tanya Whittmore, the community affairs site developer for Health First. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Honorees (l.-r.) Janice Clark, Katie Ballentine, Jane Harris, Judge Janice Taylor and Tanya Whittmore stand together for a photo. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Serena Icart Pierre (l.), the daughter of honoree Janice Clark (c.) greets Rev. Dr. Ernestine Sanders, the pastor of the Evangelical Christian Church in Jamaica, during an event organized by Councilman Leroy Comrie to honor “Unsung Heroines” as part of Women’s History Month. Clark contributes to the St. Albans Congregational Church and serves on the board of directors for the Amistad Day Care Center. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Honoree Lois Menyweather (l.) poses for a photo with state Sen. Shirley Huntley. Menyweather serves as Huntley's director for inter-governmental relations. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Supreme Court Justice Janice Taylor chats with guests before the event. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rev. Dr. Ernestine Sanders (r.) chats with her son Bennett Sanders. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Honoree Susan Agin serves as the executive and artistic director for the Queensborough Performing Arts Center. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Honoree Linda Silva Thompson serves as the chair and professor at Monroe College's School of Business. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Robert Gamble plays soprano saxophone for the event. Photo by Christina Santucci

In recognition of Women’s History Month, City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) honored 11 women as Unsung Heroines last weekend at York College.

“I believe that if we neglect to acknowledge the historical contributions of women, both past and present, then we have jeopardized the potential of all future generations of women,” the councilman said. “Therefore, it is critical as a community that we acknowledge your contributions to our nation, city and great borough.”

Over the courses of their lives, the honorees distinguished themselves in the realms of business, education, religion, government and the arts.

“I’ve had an opportunity to work with all the honorees in one shape or form,” said Comrie, who added that in addition to his mother, he always admired his pre-kindergarten teacher, Dorothy Barnett.

Janice Taylor was the first black female State Supreme Court justice. She said that before receiving her law degree from SUNY Buffalo, she was educated in “the public schools of Queens” and that it is important for women today to face the challenges of the times head-on.

“Do not let anybody discourage you or make you feel as if you’re not qualified,” she said. “Persevere. Believe in yourself.”

Among the educators honored were Jane Harris, a pioneer of early childhood education programs, and Lindamichelle Baron, chairwoman of the Department of Teachers Education at York College.

As a business professor at Monroe College, Linda Silva Thompson was recognized as both an educator and a former partner of a large minority- and women-owned real estate sales and management firm.

Katie Ballentine, owner of the Roseland Florist shop in St. Albans, is an active member in the St. Albans Congregational Church and has been recognized for her service to southeast Queens.

Ballentine said she had a strong relationship with the councilman stretching back nearly 35 years.

“Whenever I run block associations, any problem I have I know who to turn to,” she said.

The Rev. Ernestine Sanders, pastor of Jamaica’s Evangelical Christian Church, and Janice Clark, a member of the St. Albans Congregational Church, were recognized for their dedication to their communities.

“A lot of times people don’t recognize the people in the background doing the hard work,” said Clark, who added the women who inspire her include Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first black female millionaire, and first lady Michelle Obama.

“Even though she’s younger that me, she’s a strong person,” Clark explained. “She’s so warm and she tries to help others.”

Ebony Kirkland was recognized as the founder of the Ebony Marketing Research company and Tanya Whitmore was hailed as a community liaison at the nonprofit Healthfirst company.

Honoree Susan Agin is the executive and artistic director for the Queensborough Performing Arts Center at Queensborough Community College, and Lois Menyweather is the director of inter-governmental relations for state Sen. Shirley Huntley’s (D-Jamaica) office and was the first female treasurer for the Jamaica Rotary Club.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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