Dr. Adelaide Sanford, Renowned Educator, Celebrates 90th Birthday In Harlem

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Dr. Adelaide Sanford, a resolute and venerated scholar and “Queen Mother” of educational, social and Africanist activism celebrated her 90th birthday with the intellectual nationalist community in New York.

Dr. Sanford has constantly pursued constructive pleasures in exercise of the mind while exhibiting charm and fortitude with a tenacity of unbelievable expression. 

The celebration was yesterday, November 21.

“Beloved” as she has so often greeted her constituency in the most thoughtful and eloquent addresses, Dr. Adelaide Luvenia Sanford has masterfully retained the full-complement of her intellectual faculties. She
holds the attention of her audience while continuing to artfully speak truth about and to power.

She's an iconic genius and a beautiful soul; a lady of impeccable grace and fashion. She had unmatched command of intellectual communication;  as a role model she offers much to the young, women especially, who may wonder at the benefits of staying "the course.” She's remained steady--
whether it be health-wise, academically, even symbolically as humanistic and nationalist spokesperson whose elegance, reverence and courage has helped galvanize and embolden a thinking constituency. She's  committed to uplifting and advancing African people’s aspirations and empowerment especially through consistent and constructively demonstrated educational effort.

Dr. Sanford made a name as a local efficient and effective school administrator and principal. Through the force of her constructive ideas and effort she emerged as Vice-Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, a powerful body that sets policies, principles and standards for education in the state.

From this lofty academic citadel she was uncompromising in principle and humanistic practice. Her role as an activist administrator and educator helped cultivate a cadre of dedicated activists pursuing the curriculum of Inclusion; a struggle which helped advance the cause of Africans seeking knowledge of self, esteem and academic and social advancement.

As such, her vision and well-deserved recognition became inspirational and international in scope and often coupled with CEMOTAP’s Co-Chairs Betty Dopson, the warrior queen, and the deep-thinking Dr. James McIntosh, she achieved remarkable progress across this nation and abroad in furthering the African intellectual ideal.

Thus, it can be said of Dr. Adelaide Sanford --she knows what is the best purpose of education; not simply for African people but humanity in general. She's constantly emphasized pleasurable educational pursuits in the exercise of the mind to advance self in benefit of community.

Possessing nobility of spirit and elegance of mind as well as an educational philosophy grounded in African cultural norms, she consistently demonstrated a masterful command of an intellectual gift of gab.

Dr. Sanford often mesmerized as a guest on Gil Noble’s "Like It Is" program on ABC TV, New York.

There, she often critiqued New York State’s educational curricula and the nature of its teaching techniques and exam formats while offering thoughtful and provocative corrective suggestions for improving the learning process with an aim to elevating African-American students; and all students.

Her goal has been to move students from the dull and encumbering negative objects of history to being empowered positive subjects actively involved in impacting their world through creative strategies for educational advancement that benefit all in search of truth.

A tireless education champion, Dr. Sanford endeavored to banish the drudgery of ignorance through involving both parents and students in cultivating creative ideas exploring and pursuing efforts to move her constituency beyond mediocrity towards excellence.

Serving 21 years as  a New York State Regent, her guiding philosophy underscored the saying: “When you have low expectations you have nothing.” So she endeavored to identify and focus students on their potential while accentuating what they can accomplish. Fertilizing their minds.

The educational mastermind Jitu Weusi recognized in Dr. Sanford a master-teacher, enlightener, social-uplifter and uncompromising academic and intellectual fighter committed to challenging distortions, misrepresentations and stigmatization of African people in media and educational systems dedicated to hold them down.

His counterpart Sonny Carson, himself an avid educational activist, early recognized Dr. Sanford’s role as educational leader and always stood ready, as he said to “back her play.”

Fitting tribute to her are the words of Seymour St. John, Headmaster of Choate School: “In education the closeness of students to a good and great man or woman is the finest we can offer our children.”

Dr. Sanford was fortunate to know, work with and support the vision of Dr. John Henrik Clarke and his brother and companion in the struggle Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan. The duo dedicated their lives to the betterment of the status of African people.

Dr. Sanford ranks with the great educators, teachers, and activists: Jitu Weusi; Sonny Carson; Dr. Clarke; Dr. Leonard James; Rev. Herbert Oliver of Montgomery economic boycott fame; Dr. Leonard Jeffries; Dr. ben-Jochannan; Mary McLeod Bethune; Dr. Carter G. Woodson; Claude McKay; and, many others.
These teachers have consistently insisted on positive inclusion of African-American contributions in the curriculum; embodied in a status on par with every other groups.

They have also demanded the highest academic achievements from
African-American youth, liberating themselves through all available means. She insisted they cultivate genius with a vision to helping themselves and the community. After all, as Aristotle once expressed -- “education is the best provision for old age.”  

As the program unfolded after the Jazz Prelude by the Doug Harris Quartet, Honoree’s Processional with African Drummers, Opening Remarks and Introduction of Masters of Ceremonies, in his Prayer of Thankfulness and Hope, Rev. Joel R. Youngblood, Assistant to the Pastor, Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, spoke of the “Spirit of the Creator” guiding the “perpetual pleasure and performance” of Dr. Sanford for she “partnered with humanity for the restoration of the soul of African people.” She showed “tenacity” in recognizing the significance of the “Serenity Prayer” trying to “feed the lambs” while advocating her philosophy of “perform or perish.”  Characterizing Dr. Sanford’s lengthy life of 90 years, much in constructive service, his mathematical breakdown showed it consisted of 1080 months, 4680 weeks, 32,870 days, 788,412 hours, 47,000, 304 minutes, and 2,000,240,834 seconds, then he donated a “Check for $25,000!”

During libation, Nana Camille Yarbrough observed that it was a “very special day”; “African culture will come to get you!” and “African culture is deep inside you,” she said.

Then she elicited the roll call of illustrious ancestors including: Sister Khefer, Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Dr. Clarke, Dr. ben-Jochannan, Adam Clayton Powell, Rosa Parks, Nat Turner, Jitu Weusi, Sonny Carson, Elombe Brath, James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Mitta Monderson, Cherise Preville, Major Owens, and many others.

Echoing Dr. Sanford’s life-work Sister Gayle Turner sang A Musical Selection entitled “If I can Help Somebody” while the MC MichelleLindaBaron, thought such was food for the Spirit, Soul and Mind. The other MC, Brian Favors, a Penn State graduate motivated by Dr. Sanford also thanked Michael Hooper and Charles Baron in attendance with his First Lady, Inez.

Betty Dopson, Co-Chair of CEMOTAP explained that if you want something, “Work for it; claim it; work and it happens.” She praised the honoree as “adorable and gorgeous.” She added, “I was proud to be part of her journey. She added value and focus to my life.”

Addressing the audience, she extolled, “Take a page out of Dr. Sanford’s life and get busy.”

Dopson's Co-Chair, Dr.  McIntosh addressed Dr. Sanford: “You are precious, resilient, courageous, audacious and resourceful.”

Commenting on her work as Principal of PS 20, Crispus Attucks School, he pointed to her education philosophy and methodology that allowed her to take the “lowest performing school in the District and transform it into the highest performing school in the state.”

As a Regent, he observed, she was attacked viciously because “She was dancing with the real devil.” Yet, she brilliantly articulated African intellectual aspirations to liberate the mind, body and soul. Thus, her education philosophy was appropriate and liberating.”

“You will live forever in the minds and hearts of the children and people you educated,” he said.

Dr. Lester Young, a protégée and associate of Dr. Sanford and now at Adelaide L. Sanford Institute said: “When policy makers develop bad policies, it is a real leader who calls them out. This, Dr. Sanford did, too many of our leaders are afraid to speak out.” 

He reflected, on comparing his work and association with Dr. Sanford to a question once posed to Dizzy Gillespie, “What was it like to play with Charlie Parker,” to which Dr. Young, seemingly choked, calmly responded, “You just had to be there.”

Chief Judge Gonzalez on the Women in Prison Committee praised Dr. Sanford: “She enriched all of our lives. She took one grain of sand and an oyster them made us all pearls.”

Her associate, also on the Committee, Appellate Judge Priscilla Hall, called Dr. Sanford "exquisite, beautiful, brilliant, profound ..."

She reminded celebrants that on March 7, 2015, in a wheel-chair, Dr. Sanford was alongside President Obama on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She recalled the history maker who said, “If you would be immortal, you must write your name in the hearts of the people.”
Susan Taylor, who remains synonymous with Essence and is today a major youth empowerment advocate said “I have the mike but I don’t have the words,” pointed out, the Isis Sisters “never fully understood the depth of the crisis facing our youth, our people.”

This realization “makes us focus on what we take for granted. We’re not organized, we don’t have a plan. We’ve got to do better on our watch. What’s the Plan? We must stand in strategic unity. Let’s get busy. Let’s get started.”

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