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CORE: Living the Dream 2010

Silver Anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner

By Henry Levy

Congratulations are in order to the Congress of Racial Equality [CORE] for reaching a milestone of 25 years saluting Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's legacy and at the same time recognizing three very special awardees that represent the core of King's message.

They are Tova Leidesdorf, Michael Steele and James Young � but more about them and the significance of their choices later.
"This is a new decade and a new era." So said award winning actress Lynn Whitfield, the evening's mistress of ceremonies. She remarked that, "CORE seeks to establish the inalienable right for all people to determine their own destiny and that the most important right for all people is to govern themselves. Once this idea is realized all the other freedoms will automatically follow". In essence, CORE's aim is to bring about the equality of all people regardless of age, sex, disability or religion. By exposing and identifying acts of discrimination in the public sector of society in order to make society work better, CORE's mission continues under the leadership of its National Chairman, Roy Innis.

Mrs. Tova Leidesdorf received the International Brotherhood Award, but in reality it reflected on three generations of the family dating back to the early 1800's. Tova is a witty and flamboyant speaker and one can easily see how the title "international philanthropist" is one she carries quite naturally. She was born in Palestine during WWII on January 15th, King's birthday, and that is perhaps one reason she calls receiving the MLK Award the greatest honor in her life. She grew up in poverty but came to America and married Arthur Leidesdorf. Now Arthur's father Sam, personally guaranteed a multi- million dollar loan to establish Israel Bonds and was one of the founders of UJA. Sam also, along with John D. Rockefeller and Dr. Frederick Patterson, started the United Negro College Fund.

"Why did both father and son Leidesdorf show such an interest in the minorities," queried Tova? It was because they were descended from William Alexander Leidesdorf Jr., born half black [from a plantation slave] and half white [from a Danish Jewish sugar planter]. William went to New Orleans for his education and met a girl who loved him. However, the marriage was off when her father found out he was Black and Jewish. The girl committed suicide and William sailed to San Francisco. That started a journey of wonderful accomplishments. He was the first African American Consul in US history. He played a major role in the acquisition of California from Mexico, making it the 31st State. Gold was found on his property starting a gold rush and making him the first African American millionaire. He authorized the first public school in San Francisco, built its first hotel and commercial shipping warehouse. He was truly the best kept secret in America, but Sam Leidesdorf, from Hester Street in New York City, was no slouch either.

Sam was invited to go to San Francisco but decided to make it on his own in New York. He established the accounting firm S.D. Leidesdorf & Co. which today is known as Ernst & Young. Sam created the Coalition between Jews and Christians. He brought Albert Einstein to America and had his power of attorney all his life. Together with Rockefeller and Oppenheimer he established the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton which was responsible for creating nuclear power for America.

Tova said that "three generations of Leidesdorfs left their mark on American history, but it was William who paved the way for all of them, including President Obama." This dynamic woman concluded by remarking that "In America if you have the desire and strength you can make whatever you want. The past is our heritage, the present our opportunity and the future our hope. Let us make hope and peace our mission in life and realize that America the Beautiful is here to stay."

Michael Steele was born in 1958 and studied for the priesthood before choosing the field of law. He became the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland as Lieutenant Governor. He is currently the Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

James Young, the first African American Mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi received the Civil Rights Award. What is remarkable is that he represents the same State where CORE members Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney were murdered in the 1960's while helping to extend civil rights and the right to vote to all people. Yong said, "Fear and intimidation were beaten back by strong men and women who came to help us. Civil rights is not black and it is not white it is just right. What we need today is for politicians and preachers and teachers to look people in the eye and tell them what is right".

To learn more about CORE or to view the entire King event go to www.core-online.org.

Photos: Gloria Starr Kins

Tova Leidersdorf, Honoree, with James Young, Mayor, Philadelphia, Mississippi, Honoree.
Tova Leidersdorf, Honoree, with James Young, Mayor, Philadelphia, Mississippi, Honoree.
Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee.
Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee.
Roy Innis, National Chairman of Congress of Racial Equality [CORE].
Roy Innis, National Chairman of Congress of Racial Equality [CORE].
Ed Cox, Chariman, NY Republican State Committee (left), with Niger Innis, National Spokesman, CORE.
Ed Cox, Chariman, NY Republican State Committee (left), with Niger Innis, National Spokesman, CORE.
Deputy Maldives� UN Ambassador, Thilmeeza Hussain, and Deputy Ethiopian UN Ambassador, Kebret Botora.
Deputy Maldives� UN Ambassador, Thilmeeza Hussain, and Deputy Ethiopian UN Ambassador, Kebret Botora.
Joseph Lovece, Jr., Special Advisor to Chairman CORE (left), with Rabbi Shea Hecht.
Joseph Lovece, Jr., Special Advisor to Chairman CORE (left), with Rabbi Shea Hecht.
From left: Kenya�s UN Ambassador, Zachary Muita, and his wife, Margaret, Mr. Cox and Andrea Castimatides.
From left: Kenya�s UN Ambassador, Zachary Muita, and his wife, Margaret, Mr. Cox and Andrea Castimatides.