Preparing to ring in Black History Month the right way, the United States Postal Service (USPS) held a grand stamp unveiling ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Friday, January 31. The issuing of the stamp makes Chisholm the newest Black History honoree to be inducted into the USPS Black Heritage commemorative series.
At the late morning to midday ceremony, USPS Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman and Congressmembers Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke and Charles Rangel reflected on Chisholm’s impact, emphasizing her accomplishments and strength and how she was an inspiration for every female and Black person who has sought and obtained a position in Congress.
In 1968, Chisholm became the first black woman to serve in Congress. Four years later, in 1972, she was the first major-party black candidate to run for president and also the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Chisholm was also one of the founding members of the nonprofit organization that represents black members of Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus.
African-American actress Anika Noni Rose, known for her role in the musical drama film “Dreamgirls” (2006) and her voiceover as Princess Tiana in Disney’s motion picture, “The Princess and the Frog” (2009), was the mistress of ceremonies. Rose kept the event running smoothly, noting how grateful she was to have the hosting position, and how honored she was to be in the presence of the attendees, and of course expressing her admiration for Chisholm.
The Reverend Al Sharpton took to stage to salute Chisholm, flashbacking into his teenage years as he told the audience about the lessons that Chisholm has instilled in him. “To say she was unbought and unbossed was not a slogan,” said Sharpton. “That’s how she behaved at all times. She did not mind fighting and standing up but she did it with dignity.”
Sharpton acknowledged how Chisholm had paved the way for those who followed her, proving that obstacles may be present but that isn’t reason enough to quit. “This is a stamp [honoring] a woman that faced sexism and racism and the cult of mediocrity in our community, and still fought for excellence and independence,” he emphasized.
What would Chisholm have thought of the direction this country is moving in, asked Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, noting, ““We’re here to dignify a great woman by showing a display on a stamp…but the question mark that lingers over our lives, will she put a stamp on who and what we are? Would her stamp of approval reflect that we’re moving in a direction that she started so many years ago?
“Shirley would have said, ‘what are we doing for everyday people who are hurting and hurt people?’” Adams continued. “We have to not leave the question mark of ‘will she place a stamp of approval on us?’ We have to straighten that question mark into an exclamation point…by what we do and not by what we say, by ensuring that our legacy will be as great as Congresswoman Chisholm’s legacy continues to be.”
During the latter half of the ceremony, the guests featured on the program united on stage to strip away the cloth that covered a supersized version of the stamp. The face on Chisholm’s stamp was a portrait of the former congressmember, part of American artist Robert Shetterly’s series “Americans Who Tell the Truth.”
Representatives from film production companies Creative Monster and Urban Tales Entertainment also appeared to announce that “Chisholm,” a movie honoring the deceased congressmember’s legacy, is currently in production.
In addition, United Negro College Fund President Dr. Michael Lucius Loma shared a few words of encouragement with the audience that derived from his interpretation of Chisholm’s actions. “You can imagine what people would achieve if they got over the fear of what others thought of them,” he remarked.
Concluding the event, Brooklyn’s own Renaissance Steel Chamber Ensemble performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as all of the attendees rose to their feet to pay respect to the Black National Anthem.
Chisholm herself was Brooklyn-born, and a Brooklyn College graduate, which made the location for the ceremony very suitable. The Chisholm stamp is the 37th in USPS Black Heritage commemorative series.