Percy Ellis Sutton
former Tuskegee Airman
Pioneering Civil Rights Attorney
Last week I had the honor of attending the homegoing service for Mr. Percy Ellis Sutton. The service took place at The Riverside Church, located on New York City's upper west side. People came out in droves to pay respect to the legacy Mr. Percy - "Jimmy" (as his family calls him) left to live on.
Reverend Jesse Jackson offered a personal tribute while Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Council Member Inez Dickins, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, to name few honored Mr. Percy's life with fond and exciting memories. Broadway veteran Melba Moore lended her vocal gifts by singing a selection of Amazing Grace, Stevie Wonder beautifully performed an emotionally exhausting but gentle version of his song As (I'll be Loving You Always), and Reverend Al
Sharpton delivered a radically stirring eulogy, which left me feeling even more inspired to continue to live in my personal journey and purpose as an affirming black gay man fighting for honorable love and respect for the human condition.
Attending Mr. Percy's funeral was completely educational for me. The life this man cultivated and the legacy that is living on is greatness. Although I didn't know him personally, I'm thankful for what he offered to the community because humbly I've been awarded with many of his gifts. Future Fans and A.A+W readers I am blessed this day to say: if you didn't know Mr. Percy, you really did!
Below, I'm leaving you with just a few highlights from his amazing life.
- Organizing and founding member of The New York State Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus in the New York State Assembly
- Participant in the southern Freedom Rides, arrested 14 times and imprisoned at the dreaded Parchment Farm Penitentiary in Mississippi.
- Recipient of the 72nd Springarn Medal from the NAACP in 1987
- Organized the successful effort to have the Apollo Theatre receive NYC landmark designation
- Reopens the Apollo Theatre and operates it as a concert venue, television facility and recreates the tradition of the weekly Wednesday Amateur night show.
- Creator and Executive Producer of the nationally syndicated television show, "It's Showtime at the Apollo".
- Cofounder of the Annual HARLEM WEEK Festival.
- Authorized New York state legislation creating SEEK program at New York City Universities.
- Spearheaded the expansion of the Manhattan race to the five-boroughs; thus, creating the New York City Marathon.
- In 1971 with Clarence B. Jones, Wilbert Tatum and John Edmonds acquired ownership of the New York Amsterdam News.
- With his son Pierre M. Sutton founded the weekly newspaper The New York Courier.
- In 1980, created & operated Amistad DOT Venture Capital, Inc., a MESBIC (Minority Enterprise Small business Investment Corporation), with offices in Washington, DC and New York City.
- In 1993 established Apollo Theatre Records, a record label and recording company.
- Created ACTEL, a joint venture satellite telephone company with operations in Africa.
Think you didn't know Mr. Percy...think again. He rewarded us in so many ways.
In a time when it seems the economy has the best of us, or even when we personally feel either inadequate or unmotivated, this was a man who reinvented himself in so many ways, and inspires me to keep keeping on. From the words of Shakti Gawain, "when old dreams die, new
ones are created." Keep moving on and pushing through your dream, create new ones, or start over again and create a different life.
Have an A.A+Wsome Wednesday.