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Hempstead NAACP honors community leaders

Derell Saunders, center, performs with the rest of

Derell Saunders, center, performs with the rest of the members of the Uniondale High School Show Choir Rhythm of the Night during the Hempstead NAACP 35th Annual Freedom Fund Awards Luncheon on Saturday, June 3, 2017, in Baldwin. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead NAACP honored six community leaders and a high school choir on Saturday for their “outstanding contributions” in the fight for freedom at the organization’s 35th Annual Freedom Fund luncheon.

Special guest Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was choked to death in 2014 when a police officer took him down with a neckhold, addressed the gathering at the Coral House in Baldwin.

“She was an amazing speaker,” said Giuseppe LaMendola, 41, a restaurateur who was honored for his contributions to the NAACP. “She’s really turned her mourning into an inspiration for a lot of people,” he said.

LaMendola, who owns Pizzatini in Hempstead, said he was humbled by the honor, which took him by surprise.

Besides LaMendola, the Hempstead NAACP honored Hempstead school district Associate Superintendent Regina Armstrong; the Rev. Malcolm J. Byrd of Clinton Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Greenport; Hempstead High School girls basketball coach Randi Harrison; Walter Scott Kershaw, an attorney and chairman of the Greater Hempstead Housing Development Fund Corp.; Uniondale High School music teacher Lynette Carr-Hicks; and the Uniondale High School Show Choir.

Kershaw, who grew up in Hempstead Village, said he was “privileged and honored and humbled” by the award.

“That was important, that my community thought enough of me to honor me with such an award,” he said.

Hempstead NAACP president David Gates told News 12 Long Island on Saturday that greatness is in everyone’s reach.

“Most people when they hear stories, they don’t realize that you, too, can accomplish this,” he said. “You simply have to have a passion for what you love.”

With John Asbury

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