A tremendous memorial tribute and celebration was held for Brooklyn community advocate and stalwart, Dr. Sam Pinn Jr., Boys and Girls High School auditorium was filled with family, friends, colleagues, activists, musicians and elected officials giving honor to his life and legacy.
Pinn passed Dec. 27, 2017, at the age of 82. He was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant and remained a lifelong neighbor. His commitment to Brooklyn as an educator, organizer, activist and master social worker was phenomenal. Pinn was awarded two doctorate of law degrees by Mary Holmes College and his alma mater Morgan State University.
Pinn loved the arts and founded Jazz 966 at the Fort Greene Senior Citizen Center, a cultural institution located on Fulton Street that continues to bring top caliber musicians to the community. The artists include Wynton Marsalis, Randy Weston, Gloria Lynn, John Lucien, Louis Hayes and Gary Bartz, among many others.
The tribute and celebration was hosted by the Honorable Annette Robinson, former State Assemblywoman for Bed-Stuy. The Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation Drummers processional opened the tribute in grand fashion. The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity performed their Omega Memorial Ceremony for their fallen brother, and the extraordinary vocalist Peggy Washington sang an amazing rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings” that left everyone in awe. The phenomenal Ed Stout Trio played jazz interludes throughout the program.
Family and colleagues spoke of his work and many fond memories. As Pinn was a leading member of several organizations, including Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (which he chaired for 16 years), Fort Greene Council and the National Black United Front, his activism in social justice and Black political power was relentless.
The Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry said, “When four people came together, Jitu Weusi ‘Big Black,’ a progressive Pan Africanist, may his memory live forever; Assemblyman Al Vann, with politics at its height of integrity, honesty and people-based. And Sam Pinn, who was thoughtful, reflective and committed, analytical. And there was the preacher that they let in the group and made him the point person because it was clear I was talking about going to heaven. Since we had set out on this dangerous journey the others thought, well we’re not so sure, so you get out there, your trip is secure.” The crowd smiled and laughed.
“We came together over a period of time, committed to the proposition that Brooklyn had to change,” Daughtry continued. “It seemed that we were powerless economically and politically in every way… Then Randy Evans, a 15-year-old lad, was killed by NYPD officer Robert Torsney in November 1976.”
Torsney was indicted and found not guilty by reason of insanity and the murder was deemed a result of a psychotic episode because of an epileptic condition. A citywide boycott was called and the four brothers began to organize in Brooklyn. The “Christmas 1977” boycott shut down Downtown Brooklyn stores for a year. The National Black United Front was founded during this period.
NYC Public Advocate Letitia James also spoke on the crisis that has struck us through the ethnic cleansing of Brooklyn and on the Fort Greene Senior Citizens Center, which houses the Jazz 966 cultural institution. She remarked, “His message was clear family, that the ties that bind our community must never be broken, must never be severed. That we must build institutions that strengthen that bond. Our culture must be preserved and treasured. It is key to our survival and our legacy. Spirituality, religion and music, and jazz are essential tenets of the life of African-Americans.”
She continued, “I quickly understood as an elected official, and as a student of Dr. King, Fort Greene Council is an institution that had to be saved. It had to be protected and that no harm should ever come to Fort Green Council.” Jazz 966 and the Fort Greene Senior Citizens Center continue to serve our community today.
Elected officials attending included Assemblyman Charles Barron, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Borough President Eric Adams, Councilwomen Inez Barron, Laurie Cumbo and many others.
The celebration closed with the musicians performing a second line New Orleans style jazz procession of “The Saints Come Marching In” with everyone marching out in song and dance.
All around the auditorium could be heard and felt, “Rest in peace and power Baba Sam Pinn.”