A Letter of Gratitude to Dr. Al Vann

Al Vann
The late former Assembly and City Council Member Albert Vann, left, applauds Stefani Zinerman, right, when she announced her candidacy for the 56th Assembly District seat. Contributed photo.

To the family of Dr. Al Vann, I offer to you my heartfelt condolences on the transition of your husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. On behalf of the 56th Assembly District, I thank you for sharing him with us for his six decades of public service and for supporting his dedication to the education, empowerment, the progress of Black people and the advancement of Black political power. Your sacrifices gave breath to his service and set the foundation of his enduring legacy. 

Dr. Al Vann was my mentor, my political godfather, my civic partner, and my confidant. His passing leaves a void that cannot be replaced. I will miss him deeply and will forever be grateful for the time I was blessed to study at his feet. He has been by my side at every important moment in my professional life, from the day that I announced my candidacy for the New York State Assembly, at his encouragement, and the day I presented the Cultural Museum of African Art with a $1M check to house the Eric Edwards Collection at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza, to when we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Age Friendly Central Brooklyn. He was an integral part of institution building in this community. He will not see the groundbreaking of the museum next month, the reimagining of the armory on Marcus Garvey Blvd., or witness the Bed Stuy Ambulance Corporation get the deed to their lot, but he will forever be in the midst of these monumental accomplishments. 

I am thankful for the honor of serving the 56th Assembly District, the very district he loved and served for 26 years. Under his tutelage I’m grateful to continue supporting the work of paving the way for the next generations of community-minded public servants, implementing meaningful change. For Dr. Vann it was always about community empowerment, the power of the many over the few.

Dr. Vann’s life work was about the true, holistic liberation of his people. He set the standard and provided a blueprint through the founding of the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA), Medgar Evers College, the Community Advisory Board, and an Age-Friendly district. He is the model from which we can glean as we assume the mantle of freedom, charging forth with vigor to achieve equity and liberty.  

This district is forever changed for the better because of his groundbreaking legislation that empowered people like me and people in this district to be the architects of our freedom and to build thriving communities that served our needs.

Vann was a man for the people and did not waver in his efforts, nor shall we. He truly believed the power was with the people, and he built coalitions and institutions to support them and so shall we. He modeled change through his work and sacrifice. Through our self-determination and collective work and responsibility, we will keep his memory by strengthening the institutions he built, securing the justice he sought and voting to ensure that our current and future representation shares our traditions and holds our values.  

As the villages of Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, the State of New York, and those dedicated to liberation worldwide who loved and respected the man, the mission, and the movement, prepare to celebrate his life and legacy, let us be resolved that we are now Vann and we stand as the VANN-guard against the ongoing onslaught of racism, racial terror, deed theft, maternal morbidity, miseducation and curricular violence, and the devastating wealth gap. 

The warrior has transitioned and earned his celestial sword and shield, which means we must lead and achieve economic, housing, and racial justice. He will continue to have our back. It is up to us to harness our collective power.

This is how we honor the legacy of Dr. Al Vann.

With love and an eternally grateful heart,

Stefani L. Zinerman

Assemblymember of the 56th District