Mount Vernon celebrates 'Mount Vernon Proud 2013'
Mount Vernon got its hometown pride on Saturday with its first Proud Day, celebrating NBA greats who got their start in the city's neighborhoods.
"The city decided to start celebrating positive things," said Ric Wright, who headed up efforts to organize the day's street fair and awards ceremony.
The 4th Street Playground, where many pro-ballers got their start, including the NBA's Ben Gordon, Kevin Jones, Gus and Ray Williams and Ronnie and Scooter McCray, was the setting for a morning basketball game between Mount Vernon police and firefighters.
"We've been looking forward to the game," said Greg Addison, Mount Vernon PBA president. "We usually work with these guys and today we get to play with them."
"The game is fantastic. It brings unity," added one-time fire commissioner and current CSEA president Nicholas Cicchetti.
A health fair, offering free screening for blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and HIV testing, was an interfaith effort of six Mount Vernon churches and religious organizations, according to Jeanette Bailey, a health ministry leader of the Greater Centennial AME Zion Church.
"So many churches and religious organizations have tried to do their own health fair, so we decided to band together, put our resources together into one," Bailey said.
Proud Day was set to culminate with an awards presentation from 5 to 7 p.m. with performances by Transcend Dance, a studio for dancers of all ages, and the Mount Vernon Children's Theatre, a nonprofit that provides area youth with theatrical experience, and visual presentations by Buffalo Soldier Films.
Proud Day award recipients include: Entrepreneurial Award, Toni Smith, owner Transcend Dance studio; Hometown Business Award, Dazzles Jamaican Restaurant; Media Award, Jeff Cooney, film producer, and Journalism Award, Joe Parisi, Mount Vernon Inquirer. Students from Mount Vernon High are also slated to receive Academic Achievement Awards.
NBA player and Mount Vernon native Kevin Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers was slated to receive the Sportsman Award, with the Sportswoman Award going to Krystal Dixon, current Golden Gloves Champion. Dixon, a New Rochelle native, fights out of the Mount Vernon Boxing Club.
The Political Leadership Award will be awarded to Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis, who is under a federal investigation into his personal finances, a probe that is examining how he acquired 10 properties in four states and whether he properly reported rental income from the residences to the Internal Revenue Service. Davis insists he has done nothing wrong, has paid his fair share of taxes and has lost money on most of his real estate investments. He has blasted the federal investigation and media coverage of the probe as racially motivated.
"Some folks thought awarding the mayor was ceremonial. That is not true," Wright said. "The mayor is a 74-year-old political warrior. He's been under fire a lot, accused of a lot. But people voted him in. He's a leader -- maybe not your best friend -- but a leader. His vision brought the Sanford Boulevard development. His leadership brought the beautification effort with the roundabout and the fountain. He's brought business and jobs to Mount Vernon."