Board Observes Black History and Heritage
The Westchester County Board of Legislators celebrated Black History and Heritage Month on February 7, with a virtual ceremony lauding two trailblazers for minority women-owned businesses and racial equity, as well as honoring the legacy of the late Board of Elections Commissioner Reginald A. LaFayette.
Chairwoman Catherine Borgia (D – Briarcliff Manor, Cortlandt, Croton, Ossining, Peekskill) kicked off the ceremony, making reference to this year’s theme for Black History Month of Black Health and Wellness, and acknowledging the contributions of both women towards this effort.
She said, “Tonight we are honoring two remarkable women, Kecia Palmer-Cousins and Maria Dautruche, who in addition to their many contributions towards racial economic and social equity, have made great strides in the pursuit of this year’s theme – Kecia in her work as a wellness entrepreneur, and Maria, as co-founder of New Voices for Reproductive Justice.”
Leg. Colin Smith (D- Cortlandt, Peekskill, Yorktown) presented a proclamation to Kecia Palmer- Cousins, wellness entrepreneur, manufacturing engineer and business management consultant in Peekskill. She co-owns Aero-Ba-Soul, Inc., a Minority Women Business Enterprises (MWBE) certified business management and workforce development training company with her husband, Kevin Cousins. She also provides technical assistance and business coaching to MWBE’s, motivating them and helping them grow their businesses. In addition, she leads employee-assistance program training, workshops for non-profits and educational institutions, and is highly involved in community and civic activities.
Smith said, “I have personally known Kecia for nearly a decade now. During that time, I have worked alongside her many times and, time and again, have witnessed her tireless commitment to the local business community, particularly minority and women-owned businesses, many economic and social justice initiatives and, of course, our youth. Her desire to succeed is matched only by her love for her family. She is a shining example of success to her community and she is entirely deserving of this award.”
Palmer-Cousins said, “I graciously accept this award from Westchester County Legislator Smith and all the amazing, dedicated Westchester County Legislators. I thank them for their service and for recognizing me for the outstanding community service and advocacy that I provide patiently and lovingly to so many black and brown youth and minority and women-owned businesses throughout Westchester County. Every youth and business owner, especially African-Americans, want and deserve equal opportunity and access so they can survive and thrive personally and professionally. I accept this honor on behalf of and out of respect for all of them, as they work hard for equality and economic empowerment during this global COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Board has declared February 11, 2022 “Kecia Palmer-Cousins Day” in the County of Westchester.
Legislator Jewel Williams Johnson (D – Elmsford, Greenburgh, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown) presented a proclamation honoring Maria Smith Dautruche, Inaugural Director of the Westchester Center for Racial Equity of the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester. Prior to that she was a senior advisor to the president and CEO of the National Urban League, a vice president in the League’s partnerships and advancement office, and she organized Westchester County’s first annual observance of a National Day of Racial Healing in 2021. She is also a Co-Founder of New Voices for Reproductive Justice – a powerful organizing force for the health and well-being of Black women and girls, women of color and LGBTQ+ people of color.
Johnson said, “This month we take a look back at our past so we can create a better future. It is a much-needed reminder, especially in our current climate, of where we as a country have been, so that we know where we need to go. That’s why today we proudly honor a change-maker in our community, Maria Smith Dautruche! Her accomplishments and her contributions towards initiatives and strategies for racial equity at the national level, her courage and her tenacity are undoubtedly connected to, and in honor of, the past struggles of our people…It’s more than easy to state that Maria is a transformational leader who builds community, inspires change and will foster healing in our County.”
Dautruche said, “I am filled with gratitude. Thank you for nominating me, Legislator Jewel Williams Johnson, and thank you to the entire Board of Legislators. It is an added honor to be recognized alongside Kecia Palmer-Cousins and the late Reginald Lafayette. I accept the accolades today in the spirit of Ubuntu: I am because we are…may we always honor who we be.”
The Board has declared February 9, 2022 “Maria Smith Dautruche Day” in the County of Westchester.
Finally, Chairwoman Borgia introduced the video tribute comprised of messages from each of the 17 Legislators to the late Reginald A. Lafayette, Democratic Commissioner of the Westchester County Board of Elections for the past 20 plus years.