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Evelyn Cunningham 'broke the ribbon'

They all showed up for her. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former mayor David Dinkins. Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons. The Rev. Al Sharpton. And friends and relatives all packed St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem today to celebrate the life of Evelyn Cunningham.

Heralding her dazzling life, Bloomberg said Cunningham understood that human rights start in your own backyard. "A lioness in winter," he dubbed her. Speaking of Cunningham's integrity, Sharpton said, "Evelyn Cunningham never changed. America changed. The places she sat changed. But her values never did." Sharpton first met her when he was protesting Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (R) at the tender age of 14. Dinkins said Cunningham was a feminist long before the movement had a name. He said at age 94, she was "the model of the modern woman." Every speaker talked about Cunningham's style and grace. Parsons, who first met her when he was an intern for Rockefeller, said, "She was a lady. She was gracious. And she was lovely."

With the passing of Cunningham, Dr. Dorothy Height, Benjamin Hooks and so many others who will go unheralded, I'm coming to terms with the fact that America is losing more and more of its heroes. Those who crashed through the barriers to the American dream so that others may follow and all could share in it. As Sharpton said, "She ran the race. She broke the ribbon." That's why I had to be here today.

Thank you, Evelyn.

By Jonathan Capehart  | May 4, 2010; 4:37 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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