United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited the Fordham campus on July 23 to honor fellow Bronxites Valerie Capers and Sonia Manzano.
The event was the culmination of the Bronx Children Museum’s Dream Big! after-school arts enrichment program—which is currently housed inside a school bus because the museum has no permanent home.
This summer’s theme, “Celebrate the Music in You and Me,” honored Capers, an acclaimed jazz musician who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Juilliard School despite losing her sight at age 6, for her work with nearly 100 Bronx children. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was also in attendance.
Sotomayor, a Bronx native, told parents, children, and museum supporters that she still considers herself “a kid at heart,” because she likes to have fun, to learn, and because she still has dreams.
“Children’s dreams are our dreams for the future … and the children’s museum is the home that’s going to give them a place where they can learn,” she said. She added that that the Bronx is the only borough without a permanent home for its children’s museum.
“That injustice has to be righted,” she said.
She said Capers, who has done performances with some of the greatest jazz musicians of our time, is a perfect role model for children.
“She’s also a loving person, and one who gives completely of her heart and her prodigious talent,” she said.
As part of the program, held in the McGinley Ballroom at the Rose Hill campus, the children joined Capers for a performance of “We Got The Whole World Remix.” Capers called the day a remarkable one.
“I love doing what I can do to help the children’s museum,” she said. “And to think that have two of my Bronx sisters—Sonia Sotomayor and Sonia Manzano—with me today is just wonderful.”
Manzano was honored for her 44 years of educating children as the character Maria on Sesame Street. Sotomayor read aloud a letter from President Obama congratulating the Emmy award winner on the occasion of her recent retirement from the show. Sotomayor promised Manzano that she would make sure her goddaughter watched reruns of the show featuring Manzano’s character.
“Your 44 years of service to children is known worldwide. You are known for the heart you gave that show, and the spirit you imbued in it, teaching kids about different people, and how much the same we are,” she said.
Manzano joked that when she was a child, her Bronx family would gather around the kitchen table to tell sad tales of poverty in Puerto Rico, but would then bring out guitars and sing songs about how much they missed its wonderful island breezes.
“I was always confused about whether it was a good place or a bad place. But I think the music certainly put them on a higher ground,” she said.
Manzano told the children that sometimes it’s actually good to dream small.
“If you got a C on a test, you can try for a B minus. That’s a little dream that you can accomplish. If you like to shoot hoops and you get four in a row, why not try for five,” she said.
“That way you practice winning, and when the Big Dream comes along, when you decide what that is, it’ll be a piece of cake.
“You’ll already know what winning feels like.”