To Sir, With Love - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2077235

To Sir, With Love

Sidney Poitier was a Bahamian and American actor, film director, and diplomat. In 1964, he was the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

One of his most memorable films, “To Sir, With Love,” deals with social and racial issues in an inner-city school. In the end, the students recognized honor and appreciate him.

“Sir’s” perseverance was uncanny, to say the least. He refused to quit in the face of so much opposition, portraying the stark reality of the perseverance of Our People.

Like “Sir,” the Pyrrhus Concer Action Committee, or PCAC, has persevered through almost 10 years of delays, setbacks, disappointments, deceit and denial (or silence). Our hope is that Southampton Village takes the opportunity to honor Pyrrhus Concer. The village should be proud to properly recognize this man and humbly admit to the public that the village should have protected this property as far back as 1986.

Unfortunately, the assumption is that this is PCAC’s fight to preserve a small piece of our Black history. But let the tables and narrative turn to reflect the reality — that this is, or should have been all along, a village project.

Over the next week, park at the beautiful dog park and walk directly across the street, and in plain sight you will see Pyrrhus Concer’s noticeably large tombstone, as well as his wife and son buried there. Did you know that tombstone was purchased by his neighbor, former U.S. Secretary of State (1845-1936) Elihu Root? It reads: “Though born a slave he possessed virtues without which kings are but slaves.”

In closing, in honor of Black History Month, I would implore everyone to listen to and take an educational trail that will walk you through all the places in this village significantly connected to Pyrrhus Concer, which I’ve previously requested to be added to the history curriculum at our local schools. Let’s give Pyrrhus Concer his due respect, like the Cooper and Pelletreau families.

I have a small but powerful challenge that will be helpful and extremely impactful: Simply that the entire Village Board take a united stance by taking a picture in front of 51 Pond Lane, or in front of Pyrrhus Concer’s gravesite, with a corresponding statement publicly acknowledging that the entire board will agree to do everything in your governmental power to establish a permanent, recognizable and respectful legacy for all to see and learn. And publicly thanking the town for their help and assistance in purchasing the land, purposely saving this legacy of Pyrrhus Concer. And, last but not least, thanking PCAC for years of voluntary service and enduring dedication in helping to educate the Village of Southampton about this extraordinary man.

Brenda Simmons

Founder and Executive Director

Southampton African American Museum

Southampton Village

Simmons also is a member of the PCAC — Ed.