2011 marks the eighth anniversary of Elmont Online’s Black History Month Celebration—an event that had its beginning when former Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Palandra received the New York State Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award. Educators, the school community and many parents and civic leaders were pleased to see the state recognize Dr. Palandra for her work in the Elmont Elementary School District, a minority school district predominately enrolling students of African and Caribbean heritage.
|the true meaning of Black History Month is in the black story of tension and striving and expectation; in the civic action, the lifting of one’s brother and the working as a community, and in the awareness and recognition of the black contributions to recorded history.
The following year, an interest developed in nominating our beloved Assemblyman, Tom Alfano, for the state award. However, the occasion of Dr. Palandra’s accomplishment had sparked a desire to bring the recognition from Albany to Elmont and to establish a vehicle to honor local people who not only embody the spirit of Dr. King, but also contribute in their own way to the wellbeing and advancement of the broader Elmont community. The new celebration would not focus on the “minority” aspects of the school district and community, but on the accomplishments of people of color.
Thus, EoL’s annual Black History Month Celebration sprouted from the community and has continued to be community driven and endorsed. The first celebration was held in February 2004 in Clara H. Carlson School, and the newly formed Black History Month Committee put together a community collaboration of song and spoken word. The organizers looked, too, to design a unique award that would honor a community member, based on the principles of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, for their Black History Month Celebration was to highlight and document the community’s success.