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Elmont Online

Black History Month


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.

Born in 1875, the son of a former slave, Carter Woodson worked in the coal mines of West Virginia as a high school student. There, he heard black Civil War veterans relate interesting historical facts that were not recorded in history books. A strong believer in education, he went on to receive two Bachelor’s degrees, a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, and he worked as a high school teacher in the Washington, D.C. area until 1917.

Dr. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. The organization’s objectives were to fund and publish research and writing projects about black history. But his ambition went beyond documentation, which he believed was absolutely necessary if blacks wanted inclusion in the record of mankind’s progress. He also believed that racism could effectively be challenged by educating the public about black contributions. In 1926, Dr. Woodson’s Association promoted the Omega Psi Phi black fraternity’s Negro History Week in February. He designing kits for children, and brought popularity to the event, a forerunner of today’s Black History Month.

The true meaning of Black History Month cannot be found in snippets from Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech, or in reenacting scenes that depict the Underground Railroad, or in citing the life and famed lectures and writings of Frederick Douglass. Instead, 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.

EoL’s Black History Month Committee has welcomed the support of Assemblyman Tom Alfano, who, from the beginning, recognized the value in the Committee’s efforts to establish something worthy for this community. We are proud that the Assemblyman has partnered with Elmont Online in the community’s annual Black History Month Celebration.

 


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