Elmont Online—Highlighting Success thanks the many residents and friends of the Elmont community who participated in this year’s Black History Month Celebration. The sixth annual “Collaboration of Song and Spoken Word” once again fittingly took place at the Elmont Memorial Library, an outstanding public building and community center which, itself, is a shining example of what a forward-looking community can accomplish.
Mindful of the life and work of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, the event marked an occasion to reflect on the past, chronicle the present, and project to the future. As Dr. Woodson said, “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” Echoing that notion of a continuing history, Sophia Vilceus, one of this year’s Round Table panelists and a sophomore at City College, remarked that from childhood, young blacks are “fed with this master narrative about what we’ve gone through as people in this country; the same story over and over again.” However, in expressing her thoughts on the night Barack Obama was elected President, she added, “…finally we have a new narrative to tell. We’re not taking away what happened, but we’re now moving forward without dwelling on the past…It’s an amazing feeling."
EoL’s Black History Month Committee, chaired by Allyson Phillips, put together a program that not only emphasized the black community’s shared history and rich culture, but also allowed for presenters and residents to touch upon the nuances of “being black,” as demonstrated by an audience member’s commented on the black clairvoyant experience and a poignant reading by Gotham Avenue teacher Terrence Lewis of Langston Hughes’s essay, “Last Whipping.”
Committee member Aubrey Phillips led a lively panel in a discussion of current topics, including the effects of the nation’s economic crisis on education and healthcare, the meaning derived from connecting to one’s heritage, and the election of President Barack Obama—does it “tip the balance” … are we in an era of post-racism? (See below for excerpts from the panel discussion.)
The 2009 Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award was presented to Joyce Stowe (pictured above) , an Elmont resident, community leader and mother of four. Through her 40 years of community activism, Ms. Stowe has become a role model for others. Following Dr. Woodson’s belief about the pathway to conquering racism, EoL presents this prestigious annual award to focus on and educate the public about black contributions.
EoL’s Black History Month Celebration is “the premiere community event in Nassau County celebrating Black History, social justice and empowerment,” said Mrs. Phillips at the start of the Award Ceremony. She complimented Elmont’s young people for their volunteer contributions to the event: 2008 Elmont Memorial graduate Robert Anthony King’s service as award ceremony narrator; Chet Collins’s recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and Jason Reese’s singing of the National Anthem, the presentation of the colors and singing of the Black National Anthem by members of Girl Scout Troop 1527, and the artwork contributed by elementary school students.
As part of the ceremony, Assemblyman Tom Alfano presented his 21st Assembly District Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards to, in the adult category, David Duchatellier, the initiator of the Haitian Children’s Food and Clothing Drive, and to three young people, Sage Bowen, Francis Mitra and Xavier Roberts, for their creativity in starting the online magazine ETHOS . For the Black History Month Celebration, Sage, a talented artist, painted a large portrait of President Barack Obama in acrylic and pen on cloth that was displayed throughout the afternoon.
Addressing the “spoken word,” Gotham Avenue’s Terry Lewis gave a spirited presentation, which included his reading of “Last Whipping,” one of Langston’s “Simple” stories. Originally written as a newspaper feature, the story is about personal change…after a young man’s misdeed causes heartache to his Aunt Lucy. After Aunt Lucy gives the teenager a whipping for giving away one of her hens, Simple says: “When people cares for you and cry for you, they can straighten out your soul.” Lewis then read a humorous poem of his own, titled, “My President Looks Like Me,” in which he declares he “understands his re-spon-sibil-ity” and ends with “the change I attempt is me.”
Elmont Memorial High School Principal John Capozzi focused attention on recent student and school accomplishments, announcing that Elmont Memorial was named a New York State “benchmark school” for its excellence in performance; student Winston Waters was named an Intel Science Talent Search semi-finalist—a first-ever honor for Elmont Memorial High School; and students attending a Model United Nations conference February 4-8 received 8 awards out of the 9 “committees” in which they participated.
The program highlighted the accomplishments of Elmont in song through a high school student actors’ performance of “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from the upcoming musical Guys and Dolls and the Sewanhaka District Chorus’s rendition of “John The Revelator,” both under the direction of Music Department Chair Eileen Kramer, and The Elmont Jazz Masters elementary students’ performance of Duke Ellington’s C Jam Blues, directed by Anthony Pino. The St. John University Voices of Victory choir, under the direction of Nigel Gretton, sang three pieces, Your Love Divine, No Defeat and Tribute to Those Gone Before Us.
The ’09 Black History Month Committee—Scott Cushing, Carol Parker Duncanson, Tania Lawes, Dr. Sydney McCalla, Allyson and Aubrey Phillips and Sandra Smith—thanks all those who made the sixth annual celebration a huge success.
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