In her welcoming remarks, 2012 Black History Month Celebration chairperson Allyson Phillips noted, “We are here today to tell our story because stories matter…because they connect us to our own past, present and future.”
The “Collaboration of Song and Spoken Word” portion of the program highlighted words, actions and accomplishments that substantiate Black history, thus bringing a community’s lively race, culture and religion into the mainstream. Phillips noted that “community cannot be applied in small a context because it is not a small word, but an international concept. Even these redistricting lines, she added, are but a partial definition of community.”
“It is still accepted practice that our children read history books that give short thrift to the contributions of Africans and African Americans to the formation, growth and prosperity of American society,” Phillips said. “Those people and their stories have often been neglected because it's not in the best interest of the storytellers. Knowing and telling your own story makes you less impressionable and less vulnerable in the face of someone else’s story. To say that your story doesn’t matter ... yields power to someone else to define you.” Phillips questioned, “What legacy are you leaving for your family and friends? What is your story and who’s telling it?”
As State Senator Jack Martins presented the 7th Senatorial District Martin Luther King, Jr. Excelsior Awards, he stated, “Our stories are profoundly different and remarkable today because of the African American and minority communities and their contributions.” The 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. awards went to Jean Grant, a school district employee at Dutch Broadway School and a mainstay of the three-on-three basketball tournament, and Claudine Hall, currently president of the Jamaica Square Improvement League.
Renee King, a senior at Elmont Memorial High School, received the Future Business Leaders Award from Invest in Elmont. Muzzio Tallin, co-founder of Invest in Elmont with Carl Achilles, said the Future Business Leaders program “will become an institution in this community because it empowers students and young adults to reinvest in their community and become entrepreneurs.”
Rebecca Forture received the Mary McLeod Bethune Award for her devotion to a rigorous high school academic schedule and her willingness to volunteer through extra-curricular activities. The award, the first of it's kind, was presented to Ms Forture by The Center for African, Black and Caribbean Studies at Adelphi University.
Both the Future Business Leaders and Mary McLeod Bethune awards are new to the celebration. "We welcome our new sponsors and look forward to mutually symbiotic relationship. It's an indicator that the program is growing in both stature and reach" said Aubrey Phillips, founding member of the Black History Month Committee.
In his introduction of the 2012 Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award presented to Magaly Polo, Black History Celebration committee member Aubrey Phillips noted Polo’s volunteer activities, most recently the care she rendered to patients aboard the USNS Comfort Medical Ship off Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. “Magaly is connecting people, helping people, always leading,” said Phillips. “She’s a volunteer extraordinaire.”
Joining Phillips and Polo in the presentation was Carrie Solages, the newly elected Nassau County Legislator from the 3rd Legislative District, which includes the Elmont community. Solages, who like Polo is a native of Haiti, reminded the audience of the words of hope in the Black National Anthem: Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us. “Hope is here today in our teachers and our children,” Solages said, “and in the leadership represented by Ms. Polo to see that our future is bright.”
“I accept this award in the name of my Higher Power,” noted Magaly Polo. “I am the recipient of unconditional love.” Polo remarked, “When you do things for and with others, then you have a positive impact. When we fail to help someone we could have helped, our failure is magnified.” By being part of a community of giving, Polo said she was able to receive, and she knows that because of her giving, someone else will receive. On behalf of all who have by grace answered the call, Polo said thanks to the Higher Power that makes all things possible.”
Rounding out the program were performances by the Elmont Jazz Masters, the Sewanhaka District Chorus, the Elmont Memorial High School Musical Cast of "Beauty and the Beast", and the LIU Post Jazz Combo under the leadership of Professor T.K. Blue. Honoring the spoken word, original works were performed by One4Five.