Elsy Mecklembourg Guibert receives Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award

Elmont Online & Highlighting Success, Inc. presented its 7th annual Black History Month (BHM) event on February 6, celebrating Black History, social justice and empowerment. Drawing on the legacy of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History and the “soul” behind the origination of EoL’s annual celebration, the event focused on the Black experience, from tradition and culture to challenge and accomplishment.

Elmont resident and community leader Elsy Mecklembourg Guibert received EoL’s prestigious Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award, presented annually to highlight and educate the public about Black contributions. Haitian born, Ms. Guibert is a Certified Public Health Specialist dedicated to helping communities in need through education and counseling.

The Black History Month Committee reminds residents and friends about the local Haitian Relief Effort in response to the January earthquake in that country. Donations can be made to David Duchatelier, either through Assemblyman Alfano’s office, 516-437-5577, or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and EoL will forward the information to Mr. Duchatelier.

The words of Dr. Woodson, “I am ready to act, if I can find brave men to help me,” would well have served as a thrust for this year’s celebration, which turned a spotlight on the meaning of community, responsibility, leadership and involvement.

At the opening Round Table discussion, “Hope, Growth and Opportunity—Has Anything Changed?” moderator Aubrey Phillips set the stage by referencing Elmont as a small, tree lined, suburban community that has become predominately a minority community of families whose ancestry comes from Africa and the Caribbean. Over the years, Elmont has forged a community of people who know their neighbors and who have become active participants through service. In that context, the panel discussed the difficulties and effects of the weak economy on homeownership, the economic impact on young people, local economic development at Belmont Racetrack and the proposed “Lighthouse” project, and the potential for jobs.

In her welcoming remarks, Black History Month Committee Chair Allyson Phillips quoted author, college professor, filmmaker and social activist Toni Cade Bambara’s profound words:

I know that we must reclaim those bones in the Atlantic Ocean. Do you know there’s not a plaque, a memorial, a day, a ritual, or an hour that is erected in memory to those 100 million bodies in the Atlantic Ocean? All those African bones in the briny deep. All those people who said ‘no’ and jumped ship. All those people who tried to figure out a way to steer, to navigate amongst the sharks. We don’t call upon that power. We don’t call upon those spirits. We don’t celebrate those ancestors. We don’t have a marker, an expression, a song that we use to acknowledge them. We have nothing to indicate that those are Our People and they mattered. We willingly self-administer knockout drops. More horrendous is that we don’t tap into the ancestral presence in those waters.

“In the midst of all her works of activism,” said Mrs. Phillips, “Toni Bambara never forgot the importance of community. Community should not be applied in small context as it is not a small word, but an international concept. It is the gathering of idealisms, values, strengths and visions of individuals coming together in the global pursuit of hope, growth and opportunity.” Mrs. Phillips paused to acknowledge the numerous individuals and organizations that had worked behind the scenes to make the 2010 Black History Month Celebration possible. She continued, “It was our ancestors with their communities that broke down barriers.” And referencing the “bones” in the Atlantic, she said, “Those bones give us strength and remind us that through positive community action we can affect change. For those bones are our solid foundation—solid and uncompromising.”

During the awards ceremony, BHM supporter Assemblyman Tom Alfano presented his 21st Assembly District Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards in the adult category to: Nkenge Gilliam and Tiria Onwuchekwa, and in the youth category to Divinity Babb and Ivana Roman.

Ms Gilliam, a U.S. History and Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher at Elmont Memorial High School, was selected as the 2007-08 Teacher of the Year for the Sewanhaka Central High School District. She  graduated cum laude from SUNY Stony Brook and received her Masters degree in American History with a concentration in political activism of early 20th century Black female clubs and organization. Tiria Onwuchekwa is the owner of Mason Kpuff Consulting. With her husband, she started Seaburn Associates, an independently owned bookstore and publishing company in Astoria Queens, offering an eclectic selection of books of all genres, including a large selection of titles written in Greek and Spanish, and offerings in French, Urdu, Cantonese, Russian, Korean and Chinese. Divinity Babb, Elmont Memorial Class of 2010, participates in many community and extra-curricular activities, such as Future Business Leaders of America, SADD, Key Club, National Business and Foreign Language Societies, Varsity volleyball and softball. Ivana Roman received awards for her work on breast cancer research while at Elmont Memorial. An outstanding scholar, she volunteers at her church, and worked part-time in the GYO program and Clara Carlson School. She has hopes of becoming a cardiologist.

Members of the community and guests were treated to a “Collaboration of Song and Spoken Word” that at times moved the spirit and at times touched the funny bone. Once again the ceremony was narrated by 2008 Elmont Memorial graduate Robert Anthony King. The Black National Anthem was sung by a duo from Men of Destiny, Timothy Jean and Nachbi Lacoissiere, who also sang Hear the Cry, a song he wrote in tribute to Haiti. Girl Scout Troop 1093 presented the colors, assisted by members of the Elmont Youth Soccer Club. The C.W. Post College Concert Dance Company performed three moving pieces, choreographed by the dancers, entitled “Conformation,” “Aspirations,” and “Dununba,” which vividly recalled the family of traditional rhythms of the Malinke, one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa.

Addressing the “spoken word,” Gotham Avenue’s Terrence Lewis gave another spirited presentation, which included, among others, his reading of Langston Hughes poetry and his unique origination, “Pants on the Floor,” referring to those individuals who insist on wearing their pants so low. His performance was at times amusing, but it came with a lesson—teaching responsibility and uprightness, and the caution not to take one’s self too seriously. The program ended with a rendition of Duke Ellington’s C Jam Blues performed by elementary school student musicians who played solos on sax, trombone, clarinet and trumpet.

The 2010 Black History Month Committee—Scott Cushing, Tania Lawes, Dr. Sydney McCalla, Allyson and Aubrey Phillips, Sandra Smith, and 2009 Dr. Carter Woodson Award recipient Joyce Stowe—thank all those who made this year’s celebration a huge success.