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Black History Celebrated in Oyster Bay

Organist Anthony Teets Talks on Aspects of Slavery on Feb. 28 at 2 p.m.

As part of their celebration of Black History Month, members of the Hood A.M.E. Zion Church have planned a host of events. On Sunday, Feb. 21, members gathered at Youngs Memorial Cemetery to consecrate the site of graves of slaves buried there. Small white crosses dot the hill on the way to the burial place of 26th President Theodore Roosevelt.

The Rev. Kenneth Nelson led the group in singing Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, and When the Saints Go Marching In. They were there to celebrate the heroism of slaves who toiled, sacrificed and sang God’s praises, persevered, purchased freedom or became free, and died for others to have a legacy of choice, voice and heritage. “We respect, cherish and salute all of you!” they said, directing their words to the silent graves. As they sang We Shall Overcome, the Rev. Nelson led them in a procession down the hill, away from the graves.

Youngs Cemetery Superintendent Nick La Bella was there, as he was the year before, the first time the group gathered at the gavesite: last year. It was a wintery day and the parking lot had iced over, making it hard to walk. Mr. LaBella said before the group arrived, he found racist signs placed on the graves – which he removed. That underscores the need to be strong, as the words of the song Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around stated: “Ain’t gonna let nobody [injustice, oppression, or violence] turn me around,” still has validity in 2010.

Celebration Calendar

Black History month is being celebrated in Oyster Bay with a series of events. Hood A.M.E. Zion Pastor Kenneth Nelson said the first was to be a concert on Feb. 14, but it has been postponed to March 7. The Hood A.M.E. Zion Choir was to have gone to Goodwill A.M.E. Zion Church along with Hood’s membership to Rev. Nelson’s niece’s church at 110 Flanders Road in Riverhead. The event has been rescheduled to March 7, at 4 p.m.

On Saturday, Feb. 20, there was a soul food dinner served from noon to 5 p.m. at Hood A.M.E. Zion Church. Donations were $12 per dinner. The traditional southern food included: fried chicken, fried fish, and ham; an assortment of vegetables including collard greens, and yams with corn bread; and a wide selection of home baked cakes and pies including pecan pie, sweet potato pie and peach cobbler.

On Sunday, Feb. 21, there was a consecration ceremony at Youngs Memorial Cemetery at the site of the slave burials which took place at 2 p.m.

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, there will be an Evening Song performance at Hood, featuring the Christ Episcopal Choir, at 8 p.m.

On Sunday, Feb. 28, there will be a Black History presentation by Anthony Teets, Hood choir director and organist will give a talk on a paper he has written for the University of Stony Brook on aspects of slavery at 2 p.m., following Hood’s morning service.

The public is welcome to attend the events.