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TNH Hosts First Annual Black History Month Presentation

Event Features Dancers, Singers and Students From Westbury

Celebrating North Hempstead’s broadening ethnic diversity, Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Councilwoman Viviana Russell and the North Hempstead Town Board recently hosted the town’s first Black History Month presentation.

The First Annual Black History Month program featured performances drawing on key elements of the African American experience, music, dance and the spoken word.

“I am extremely proud to be leading this town at a time when our population is becoming this incredibly diverse mosaic of cultures,” Supervisor Jon Kaiman said in his welcoming remarks. “Plans are to make this event bigger and better going forward as we continue to salute North Hempstead’s widening cultural mosaic through festivals and presentations intended to encourage all our residents to embrace each others cultures.”

A break from previous programs, which are usually presented prior to a scheduled board meeting, the two-hour, Feb.  25 presentation showcased performances by local dance troupes and musicians as wells as readings about African American figures who made invaluable contributions to the history of North Hempstead.

Two liturgical dance ensembles graced the evening’s presentation with riveting movements. Children of Destiny, an eight-member group of youths from the Westbury Tabernacle Church, performed two pieces to contemporary gospel and Sanaa Movement, a Westbury-based group, performed a theatrical interpretation through dance of Harriet Tubman’s journey on the Underground Railroad.

Dancer Joyous Pierce, a Westbury High School student who studied with the famed Alvin Ailey Dance Company, performed a modern dance piece to a remix of Mother to Son by Langston Hughes and A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke.

Djembe master drummer Maurice Yarde of Freeport, treated the audience to choruses of pounding rhythms from Mali, a former West African empire where the percussion instrument originated and was used to gather the community for special events such as weddings, births and christenings. He accompanied alto saxophonist, Antoine McLean on We Shall Overcome.

Linda Boyce, a longtime Roosevelt High School teacher, read poems, one from her own published works, Celebrate! Poets Speak Out: Lift Up Your Heads. She also shared Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes. Elaine Hoskins, a member of the United Federation of Tribal Chiefs and Queen Mothers (founded in 1994) accompanied by Boyce robed Councilwoman Russell in a customary African ceremony with a traditional African garment in acknowledgement of her community leadership. The robe symbolizes royalty, prosperity and the feminine spirit.

“This honor is appropriate because of Councilwoman Russell’s accomplishments as a community leader, we are naming her Obi Shabbach, which means one with a progressive anointed future,” said Hoskins.

Supervisor Kaiman and town Board members Maria Christina Poons, Fred Pollock and Viviana Russell (the first female African American to be elected to the North Hempstead Town Board) all read brief retrospectives of Black North Hempstead history-makers: Cato Sands, Charles and Fred Levi and Hannah Townsend.

“The Town of North Hempstead has a rich history filled with prominent figures of African descent such as Hannah Townsend and Charles Levi to name a few,” said Councilwoman Viviana Russell,  adding, “Being North Hempstead’s first African American female town board member I felt it my responsibility to honor and to help shed light on some of their contributions to this great town.”