A history of change and progress
The aroma from Hicksville Media N and S conference room was palpable – culinary traditions and soul food … yum! But food was only half the equation at a ‘lunch ‘n learn’ where the learning was truly eye-opening. It was the final of ABP’s robust series of month-long Black History Month events last Thursday – with things happening from Hicksville, to Brooklyn, to Syracuse.
Nyack College History Professor Raquel Castilla-Reynoso talked to participants – live from Hix and videoconferenced to MetroTech and Syracuse – about the ‘long and harsh history’ of slavery, unsung heroes of freedom and Emancipation, numerous events and figures that pre-date slavery that are often overlooked, and the laments of people from more recent history. Like Negro Society for Historical Research founder Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, who said … ‘Black people have no history, no heroes, no great moments.’
Professor Castilla-Reynoso also highlighted other lesser known African American heroes like spiritual leader Peter Williams Sr., who fought for the Patriots in the American Revolution; Venerable Pierre Touissant, who helped move refugees North and cared for orphans during the Civil War; and, African American/Latino Juan Rodriguez, one of the first people of color in New York City. Click here for a short video with the professor.
NY President Ken Daly and Chief Executive Steve Holliday spoke in MetroTech about the importance of our increasingly inclusive and diverse work force. MetroTech participants also got to listen to live jazz music, courtesy of the YoungBloods Jazz Jam and go through an historical display that was up all week in the lobby. They also had the opportunity to speak with, and learn from, Ludger K. Balan, cofounder and principal historian for the 26th NY Regiment US Colored Troops re-enactors. He was available by the display all week long, donned in different historical period costumes each day. One of his main messages: ‘Black history does not begin with slavery.’
And Syracuse had its own solid Black History Month messages. Mentors, advocates and role models giving young people a path to grow on, members of 100 Black Men of Syracuse Inc.– including National Grid retirees – shared their message of how ‘Real Men Giving Real Time’ help shape young lives and build community, by focusing on mentoring, education, health and wellness, and economic empowerment. Board member Tony Clark, who volunteers at the group’s Saturday Academy program offering ‘Learning Beyond School,’ noted the importance for young people of building confidence through social relationship skills. “We hold the expectations that participants stand up and identify themselves to speak and that they are acknowledged by everyone. It’s important to validate young people, to let them know they have the floor.”