Members from various parts of the Riverhead community came together Thursday night to celebrate Black History Month through song, dance, poem, artwork and more.
The two-hour event was held in the Riverhead High School auditorium, which was packed with excited and proud family, friends and community members.
Students in many of the district’s elementary schools performed songs, such as Phillips Avenue third graders who sang “Freedom Train,” Roanoke Avenue students who sang “If I Had a Hammer,” and a medley of “Swing Low,” “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “I Wanna Sing” by the fourth graders at Aquebogue Elementary.
Additionally, Riley Avenue students performed a mini-play called “The Treasures of the Past,” the high school jazz ensemble played in the lobby greeting guests as they entered, the high school chamber choir performed “Gloria” and junior Natalia Rahim sung a solo, called “Hero.”
Students in the Council For Unity also presented a slideshow of “Influential African American Women in American Culture” in between performances.
“It’s really a district wide event,” Pulaski Street assistant principal Patrick Burke said of the fourth annual event. “It’s a culmination of all buildings … it’s really authentic and that’s what so beautiful about this evening. It’s really a representation of the community.”
But the celebration didn’t solely include students. High school math teacher Alethia Ford sang with her family’s band, Just B’ Cuz. The First Baptist Church liturgical dance ministry performed and Lucius Ware, president of the Eastern Long Island NAACP, spoke.
Additionally, Riverhead resident Robert “Bubbie” Brown read his poem “The Time Is Now.”
“The time is now for all of us to get up on our feet and raise our voices to face the challenge we all have to meet,” Mr. Brown read. “The challenge is acceptance of all American faces — all creeds, cultures, religions and, most of all, all races.”
The district also recognized Pulaski Street students Avrie Wirth, Zachary Lull and Caden Lesiewicz for winning the Garfield Langhorn Essay Contest and district security guards Willie Austin and Walter Brown were named the recipients of the Riverhead High School Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Awards.
In addition to the events in the auditorium, the lobby was decorated with artwork done by high school students, which depicted notable people in American history, including Martin Luther King Jr. and president Barack Obama.
Guests were also able to enjoy authentic African cuisine prepared by students in the high school’s cooking club.
“It’s important because it helps the community come together,” Mr. Burke said. “It helps us appreciate the black community and express why they’re so important to the community today.”