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Riverhead Free Library hosting exhibit showcasing local African American artists for Black History Month

To celebrate Black History Month, Riverhead Free Library is hosting an exhibit in partnership with The African American Educational and Cultural Festival Inc. to showcase the history of local African Americans.

The exhibit, which opened Feb. 1 and will continue through Feb. 29, was held last year as well. A closing reception will be held at the library Friday, Feb. 28. 

This year, the Long Island Black Artist Association has been added to the mix. LIBAA has members from Hempstead to Montauk, according to library board trustee Marylin Banks-Winter, who put the exhibit together. Thanks to a connection aided by Rosa Hanna Scott, who is director of arts for AAECF, LIBAA has 20 to 30 paintings on display in Riverhead this month.

“We try to change it up a little bit … It’s a beautiful partnership,” said Ms. Banks-Winter. “What we do exhibit are the founders in the black community who migrated during the Great Migration in the 1900s.”

The AEECF, which celebrates African-American culture, heritage and legacy, came together in the late ’90s and was founded officially in 2002. Ms. Banks-Winter is the organization’s president and her husband, James Banks, its co-chair. 

The exhibit features everything from historical artifacts from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation, documenting his life and legacy, to information about Harriet Tubman and Minister Louis Farrakhan, photographs, textiles and art.

Ms. Banks-Winter expressed excitement about the MLK exhibit, explaining that library staff asked the community: What has his dream been to you in your life?

“And a lot of people have said, well, now they can see that African Americans are allowed to go to college, they don’t sit on the back of the bus anymore, they get married, we have those who graduate from college, those who become entrepreneurs,” said Ms. Banks-Winter. “It goes beyond. We had the first black president and his wife and children in the White House.”

This year, the library exhibit also includes information on Afro-Latin Americans and Caribbean Americans.

“We have a large population of people from Senegal, West Africa, and one of our board members is bringing together more artifacts from Senegal, which we’re including in our collection … We’re going to have a father-and-son steel band performance, geared toward the youth. We have poets that are coming, we have African dance, we’re going to have vendors.”

The Feb. 28 reception, which is free and open to the public, will run from 6 to 10 p.m. and feature cultural food.