Riverhead School District

Riverhead High School hosts 15th annual Black History Month celebration

With song and dance, poetry and praise, Riverhead High School celebrated not only Black history, but members of its community worthy of recognition Thursday evening.

This year marked the school’s 15th annual Black History Month celebration, which showcased this year’s theme of “African Americans and the Arts.” The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, a 109-year-old national not-for-profit, annually selects the theme for Black History Month, which it first established as “Negro History Week” in 1926. The celebration blossomed into a nationally-recognized month-long affair in 1976.

The celebration commenced with a slideshow exploring a truncated history of “African Americans and the Arts,” from the blues music made everlasting from the likes of B.B. King to the Afrofuturism that reached scores of audiences around the globe through the successful Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther.”

Several groups celebrated the “African Americans and the Arts” theme through live performances. Two dance troops with the Butterfly Effect Project, Precious Pearls and Elite Squad, commanded the stage with routines. First Baptist Church of Riverhead’s Dance Ministry, led by Tara Archer, graced the auditorium with a performance of “God of Miracles.” The Pulaski Street Elementary School music department closed the event with a rendition of the Jackson 5 classic “ABC.”

Jamaal Boyce, a Riverhead High School social studies teacher who authored the book “Teenage Perspectives on The Black Experience in America” based on his student-led Black experience course, received the Riverhead Administrators Association’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. award. The honor recognizes a Riverhead teacher or faculty member committed to the district’s students and embodies the civil rights leader’s ethics and leadership. Assemblymember Jodi Giglio and the Riverhead Town Board also issued Mr. Boyce proclamations.

“I’m humbled and honored tonight,” Mr. Boyce told the crowd. “My mother just passed away a few months ago … I’ve been coming to work, going about my life trying to put a smile on my face to get through it. Tonight, my smile is genuinely authentic because this is truly a touching award for myself and my family.”

Joseph Bynum, the director of imaging services at Peconic Bay Medical Center, spoke as the evening’s keynote speaker. He discussed his career in hospital administration, detailing his efforts to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion.

Poet, activist and deacon of the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, Robert “Bubbie” Brown, performed his poem, “It’s Time,” which implored audience members to band together and fulfill their potential. Mr. Brown also presented certificates of recognition to Cailyn Cadenhead and Luke Scherer, two of three winners of the Pulaski Street School’s Garfield Langhorn Remembrance Essay Contest. The contest, which Yoana Del Aguila Palma also won, honors Private First Class Garfield Langhorn, a 1967 Riverhead High School graduate and recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor recognizing valor. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, he died in Vietnam in 1969 after “an enemy hand grenade landed in front of PFC. Langhorn and a few feet from personnel who had become casualties. Choosing to protect these wounded, he unhesitatingly threw himself on the grenade, scooped it beneath his body, and absorbed the blast. By sacrificing himself, he saved the lives of his comrades.”