Black History Month Happenings 2021

Black history month at ocean bay cornerstone

Celebrations Look Different, Spirit Is the Same

Black History Month Bulletin board at Ocean Bay community Cornerstone

At The Child Center of NY, we know every day is a day to observe, study, and appreciate Black History. From the first days of our nation when York played a pivotal role in the Lewis and Clark expedition, to today’s Black luminaries like President Barack Obama and Presidential Inauguration poet Amanda Gorman, Black Americans are an integral part of the fabric of our country.

That’s why in honor of Black History Month, many Child Center programs took the time not only to study and appreciate Black History, but also to celebrate it.

Drawing of Laurence Dunbar, PS 148As with everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic caused those celebrations to look different this year, but they were no less passionate, thought-provoking, entertaining, and illustrative of the many contributions of Black Americans, including the history makers of today. Here’s a sample of happenings across The Child Center this February:

August Martin High School: AMHS hosted an in-person event for its scholars and families (in batches, by age, to allow for appropriate physical distancing) on its campus in Jamaica on Wednesday, February 24. The day was replete with thoughtful discussion through popcorn interviews with scholars, teachers, and staff to create a vox pop afterward. Some examples of the questions:

  • What does Black History Month mean to you?
  • Is the celebration of Black History Month still relevant?
  • Which person of color has been most influential in your life? Why?
  • If you were to send a message to your younger Black brother, what would that be?
  • What are your hopes as a black man/woman/person in this society?

Staff also distributed Black History Month hoodies and goody bags, as well as Chromebooks to the participants.

PAW Paint Night flyerM.S. 283 Preparatory Academy for Writers: The participants of “Play After Work,” the Preparatory Academy for Writers’ afterschool program, joined together for a Black History Month Paint Night. The young people painted freehand the face or a quote of a person of color.

Program Director Carolyn Johnson said ahead of the event, “February 26, 2021 will be about our participants celebrating themselves as a part of history after a year of social change, civil unrest, and emotional as well as mental challenge. No rules, only expression!”

NYPD Community Center: On Monday, February 15, the East New York, Brooklyn, Center hosted “Our Voice, Our Future,” a virtual oratorical contest on the topics of, “Do Black lives really matter?” and “How do I see myself as a leader in my community?” Contestants were split into a junior division for grades 6–8 and a senior division for grades 9–12. Contestants in both divisions were held to rigorous standards and submitted a written composition that was judged on mechanics such as punctuation and grammar in addition to substance; orations were judged on ability to speak with poise, confidence, and audience appeal. Winners in each category were awarded a $100 prize!

PS 148 East Elmhurst poetry slam, Hasan

Hassan, pictured here, was one of the students who participated in P.S. 148’s virtual Black History Month poetry slam.

P.S. 148: This community school in East Elmhurst hosted a virtual poetry slam! Students, teachers, and staff read their own original works or those of Black authors who have inspired them.

Some artwork that came out of P.S. 148’s poetry slam — (Left) A haiku inspired by a student’s discovery that the inventor of mobile refrigeration, Frederick McKinley Jones, was Black; (Right) Matthew’s African drum

Redfern Cornerstone Community Center: Our Cornerstones haven’t slowed down for a minute, and Black History Month is no exception. The Far Rockaway community hub hosted an in-person showcase (with limited attendance due to the pandemic) of participants performing songs and choreographed dances to the music of Black musicians, and reading excerpts from historical Black speeches and poems. Check out the video of highlights below!

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