The community came together last night at Riverhead High School for a spirited celebration of African American history and culture at Riverhead High School.
Students from each of the district’s schools joined faculty, staff and community organizations for a full program of music, song, dance, poetry and spoken word in a packed Charles Cardona Auditorium teeming with positive energy and excitement.
The high school jazz ensemble warmed things up in the lobby as visitors sampled African cuisine prepared by the high school cooking club and enjoyed a special Black History Month student art exhibit. The middle school jazz band, the high school chamber choir and choruses from the four elementary schools and the Pulaski Street schools performed on stage.
Vocalist Natalia Rahim, a Riverhead High School 11th-grader, performed “Hero.”
The First Baptist Church Liturgical Dance Ministry under the direction of choreographer Waynalden Edwards, performed “Hallelujah to the King of Glory.”
“We are diverse, but we are a community,” Edwards told the crowd before the dancers took the stage. “We are more the same than we are different.”
Riverhead High School math teacher Alethia Ford and Jus B Cuz gave a rousing performance of “Trust in You.”
Poet Robert “Bubbie” Brown read his poem, “The Time is Now,” imploring people to come together as one in the cause of justice.
“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: The challenge is acceptance of all American faces — all creeds, cultures, religions and, most of all, all races,” Brown says in the opening stanza.
The Council for Unity presented a series of slides highlighting the contributions of influential African American women throughout history — from abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, to NASA mathematicians Dorothy Vaughn and Katherine Johnson and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson, to Oprah Winfrey, the slides told the stories of women who are central figures in politics, science, business and culture.
The Council for Unity also presented district security officers Walter Brown and Willie Austin with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. The two men were praised for their caring and concern for the students they protect.
Lucius Ware, president of the Eastern Long Island NAACP recognized the Garfield Langhorn Essay Contest winners, Pulaski Street School students Avrie Wirth, Zachary Lull and Caden Lesiewicz. The contest is held each year in memory of Riverhead Medal of Honor recipient Garfield Langhorn, who sacrificed his life in Vietnam during a rescue mission in January 1969, when he threw himself on a live grenade to protect the lives of two injured soldiers.
The Riverhead High School NJROTC Color Guard opened up the program. Megan Schlichting sang the national anthem. The Rev. Mary Cooper gave the invocation and Riverhead High School assistant principal Patrick Burke was the evening’s master of ceremonies.