The Town of North Hempstead held its sixth annual celebration of Black History Month on Feb. 4, honoring six outstanding African-American residents who have each made a positive difference in their community.
Held at Westbury’s “Yes We Can” Community Center, the event was originally founded by Councilwoman Viviana Russell—the first African-American woman to serve on the town council—who said that she noticed an immediate need for it as soon as she was elected to her office.
“We hadn’t had a Black History Month program in the town, and I felt that it was important that we did,” she said. “We have a very diverse community, so I felt it was important to highlight some of the attributes of the great African-American population here.”
Supervisor Judi Bosworth agreed with Russell, noting that the wonderful diversity in North Hempstead is one of its greatest strengths.
“The African Americans in our town have played such an integral role in its history,” Bosworth said. “Each year, this event takes us back through history and educates us on the great contributions of African Americans to our town and culture.”
The Black History Month celebration’s theme this year was Hallowed Ground: Sites for African American Memories, which delved into several prominent areas within the Town of North Hempstead that hold special historical significance to its African-American residents.
The community’s rich African-American heritage was also infused into the event through a vast array of musical performances by local musicians as well as from neighborhood schools.
At the end of the eventing, six honorees—chosen by Bosworth and her councilmembers—were presented with citations for their efforts at making their neighborhoods, and the lives of the people within them, all the more special.
Bosworth’s selection was Shelia Bush of Great Neck, who she referred to as a personal friend and one of the most honest people she had ever met.
“Shelia has done so much for the Great Neck and Manhasset community, and all the communities within our town,” she said. “She served on the Great Neck Childcare Partnership Board, and she’s been an amazing part of our Parent-Child Home Program, and is on the Manhasset Special Ed Committee.”
Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio noted that she had selected Ronald Rochester of Port Washington as her honoree that evening because he is a tremendous advocate for children in his community.
“He’s been a football and baseball coach for our Port Youth Activities (PYL) for over 20 years and, in 2012, he was inducted into the PYL Hall of Fame,” De Giorgio said. “He recently retired, so he’s looking forward to devoting more of his time to the children of Port Washington.”
Rev. Victor S. Lewis of Roslyn was the pick of Councilman Peter Zuckerman, who said that his choice was an easy one due to his honoree’s longtime selflessness and dedication to his friends and neighbors.
“Despite other issues going on, this is a person who puts other people ahead of his own needs,” Zuckerman said. “He’s a U.S. Army combat veteran, and he’s been the pastor at the Westbury Community Church and is now the pastor at the Friendship Community Church in Roslyn.”
Russell presented a touching, posthumous citation to Mildred Little of Westbury, someone she said was very near and dear to both her and the Westbury community.
“She passed away at the end of last year, and I thought it only fitting that we honor her today,” Russell said. “She went to every community meeting and she felt that for our community to matter, the people had to participate in the process.”
On behalf of Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, who was unable to attend the celebration that evening, Town Receiver of Taxes Charles Berman presented a citation to Desiree Woodson of Manhasset.
“She graduated from SUNY Farmingdale and from there joined the Manhasset Library,” Berman said. “She’s the chairwoman of the Manhasset/Great Neck Economic Opportunity Council and a board member of the Manhasset School District Teacher Resource Center.”
Town Clerk Wayne Wink stood in for the unavailable Councilman Angelo Ferrara to honor Rev. Vernon Bramble of Garden City Park.
“He is a former pastor at the Bethel Bible Christian Church, where he still performs on behalf of the Sunday School and Youth Department,” Wink said. “He has been a community activist in Garden City Park for a long, long time and it is indeed my privilege to honor this great African American here tonight as a part of Black History Month in the Town of North Hempstead.”