Students, church groups, educators, elected officials and others collaborated in an impressive Black History month celebration Thursday night that displayed young talent while evoking the voices of the past.
The honorees were Irene Moore, chair of the African American Historic Designation Council, and retired Maj. Gen. Joseph A. McNeil, a member of the vaunted Greensboro Four who helped desegregate a Woolworth’s lunch counter in the 1960s.
But Black history, accomplishments and talent were on display throughout the evening at Walt Whitman High School.
Students from the Huntington and South Huntington school districts performed songs, danced or acted out the roles of a variety of historical figures. They also took key roles in running the program itself, acting as emcees.
Moore has been a leading figure in Black issues in Huntington, formerly an official of the NAACP and active in the Gateway Community Garden, the Jupiter Hammon Project at Preservation Long Isalnd and vice chair of the newly formed Huntington African American Museum.
McNeil, who lives on Long Island, was unable to attend in person but was present in a video created by students from the Huntington school district, who interviewed him about his experiences in bringing to an end of a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. in 1960. He later joined the Air Force, rising through the ranks to become a major general before retiring.
Music ranged from the traditional, such as the National Anthem sung by student Brielle Brown and Lift Every Voice and Sing, performed by the Hunginton High School Chamber Choir, to Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World sung by Oakwood Primary and Silas Wood students, to an a capella rendition of Rise Up by Audra Day, sung by Sarah Rivera.
The celebration brought numerous officials, several of whom participated in the event, including Town Supervisor Ed Smyth, Councilman Dr. Dave Bennardo, Councilwoman Joan Cergol, State Assemblyman Steve Stern, District Attorney Ray Tierney, Town Clerk Andrew Raia, Tax Receiver Jillian Guthman, highway superintendent Andre Sorrentino and Suffolk Legislators Tom Donnelly and Stephanie Bontempi.
Kevin Thorbourne, director of minority affairs for the town, and Carmen Kasper, director of human services, also were involved in the organization of the event.
Others on hand included Whitman principal Ken Costa, Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky, Dr. Vito D’Elia, South Huntington school superintendent, Town Historian Robert Hughes, Dr. Joseph T. Centamore, deputy superiintendent in South Huntington, and South Huntington school board members Nick Ciappetta, Sidney Joyner, and Frederick Scragg.