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Community Spotlight

2/17/2012 - Town Hosts 2nd Annual Black History Month Celebration
Town Hosts 2nd Annual Black History Month Celebration

North Hempstead, NY – Celebrating North Hempstead’s growing diversity, Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Councilwoman Viviana Russell, and the Town of North Hempstead hosted the 2nd Annual Black History Month Presentation this past Thursday, February 16, at Westbury High School.

The event, which featured performances on African-American experiences, music, and dance, celebrated the diversity and contributions of African-American history-makers in North Hempstead.

Russell, who became the first ever African-American female Town Board member when she was elected in 2009, partnered with the Westbury School District to bring the celebration to her community.

“The Town of North Hempstead has a rich history filled with prominent figures of African descent,” said Councilwoman Russell. “I am honored to have the opportunity to help shed light on some of their contributions to this great Town.”

More than 300 people, including North Hempstead Town Board members, Nassau County Legislator Robert Troiano, and Westbury School District administrators, attended the two-hour event inside the high school’s auditorium.

Grace Walker and Brian Rapelyea, the great niece and great nephew of black history-maker Hannah Chisolm Towsend, were also in attendance.

“We are happy that the Town of North Hempstead continues to educate others about the legacy of this trailblazer of the 1800’s,” Rapelyea said, referring to his great aunt, whose business acumen brought her great wealth.

A number of presenters, including Westbury High School students, told stories of the many African-Americans that significantly shaped the Town of North Hempstead. The packed auditorium was also treated to performances by the Westbury High School Select String Ensemble, Westbury Middle School Chamber Ensemble, and the Westbury Bucket Drummers.

“You can’t beat the positive energy found within this Westbury community,” said Powell’s Lane Elementary School Jazz Band Director Michael Costello, whose talented group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students also performed at the event. “I believe that one of the best ways to honor the many contributions of black society is to see these kids fall in love with jazz, music that African Americans first established and then perfected over the past century.”

Supervisor Kaiman and Councilwoman Russell gave special thanks to Robert Brisbane, Assistant Superintendent of Westbury Schools; Dr. Irene Betty Hylton, first Vice President of the NAACP Westbury Chapter #2184; Patricia Mack, President of Pi Pi Omega Chapter-Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; and Ada S. Lopez of the Bethpage Federal Credit Union. All of the above read short historical retrospectives of black history makers from North Hempstead.

The Supervisor and Councilwoman also expressed gratitude to Bethpage Federal Credit Union which donated prize money to the winner and three runners-up of the essay contest.

“I thought the evening was just magnificent,” said Assistant Superintendent Robert Brisbane. “It was great giving our District the opportunity to showcase our multiculturalism, and you could tell the kids were having a lot of fun. It’s important for these students to realize that they can have an impact on their environment and the power to control their own destiny.”


Councilwoman Russell meets with Napoleon Revels-Bey and his Westbury Community School Bucket Drummers before their performance