Dozens gathered at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens on Monday night to celebrate Black History Month and African-American Heritage.
Organized by Borough President Melinda Katz and the African-American Heritage Committee, the annual event recognizes outstanding community members who have made a lasting impact on the borough of Queens and the next generation of leaders.
Katz kicked off the celebration, which took place within the building’s Helen Marshall Cultural Center.
“I’m excited to be part of this celebration,” Katz said. “We know that right here in this room with our honorees we have our future leaders like Martin Luther King, like Rosa Parks, like Frederick Douglas. But we also have our future educators, our future teachers, our future civic leaders, doctors, lawyers and nurses.”
Reverend Doctor Leslie Mullings, founder and CEO of the Far Rockaway-based Challenge Preparatory Charter School, took to the podium as the event’s guest speaker. He was also awarded the Borough President’s Spirit Award.
“What we know is that this country — imperfect as it is — is a better place because of the resistance and resilience of its black Americans,” he said.
A group of 12 exceptional Queens students — chosen from a pool of 103 — who attend schools throughout the city were awarded $1,000 college scholarships by Katz and the committee.
Recipients were Anu L. Akil of Brooklyn Technical High School, Alexander Atkins of Thomas Edison High School, Alanya Banner of Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, Tyler Borderon of Bard High School Early College, Wilson Delmas of Queens Preparatory Academy, Keziah Diego Scholars Academy, Meicha Hall of Francis Lewis High School, Tearah Harrigan of Hillcrest High School, Jasmine Hitlall of St. Francis Preparatory Academy, Alexis Martin of Townsend Harris High School, Shaquille Profitt of William Cullen Bryant High School and Leah Solomon of Hillcrest High School.
Mullings also spoke about the importance of encouraging the next generation of leaders.
“Our kids are the future. They are our most precious commodity and we have to pave the way for them,” he said. “Education is not a privilege, but a right. And so wherever our children are, they have the right to a quality education.”
The following community members were each presented with a unique award by Katz and the committee: Dr. Ola Akinboboye, Science Award; Harold Dow, Business Award; Harriet Diaz, Education Award; Dwight Leland Johnson, Borough President’s Award; Michelle Stoddart, Civic Award; Patricia Dorothy Chin, Lifetime Achievement Award; and Thomas Crater, Journalism Award.
The United African Dance Troupe, directed by Patricia Ghizamboule Robinson, also put on a performance at the event.