Queens DA office hosts Black History Month celebration at Rochdale Village

Rosedale Jets and Rochdale Cheerleaders Collaboration perform for the crowd (1)
Rosedale Jets and Rochdale Cheerleaders Collaboration perform for the crowd
Photo by Athena Dawson

The office of Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz hosted their annual Black History Month Celebration at the Rochdale Village Community Center on Thursday, February 15th.

Hundreds of people filled the grand ballroom of the community center located at 169-65 137th Avenue in Jamaica and ate locally catered food as they enjoyed the programming for the evening. 

 The event also featured local Black business owners that showcased their products at tables that lined the event space. “Last year I went to Ghana for the first time so I knew I wanted to come back and do some different things…I love that people love my jewelry. It’s very intentional the colors of how everything is designed.” said  Bernadette Clemons, owner of Clemons Creations Jewelry Designs. Clemons created the brand as her handmade afrocentric “passion project” during the pandemic.

Bernadette Clemons, owner of Clemons Creations Jewelry DesignsPhoto by Athena Dawson

Delali Haligah, a local artist and creator of Osun Designs- which pays homage to  the Yoruba goddess- has a long history with the Rochdale community. “ It still feels like family. I know people here. I came back and started dealing with the sister who runs things here and even started a fashion week in 2010, “she said. Other businesses at the event featured customized cupcakes from Craft of All Trades, and homemade hair care products from 4 Us HairSkin LLC.

Delali Haligah, a local artist and creator of Osun DesignsPhoto by Athena Dawson

 The main event started with a solemn invocation by Bishop Johnny Youngblood, followed by a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and Black National Anthem-Lift Every Voice- by local singer Shemeka Fennel. The emcee of the evening, EADA Joyce Smith started the program acknowledging the community. “ I grew up in Hollis and we would look at Rochdale Village in awe…  we wanted to celebrate tonight all that Rochdale Village is, all that Queens is and all that we are as a people. We have overcome a lot and we have many more miles to go. We know that in this room there are decades of struggle and inspiration and encouragement, tears, pain, joy,” Smith said.

Libation ceremony performed by Soso International EnsemblePhoto by Athena Dawson

Following Smith’s remarks, members of the Soso International Ensemble performed a tribute to ancestors by pouring libations of different waters gathered across the African diaspora in ceremonial bowls, as the audience cried out “ase,” a Yoruba word that translates to amen and well wishes to ancestors. 

The keynote speaker of the night was Judge Sylvia Hinds Radix, the 81st corporation counsel of the city of New York. Radix is the second woman and the first woman of color to hold the position.

Keynote Speaker judge Sylvia Hinds RadixPhoto by Athena Dawson

Radix spoke about the importance of mentorship to nurture one’s career, her time working in the court system and the journey she took to get to where she is today. “ I want to leave with you tonight the notion of standing on shoulders. We all stand here on the invisible shoulders that we don’t see, that everyday carry us to where we are. You’re here and I am proud to join you, because of your need for community and your understanding of community and what it can do,”  she said.  

The event came to a close with a modern dance performance by Justin Hunt, a member of Destined 2 Dance dance company, as well as a ceremony for four honorees –NYC DOE educator Eva Knight, Queens DA prosecutor Vinette Campbell, Queens DA trial prep assistant Myriam DeFay, and community activist Marc Taylor. After the ceremony there was a final performance of the night by the Rosedale Jets and Rochdale Cheerleaders Collaboration, which brought a round of applause from the crowd and proud parents in the room.

Justin Hunt of Destined 2 Dance performs for the crowd Photo by Athena Dawson