Borough President Richards caps Black History Month with joyful celebration at Borough Hall

NY: Black History Month Celebration at QBH
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards speaks at the Black History Month Celebration at Queens Borough Hall.
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and the African American Heritage Month Committee closed out Black History Month with the annual Black History Month Celebration at Helen Marshall Cultural Center at Queens Borough Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

The event celebrated Queens’ rich African American heritage and recognized outstanding Black community leaders. Thirteen exceptional Queens high school students received a $1,000 scholarship through the Borough President’s African American Heritage Committee.

13 Queens High School students received a $1,000 scholarship.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Musical and artistic highlights were Patricia McLaughlin, who opened the event with renditions of the National Anthem and the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a dance performance by Justin Johnson to the theme song of the movie Selma, “Glory” by Commons and John Legend. Dancers and drummers with the Devore Dance Center concluded the celebration.

Dancers and drummers with the Devore Dance Center concluded the celebration.

Richards, the first male Black Queens borough president, acknowledged that representing the 2.4 million residents of the World’s Boro came with great responsibility.

“We do the work we do to leave this place better than we found it to improve the lives of each and everyone right here,” Richards said.

The Queens Beep had recently traveled to Nigeria, Africa, and also visited the Point of No Return, a former major slave port on Gberefu Island, through which thousands of Africans were forced onto slave ships.

“You think of how powerful it is that our ancestors were forced here and how we can stand here in Borough Hall tonight,” Richards said. “I’ve literally sat on the beach that we were enslaved on.”

At a time when states are banning books about Black History, Richards called on everyone to pass down the history of African Americans.

“People out here talking about slavery never existed. I mean, come on,” Richards said. “We’re in 2024; our civil rights are under attack.”

The first citation of honor went to the president of ABC News, Kimberly Godwin, the first black woman to lead a major American broadcast news network.

Kimberly Godwin (m), president of ABC News, received a Citation of Honor.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Godwin was grateful to be in the Helen Marshall Cultural Center, named after the first black female Queens Borough President.

Godwin stressed that journalism mattered and had to be done rightfully and truthfully, covering all communities.

“Think about it: if the civil rights movement happened and there was no one to cover, no cameras, no reporters, no one to talk about it. No one to show what was happening. Did it really happen?” Godwin asked. “If the George Floyd murder happened, and then there was no news to cover that, did it really happen? How did it happen? So, journalism matters. Black history matters as well, and Black history is American history.”

Other award recipients included Regina Bain, executive director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, who received the Arts and Culture Award; the Business Award went to Ellen E. Day; Dr. Crystal Bonds, superintendent of New York City School District 29, was bestowed with the Education Award; and the Music Award went to the Disco Twins.

Ellen E. Day received the Business Award.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
The Disco Twins received the Music Award.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson made a special appearance at the event. Richards introduced “his sister” from the Boogie Down Bronx, joking that, “the Bronx says they created hip hop, but obviously Queens perfected it.”

Gibson reminded the crowd that while celebrating Black History Month was just one month out of the year, Black people celebrated their culture and heritage every day.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards attend the Black History Month Celebration at Queens Borough Hall.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“You cannot talk about American history without recognizing the contributions of black Americans in our society,” the first woman and first Black to hold the office of Bronx borough president said. “And as a first representing the borough of the Bronx, I know I will not be the last because I realize every day, in this moment, that I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams, and all of their hopes and all of their aspirations. I realize that our ancestors died for the right for us to be here today.”

Queens residents attended the annuaal Black History Month celebration at Queens Borough Hall.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Dancers and drummers with the Devore Dance Center concluded the celebration.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann