After Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath threatened to cancel their Black History Month celebration, Nassau County Section of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. members Annie Reyes and Evelyn Jackson decided they would take charge and bring the vital program to the community.
“Children need to know where they came from so they can go forth,” Reyes, a Lawrence resident, said. “We have a very rich culture that involves everyone and we want to encourage fruitfulness. It was too important of a program to let go.”
The National Council of Negro Women, Inc. was founded in 1935 as a non-for-profit organization to provide support through education, economics, health, and social services to women, children and their families.
Reyes joined the Nassau County Section in 1989 because she thought there was a need in the community to embrace children and minorities. “I saw what the organization’s founding members had done over the years,” she said. “And a lot of work still needed to be done.”
Seeking to establish a commitment to families in the community was what motivated Jackson, an Inwood resident, to join in 2006. “It gave me an outlet to say I’m here as a leader and I’m willing to get my hands dirty to make a difference,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that people in need knew I was available and I was affected by what they’re affected by because I live in the community too.”
Jackson and Reyes approached Five Towns Community Center Executive Director Bertha Pruitt to see if they could host the Black History Month program there. “Black History Month is a special time to pause, remember and educate, particularly young people, generation after generation, of the countless contributions and achievements of African American men and women throughout history,” Pruitt said. “The community center serves a very diverse community and is proud to host another year’s celebration of African American heritage.”
The organization’s Black History Month celebration began in the 1970s as a weeklong program that included a game night, film, guest speakers and storytelling. This year’s program will be held on Feb. 21 and will include performances by the Five Towns Community Center Youth Organizers, Lawrence High School African American Club, the Inwood-based Sankofa drummers and a guest speaker.
Jackson hopes the celebration of Black History motivates the younger generation to find someone who will inspire their future dreams. “They have to have someone to clutch onto and relate to,” she said. “The President, First Lady and global leaders like Nelson Mandela are making the biggest changes in society; it’s not always the athletes and entertainers.”
“With programs like this,” Reyes added, “it might cause a spark in children and keep their momentum going.”
The Black History Month celebration will be held on Feb. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Five Towns Community Center at 270 Lawrence Ave. in Lawrence.