The History And Importance Of Black History Month



February is Black History Month, so the PRESS of Southeast Queens, Queens Tribune and Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology will host an awards breakfast honoring “Ambassadors For Change” in Jamaica on Feb. 22.

Black History Month—which celebrates the achievements of African Americans in the United States—was first officially celebrated in 1970. However, its precursor—Negro History Week—was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and celebrated during the second week of February.


Black educators at Kent State University first proposed the idea for Black History Month in 1969, but it wasn’t until a year later when the first celebration took place at the school. By 1976, Black History Month was being celebrated across the country and, during that year’s Bicentennial, President Gerald Ford recognized it.

Queens—which is often cited as the most diverse county in the world—is celebrating the month with a variety of events at such borough institutions as York College, Resorts World Casino and several of Queens’ parks.

New York City—and Queens especially—has a long history of African American achievement. In politics, Shirley Chisholm, who was born in Brooklyn, became the first black woman elected to congress when she became the U.S. representative for New York’s 12th District in 1968. Four years later, she became the first African American—and woman—to run for a major party’s nomination.

In Queens, Helen Marshall—who was born in the Bronx and then moved to Corona—became the first African American to hold the office of Queens borough president. Prior to holding that office, she served in the state Assembly and City Council.

And Archie Spigner—who is known as the “Dean of Southeast Queens”—was the first African American to serve on the City Council after being elected in 1974. He spent three decades in the council and eventually became deputy majority leader.

Elected officials from Southeast Queens who are currently serving the borough include U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica); state Sens. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park); state Assembly members Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens), Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway), Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica) and Clyde Vanel (D- Queens Village); and City Council members Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton).

The borough was the birthplace of numerous African American entertainers, especially iconic hip hop artists—such as Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest, 50 Cent, Mobb Deep, Onyx, Nas, Nicki Minaj and Ja Rule.

Professional athletes who were either born in the borough or lived there include legendary basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rafer Alston and Metta World Peace, while Olympic athlete Bob Beamon originally hails from Southeast Queens.

Seventeen years ago, the PRESS of Southeast Queens launched in the community with the goal of giving voice to a community that had long been overlooked. The paper covers all of the issues facing Southeast Queens, including politics, crime, the arts, community news, schools, profiles of community leaders and residents and religion. Each week, the paper provides readers with in-depth news coverage, commentary from local leaders and information on events.

On Feb. 22, the PRESS of Southeast Queens and Queens Tribune will host their annual Black History Month 2018 Awards Breakfast at the Greater Allen AME Church of New York, located at 110-31 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The paper will honor five individuals who have dedicated their lives to improving the quality of life for residents in Southeast Queens. This year’s honorees work in the NYPD, healthcare, nonprofits, unions and the airline industry.

Special guest speakers during the event will include James O’Neill, the city Police Department’s commissioner, and Darryl Towns, the regional director of government affairs for American Airlines.

The honorees include Towns; Assistant Chief Juanita Holmes, the commanding officer for Patrol Borough Queens North; Roger Milliner, the deputy executive director of marketing for MetroPlus; Diane Gonzalez, the CEO of J-CAP (Just Caring About People); and Tanya Cunningham, an executive board member for Local Union 3, IBEW.

The event’s theme is “Ambassadors for Change.” The event is cosponsored by Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology, American Airlines, MetroPlus Health Plan, AgeWell New York, Parker Jewish Institute, Local Union 3, IBEW, Con Edison and Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Shanie Persaud by calling 718-357-7400, ext. 133, or emailing

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