The ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic could not prevent local African American leaders from honoring the “unsung heroes” of Long Island’s black and brown communities and recognizing their contributions on Saturday.
As part of Black History Month, the first-ever “A Salute to Unsung Heroes” virtual event was held via Zoom as black civic leaders, business owners, educators, doctors and others were presented with citations from the Nassau County Legislature for their service in improving the lives for African Americans in their local communities.
Nassau Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), who hosted the event in partnership with Fidelis Care, said in his opening speech that the efforts of people to call in from their homes, workplaces and other locations showed how important it was for Long Island’s Black community to celebrate Black History Month and highlight the contributions of their local “unsung heroes” despite the difficulties which COVID-19 creates.
“Let that be a testament that we will not allow COVID to stand in the way of celebrating African Americans in this country,” Abrahams said.
The program featured music played by Joshua Boucicaut, a ministry and jazz saxophonist, which coincided with racial oppression such as “Wade In the Water” and “Living in the City.” Poetry was also read by Denise Louther Williams titled “Unsung Heroes,” which paid tribute to the event’s honorees.
Alicia A. Ray, owner of website Black-Owned Long Island, was among the honorees for the work done through her website, which serves as a curated guide to promote black-owned Long Island-based businesses and brands. Ray was driven by the need to support and close the equity gap for the Black community when she founded her website in 2017.
With the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement gaining attention last year for their respective nationwide effects on African Americans, Ray said 2020 served as a pivotal year for the Black community.
“Last year was an amazing year. Despite the challenges, it really shined the light on the needs of our community,” said Ray, who thanked the Black community for their support.
Antonio Kelley, founder of PichaDis Media, a visual media company that highlights stories of the Black community, was also recognized for his work at the event. Kelley said his passion was to shed a positive light on what African Americans do for each other in a world where he felt media coverage of his community was normally negative.
“When it comes to telling our stories, we have to tell our own stories. I’m just happy to be in the company of such great people,” Kelley told the attendees during his acceptance speech. “I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to celebrate my brothers and my sisters.”
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