2003-03-08 / Community

NAACP Celebrates Black History Month

By Brian Magoolaghan


A varied group of more than one hundred people gathered to celebrate Black history last Friday Feb. 28.

The event was held at the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club Far Rockaway Clubhouse, and featured performances, food and an awards ceremony.

After a brief welcome from Far Rockaway National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Ed Williams, Shalynn Pannell sang the first verse of James Weldon Johnson’s "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the black national anthem. Pannell’s voice could, at first, barely be heard in the noisy gymnasium, but she adjusted her volume, and compelled others to sing along. As she finished, she pivoted on one foot, and smiling, covered her face with a pink handkerchief she held in her hand.

Shareece Smith, 19, from Rockaway, was the next to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner." A lifelong singer, Smith credits her father and sister as the people who helped her cultivate her voice, and her five brothers who made her keep in shape. The tank-top she wore revealed her strong arms, but stronger was her voice. The crowd rewarded her with boisterous applause.

Also performing "A Room Full of Sisters" was the Madison Performing Arts group. About 10 girls took to the small stage at the end of the gym. None of them spoke, but as a woman off stage read the piece, they moved with attitude and grace, particularly when the woman read the words "vanilla, cinnamon, and dark chocolate brown."

About 20 younger boys and girls, part of the Explorers and Academy groups, performed "Being African American." The group, each possessing different confidence levels and projection abilities, spoke of the different aspects of belonging to their race.

"He Had a Dream" was performed by four girls belonging to the Madison Melodies, and the Explorers performed "Harmony and Peace" wearing decorative sashes.

Returning to the stage, having earlier performed with the Madison Performing Arts, were Jasmyne Johnson, 13, and her cousin Shauntee Dunn, 15, both Far Rockaway residents. The girls performed "Old Time Gospel" wearing gold and white dance outfits, and appeared to capture the crowd. They also danced to "Shackles" wearing the most elaborately designed outfits of the evening. They were light and dark gray, with maroon, and they had full-length-skirt-like pieces of material anchored at the girl’s waists.

"Dancing brings out the energy and the inner me," Dunn said.

Poet Kahlil Almustafa, a 25-year-old Hunter College sophomore also showcased his talent. Almustafa delivered two original pieces with projection, conviction and great eye contact. His arms moved, his hands gestured, and his knees bent as he spoke. He leaned towards the crowd, and bounced on the balls of his feet, as his heels lifted from the floor.

About half way through the evening plates of fried chicken, yellow rice, corn bread, roast beef, string beans, turkey, macaroni and cheese, and carrots began to circulate. Those in attendance, who ate, appeared to enjoy the food.

The NAACP honored Lovette Glascow, George Roundtree, Will Hawkins, and Helen Rausnitz with plaques. The late Evelyn A. Mauss who, according to Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Co-Chair Joan Flynn, worked tirelessly for the National Resources Defense Counsel until she died in Jan. at the age of 87, was also honored. Mauss’ husband accepted on her behalf.

At the end of the evening Williams thanked Boys & Girls Club Program Director DeShawn Mason for his hard work, and urged those in attendance to maintain their interest in the NAACP and the community.

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