Joysetta Pearse, who is African-American, is looking forward to spending a couple of nights enjoying some Italian music and German dancing.
“We all know about the great Italian singers that come out of Italy,” Pearse says. “And there’s so much joy in German dancing.”
Pearse, of Freeport, is making plans to attend the Italian and German events that will be part of this summer's International Nights at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, the annual free program sponsored by the Nassau County Parks Department. Pearse says it is great for bringing all people together to share cultures and have some fun.
And Pearse is excited about Italian American Night and German American Night, despite the fact that she’s part of a group preparing the festivities for African American Night as part of the series' lineup.
“They’re all outstanding programs,” Pearse says. “I love the Chinese groups that do the dances and have those glorious costumes, and I love the way they move.” She adds, “It’s just great seeing and hearing something different and experiencing other people’s cultures.”
Gina Faustin, a resident of Cambria Heights in Queens who is coordinating Creole American Night along with Freeport resident Elsie Saint Louis, agrees.
“There are quite large Creole-speaking communities in Freeport, Baldwin, Hempstead, Elmont, Valley Stream, and Creole-speaking communities in areas like West Babylon and Central Islip in Suffolk — that’s one of the reasons we decided to promote this event,” Faustin says.
Pearse, who is executive director of the African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead, says the African American Night is considered one of the originals and dates back about 25 years. “A lot of other groups have been added since then,” she says.
African American Night was started by a group that encouraged black entrepreneurship, Pearse explains, but she says the event is now organized by the African Atlantic Genealogical Society based in Freeport, which she says, “helps create family trees.”
Pearse said a message about the future of African American young people — not the past — will be addressed as part of African American Night. She said there are concerns about keeping black children on the right path.
African-Americans who have made positive contributions to society will be honored with citations as part of the night’s theme, “Making Change.”
“We’ll be teaching these young people about the positive side of their history,” Pearse says.
Music will include live favorites from the past and the present and Pearse encouraged anyone attending to bring along a lawn chair, a blanket and a picnic basket. She noted there will be a concession stand and restaurant on the grounds but there won’t be African-American fare sold as part of the event.
A TASTE OF HAITIAN FARE
It’ll be different at the Creole American Night, Faustin says. Look for a great variety of their culture’s cuisine. A Haitian food vendor will have for sale “very yummy food” including tassot (goat), griot (fried pork), plantains and Creole chicken, Faustin says.
Live Creole music will also liven up the night. Faustin says her Creole family has lived in Huntington since the early 1950s and that Creole American Night gives Creoles a chance to bond. She has been organizing the event with Saint Louis for the past six years.
“It gives the Creole community a sense of pride and connection but it’s for everyone,” Faustin says. “If you’re a music lover you just have to show up, and if you’re a food enthusiast the food will be great.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran says she’s a fan of the annual summer series. “I love these events,” Curran says. “The county has been holding them for 30 years. They highlight the fabulous and diverse population in the county.”
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. at Eisenhower Park's Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre in East Meadow. Parking fields 6/6a.
INFO 516-572-0355 (weather updates)
June 3: Indian American Night
June 10: Israeli American Night
June 23: South Asian American Night
June 25: Italian American Night
July 8: International Festival featuring music of Poland and Greece
July 9: German American Night
July 15: African American Night
July 29: Creole American Night
Aug. 5: Chinese American Night
Aug. 6: Irish American Night
Aug. 11: Latino American Night
Aug. 12: Pakistani American Night
Aug. 19: Punjabi American Night
Aug. 26: Korean American Night
Sept. 1: Bangladeshi American Night