The Riverhead school district's Black History Month celebration will be...

The Riverhead school district's Black History Month celebration will be held Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the high school auditorium. It marks the district's 15th annual celebration of Black History Month. Credit: John Roca

The Riverhead school district is raising the bar on its celebration of Black History Month on Thursday, reaching out to involve more of the community as it highlights a message of equality and inclusiveness, school officials said.

The event, which runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the high school auditorium, not only includes art, food and performances by local students but also dances by the youth and adult ministries of First Baptist Church in Riverhead and the Butterfly Effect Project, a local nonprofit that works to empower girls, said Emily Sanz, district director of special programs and community outreach.

This is the district's 15th annual celebration of Black History Month. Sanz said the district changed from having a single administrator orchestrate it to a broader approach that included the district's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, as well as students, staff, parents and outside groups such as the Riverhead Anti-Bias Task Force Group.

"We worked two months planning the event, partnering with parents and others to create an inclusive space for all members of the community to come together and celebrate the diversity of the community," Sanz said.

The more expansive event comes amid the backdrop of some trying times for the district. In September, two students directed racial slurs at children at a high school football game, and swastikas were found on the desks of two students. In October, the superintendent resigned.

Sanz said planning for the event began prior to those incidents. She said the celebration takes into account that 80% of the district's parents speak Spanish, and the desire to include more of them.

"I believe [the event] will make an impact. When we celebrate one another and each other's history, partnerships are created," Sanz said. 

First Baptist Church Deacon Robert "Bubbie" Brown said it's important for young people to learn about Black history because so much of it is missing from the schools.

Brown said of the event, "There will be a liturgical dance. It's spiritual, a dance of reverence, of praise to the Lord."

Thursday's celebration will highlight "African Americans and the Arts," and the keynote speech will be presented by Joseph Bynum, the director of imaging services for Peconic Bay Medical Center, who has focused on diversity and inclusion.

Dancers at Brentwood High School on Saturday at the HBCU...

Dancers at Brentwood High School on Saturday at the HBCU Homecoming Classic, held in conjunction with Black History Month. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Other public school celebrations of Black History Month include:

  • The Malverne High School Black Studies/World Cultures Club will present The Annual Black History Month Celebration — with music, dance, poetry and a keynote address — at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Malverne High School Performing Arts Center.
  • Wyandanch Memorial High School is hosting a Black History Program at 6 p.m. Thursday for families and community residents, and 12:30 p.m. Friday for students.
  • Valley Stream schools will hold a celebration 7 p.m. Feb. 29 at Memorial Junior High School. It will be a night of poetry, student performances, drumming, stepping and double-dutch. 
  • The Glen Cove school district will celebrate with an event Friday featuring the Rho Kappa Honor Society, performances by the Mixed Chorus and Foundations in Dance students, and a keynote address by Glen Cove High School Principal Allen Hudson III. The event will occur at 12:40 p.m. in the high school auditorium and will be livestreamed by GCTV.

  • Hempstead students will celebrate 2024 USPS Black History stamp honoree Constance Baker Motley, a New Yorker and the first African American woman appointed a federal judge, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the African American Museum of Nassau County, 110 N. Franklin St., Hempstead. The keynote speaker will be Judge Brianna A. Vaughan, the youngest person ever elected judge of the Village of Hempstead. The event also will include performances by Hempstead students.

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