Sunday, February 11, 2018

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Black Pioneers honored in SUNY Orange Newburgh

Kailyn Bremmer, white dress, receives her award from event organizers

NEWBURGH – Local African-American residents were presented awards for their achievements and for providing a positive example in the City of Newburgh during the “Black Pioneers of Newburgh: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” ceremony at the Newburgh campus of SUNY Orange.

Co-organizer of the Saturday event, Ramona Burton, envisioned showcasing an inter-generational representation of achievement and progress in the local African-American community during Black History Month. The idea came into fruition after meeting with longtime friends and collaborators Malinda Ware and Rosina Tezgeldi.

“I always had a vision of hosting an event where we honor people in our community that most times don’t get honored,” she said. “I also wanted it to be inter-generational; we have our more ‘seasoned’ people, then 30. 40, and 50-somethings, and we also have our young people whom unless you are in their school district, you wouldn’t know what they are doing. It wasn’t difficult to find them, though, because they are all right in front of us.”

Honorees included retired teacher and former city councilman George Bowles, chart-topping 1950s-era singer Lillie Bryant Howard, Howard’s son and Newburgh Enlarged City School District member Phil Howard, Blacc Vanilla Lounge Café owners Jerrod and Melanie Lang, and high school athlete and musician Ameesah Cotton.

Kailyn Bremmer, a student at Excelsior Academy and a community volunteer, was another honoree. She reflected on how the African-American community should emphasize their accomplishments in the current political climate.

“We have a president who doesn’t really have the same outlook as many of us would, and so I think this is a good time to remember our historical accomplishments in society,” she said.

Newly-elected Orange County Legislator Kevindaryan Lujan (D-Newburgh) talked about how his passion for the diversity of the community he grew up in only intensifies in the Trump administration.

“Newburgh is a highly diverse community,” he said. “We need to try and recognize that beauty and diversity, especially with everything going on in Washington. It’s about paying homage to those who came before us, and it’s about the people who are here today in our communities.”

The keynote speaker for this year’s event was Ed Lawson, a former attorney and current community activist. He highlighted the different generations of local African-Americans honored during the event.

“It’s a true celebration of Black History Month when you can see leaders from the past and leaders who are currently engaged extending their arm to young people,” he said. “We even had some young honorees, which really warms your heart to see young people who get it and are not afraid to reach their fullest potential.”


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