Monday, February 27, 2006

Black History Month is celebrated with photo retrospective

Late Liberian boy, 6, is recognized in another event staged on Island

By Maura Yates

In a celebration of Black History Month yesterday at Full Gospel Tabernacle in West Brighton, photographer June Gallop offered a unique view of history through architecture.

"There are certain historical figures everyone knows about," Ms. Gallop said. "Everyone knows Harriet Tubman, but you haven't seen the house she lived in."

The Grymes Hill photographer's collection, entitled "Living the Legacy: A Photographic Retrospective on African-American History," included color photos of the homes in which prominent African-Americans, like Ms. Tubman, and Madame C.J. Walker, once lived in, to paint a clearer picture of their lives.

One photograph showed the exterior and interior of the Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y., mansion of Madame Walker, who became a millionaire from the sale of hair care products she created.

To demonstrate the mindset of the time, "When she started having the house built, they thought she was the maid or something," Ms. Gallop said.

One photo of a steel-and-glass office building at the corner of Wall and Water streets in Lower Manhattan serves as a reminder of the area's past as a slave market, Ms. Gallop said.

While photos helped tell the story in West Brighton, a congregation in Stapleton observed Black History Month with a colorful celebration of music and dance.

The Second Chance Gospel Music Convention, held in Christ Assembly Lutheran Church, incorporated an afternoon of praise, education, and a special tribute to a force of cohesion in the community that came in a small package -- the late Boimah Cooper.

The 6-year-old Liberian boy died Feb. 17, of complications following a spinal surgery. He had been living on Staten Island for the past several months in the care of Patricia Lockhart, an Advance Woman of Achievement.

Coming from the poverty of his native country, "he lived a little better while he was here," said mistress of ceremonies and program director for Second Chance, Dora Berksteiner.

Black History Month signifies a "retrospective period in the year to look back where we came from, and where we are presently, and see the progress we've made," said Emmanuel Wheagar, president and CEO of Second Chance. But Ms. Berksteiner said the contributions of blacks should be celebrated every day of the year. "Black people have contributed so much to society as a whole," she said. The goal of Black History Month is "being able to celebrate each other, and lift each other up to be able to say, 'Yeah, we are somebody. And we're good.'" The Richmond County Orchestra celebrated Black History with a concert in the Music Hall at Snug Harbor Cultural Center. The event doubled as a tribute to the late Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The concert was adapted from the African Congolese Mass, Missa Luba. The musical selections emphasized drums, and a marimba. Celebrations like yesterday's are a reminder, said Evangelist Mae Frazier, that "we as a people, a Black people, coming back from slave times, are able to be free now, voice our opinions, and go ahead with our future. It just makes you feel good to know you can go forth."

Maura Yates is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at