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Brooklyn Adult Education Programs Celebrate Black History Month with Annual Educational Arts Event

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On Tuesday, February 6th, Brooklyn Day Hab 1 and 3 hosted an unforgettable celebration in honor of Black History Month. The event, spearheaded by Habilitation Specialist Sonia Mentore, showcased the commitment of ADAPT’s diverse staff and the individuals they support to commemorate the significance of Black history.

This event is part of ADAPT’s broader participation in Black History Month celebrations across its various programs. Each program within the organization has been actively contributing to the recognition and celebration of Black history, and Brooklyn Day Hab 1 and 3 stood out with their exceptional efforts this year.

Mentore opened the event with a speech thanking the community for showing up for this momentous celebration of “African American development, progress, and contribution to society.” After the opening speech, Hab Spec Tracy Robinson performed a soul-stirring rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black National Anthem, and Brooklyn Day Hab participants Nijmah O. and Vernita P. recited works by famed civil rights poet Maya Angelou. Alex Olaniyan, a Habilitation Specialist, also performed “This Little Light of Mine” on the traditional Garifuna drums.

“I am honored to participate in the Annual Black History Month Event at [Lawrence Ave.] in order to show the oneness and diversity in Black Culture and share the universal language of musical expression,” Olaniyan said.

The keynote speech was delivered by Spencer Chiimbwe, the Human Rights Commissioner for Rockland County. Commissioner Chiimbwe, who lived in Canarsie, Brooklyn when he first came to the US, was connected with ADAPT by Carol Shaw, another Habilitation Specialist at the Lawrence Ave. program. His perspective was shaped by having a son with a disability, making him acutely aware of the challenges faced by the disabled community and how those issues intersect with the struggles of the Black community. In his address, he thanked Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) for their important and empathetic work and highlighted the need for continuous recognition of Black history beyond February.

“The best therapy begins in the family,” Chiimbwe said. “The best therapy begins in the community. And we should all have that kind of emotional investment to serve one another.”

After Commissioner Chiimbwe’s speech, members of the Lawrence Ave. staff performed a synchronized dance to “Jerusalema” by Master KG, a South African DJ. The audience was invited to join in, and the stage soon grew into a dance floor. Attendees were offered a spread of food and drinks, and they continued to celebrate as they ate and mingled.

Not only did staff and people supported participate in the event, but they also conducted thorough research on African and African American culture and contributions to the world. Each classroom chose a topic to research, including African food, instruments, textiles, jewelry, and more. They then created elaborate posters and visual aids to display in the lobby of Lawrence Ave.

The event and projects “highlighted the very vital role people of African Descent have played in the development, progress, and contributions to society throughout history and the world,” Sonia Mentore said. “[We] focused on building and galvanizing our neighborhood where 175 Lawrence was able to collaborate with the NYPD 70th Precinct, political leaders, and commissioners within organizations like the Human Rights Commission.”

ADAPT would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed–organizers, performers, attendees–with a special acknowledgment to Spencer Chiimbwe for his inspiring presence. We cannot wait to collaborate with Commissioner Chiimbwe and are excited for him to attend future events. This event was not just a showcase of the incredible talents of the Black community at ADAPT and beyond, but also emphasized the importance of recognizing and celebrating Black history every day.



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