Planning Begins for 400th Commemoration of African American History

Recently we participated in a discussion about how JHC and other cultural, educational, civic and religious institutions can raise greater awareness about the contributions African Americans have made in Westchester over the last 400 years, since the first enslaved men, women and children were brought to the English colonies in 1619. The Jay Heritage Center has been a proud member of the African American Heritage Trail since 2004. Over the last 15 years, we have preserved and shared compelling and complex stories about our American Mosaic, past and present.

So it was a privilege to be at the Michaelian Building in White Plains this past Monday to help plan events for this coming year and beyond that celebrate the history and contributions of African Americans in Westchester County over the last 4 centuries. An exploratory group led by Judith Beville, Greenburgh Town Clerk and member of the African American Advisory Board brainstormed about ways that historical societies, educational and religious institutions, cultural organizations and libraries can collaborate with municipalities to offer programs that inform and educate the public. Suggestions included creating a new comprehensive city by city heritage African American heritage history booklet; raising increased awareness about Juneteenth and adding new sites like the Bush Lyon Slave Quarters to the African American Heritage Trail.

Among those present were Judith Watson, Executive Director of the Greenburgh Health Center; Reginald Bush of Ossining; Subomi Macaulay of the Black Women’s Political Caucus; Mayor Andre Rainey and La Fern Joseph representing Peekskill; Yvonne Bert from the Westchester County Press and Ossining; Teddy Lee of White Plains; Theresa Murphy an adjunct lecturer in African American Studies at Lehman; Robinette Robinson from Mamaroneck; Dave Thomas and Carol Ubosi (on conference line) representing the African Cemetery, Town of Rye; Suzanne Clary, President of he Jay Heritage Center in Rye; Frank Williams from the White Plains Youth Bureau; Patrick Raferty from Westchester County Historical Society; Tom Kissner, Port Chester, NAACP; Peter Feinman, IHARE; and Kress Fellow Christian Stegall, from the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers. The committee is in formation.

We look forward to collaborating with others over the next year and well beyond to support the initiatives embodied in the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act.

More developments to come!