NEWBURGH – The Second Annual Black Pioneers of Newburgh was held at the Newburgh Free Library last Saturday.
The City of Newburgh Human Rights Commission in collaboration with MVP Healthcare sponsored the event along with other local businesses.
The luncheon’s purpose is to honor Black community leaders who have reached a pinnacle of achievement in their professional and personal endeavors, and honor their accomplishments. For the second year, the event was organized by Ramona Burton and Rosina Tezgeldi of MVP Healthcare.
Malinda Ware opened the program by welcoming everyone and then leading them in the Black National Anthem. Church at the Bridge Pastor Jose Vasquez offered the opening prayer and the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy group “Expressions” performed before a Caribbean style lunch was served.
The honorees for the Black Pioneers awards were Larry Arnold, Dr. Clarence Cooper, Arreda Cotton, Anthony Grice, Jr., Robert Moody, Tashae Smith, Sadie Tallie and Kevin White. Ramona Burton and Malinda Ware, at times overcome with emotion, introduced each of the eight honorees by reading a long list of their accomplishments before the honorees were presented with a plaque
This year’s Keynote Speaker was Philip Howard, who spoke about his position on the Newburgh Enlarged City School District and the importance of education. “Historically we have done a horrible job in the area of education of children of color,” Howard said. He made that statement because he feels that anything less than a 100% graduation rate is unacceptable, it means that someone has been left behind, and that is not acceptable to him.
Those children who fall by the side are not productive people in society, Howard said. As a life-long resident of the City of Newburgh he has witnessed this tragedy and has committed himself to making a positive change. This is one reason why he felt compelled to run for a seat on the Board of Education – to be that agent of positive change for all students, with an emphasis on students of color, and change their projectory in life.
Howard gave statistics on graduation rates of students of color to illustrate how they lag behind whites. “This is happening because we have fallen asleep at the wheel,” he said, continuing, “We have failed.”
“Black lives matter, not only when they die,” Howard said. “All lives matter and the two are not mutually exclusive.”
For more than 20 minutes Howard spoke about the power of education, the need for parents and community members to be involved and be an advocate for all children to have the quality education they deserve.
His powerful remarks were met with applause and affirmations that we are, “our brother’s keeper.”