NEWBURGH – Three years ago Ramona Burton, Malinda Ware and Rosina Tezgeldi had a vision for February and the City of Newburgh.
“We started discussing what was happening for Black History Month, and we wanted to honor people who didn’t always get honored,” said Burton, the founder of Black Pioneers, an organization dedicated to the professional, social and economic growth of black and brown people of all ages. “We always felt it important that we honor those people in some way; we wanted it to be intergenerational and grassroots, and pull all that together.”
The results of their diligent efforts to salute those “unsung heroes” could be seen Saturday, inside Orange County Community College’s Newburgh Extension at the Black Pioneers of Newburgh’s “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” Luncheon event, sponsored by MVP HealthCare.
Recently awarded the DBA (Doing Business As) namesake, the Black Pioneers seek to “foster awareness, empowerment, and motivation in black and brown people of all ages to ascent in personal and collective prominence.” The nine selected honorees all embodied those ideals and much more.
The youngest, Newburgh Free Academy North Campus Sophomore, Ameesah Cotten, was nominated by her aunt, a recipient of the honor last year. The news of her selection brought immediate joy.
“I was really surprised; in a way it’s weird being nominated for things I just do naturally, like excelling in school and doing a lot of activities,” said Cotten. “I never expected to be recognized, but I’m so happy I was; plus, it’s extra special that it’s for Black History Month, as it’s part of my heritage, something I’m proud of.”
Cotten, like the other recipients, was also recognized for her leadership skills, something that Keynote Speaker, Ed Lawson, focused his words upon during his talk. Outlining the different characteristics necessary in a leader, such as; being a servant and debtor, a creator of reality and space, and one full of courage. Mr. Lawson further touched upon the unique and critical ideals each of the recipients possessed.
“You are pioneers willing to step out to the unknown; it’s one of the most difficult tasks we face, and for that you go unsung and unheralded,” Lawson addressed the nine honorees. “It’s so important that people see others’ successes, as they cannot be what they cannot see.”
Another one of the honorees, George Bowles, a long-time physical education teacher in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District was also extremely touched by his selection as well as the day’s events.
“It was a pleasure today to be honored at this event,” said Bowles or “Coach” as he is lovingly referred to by so many who know him. “I just want to continue working with the youth here in Newburgh because I love teaching and working with children to be a part of the beginning of their young lives and be able to help them grow into good men and women in this world.”
In addition to Cotten and Bowles, other people who were recognized by the Black Pioneers included; Gabrielle Burton Hill, Phillip Howard, Jerrod and Melanie Lang, Reverend Nelson McAllister, Kailyn Bremmer and Lillie Bryant Howard. They are people who were each recognized for that extra something special they have within, leading them to break barriers, help others, and serve as shining inspirations to all they encounter.
“Most people are good with being good; very few of us strive to be great, as that involves difficulties and challenges,” affirmed Lawson. “”Don’t be afraid to be great; that is the message our honorees are sending to us, and what we must send to our children.”