By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Omari Shakur proudly glanced up at the tri-color flag of three equal horizontal bands of red, black and green that had just been hoisted and was flapping in the wind, overlooking the nearby Hudson River and was overcome with emotion.
“This right here represents us coming together, rising up all as one,” said Shakur, a City of Newburgh Councilman as he imbibed the symbolic moment of the Pan-African Flag being hoisted at Broadway Park. “It really shows how we can and are going to become the Queen of the Hudson again.”
Shakur, who pointed out that the Pan-African Flag raising was one of the chief priorities on his agenda when he entered his local office position, stressed the significance of its visibility along with all of its symbolic reminders which run deep and continue to play a key role in current day events. Those reminders and applicability became even more apparent last Wednesday, February 1, a day that marked the beginning of Black History Month.
To welcome in that special month, while paying tribute to the vital role of Black and African-Americans in shaping and uplifting our country, a group of people, including several local political dignitaries, gathered at the Park site at the corner of Broadway and Colden Street, watching the Pan-American Flag- first adopted by Marcus Garvey’s UNIA-ACL organization in 1920 to represent the people of the African Diaspora- take its spot next to the American and POW ones. The three blew in the wind in unison as each of the attendees admired the image.
“We are gathered here today on this important, symbolic and auspicious occasion as a community to not forget the struggles of African-American people as well as everything they have achieved,” said City of Newburgh Mayor, Torrance Harvey. “This flag-raising also shows how we in Newburgh can come together and overcome.”
That prevailing theme which Black History Month carries was also touched upon by another person in attendance, Ray Harvey, President of the NAACP, Newburgh-Highland Falls Chapter.
“This event is very important to the City of Newburgh stakeholders-residents, as it shows we are in-tune with the folks who live here, especially with everything going on now on a national level, such as the incident in Memphis and schools banning books and not teaching the truth,” said Harvey. “I’m glad the City is participating in this today and is paying attention to what the people are saying; we have to respect one another and acceptance of and respect for different cultures should permeate here and everywhere.”
Several other speakers contributed words during the small and brief but powerful gathering. Their comments emphasized the importance of this month not only being on the recognition of the injustices dealt to Blacks and the African-American communities, but so too on their priceless, authentic and dynamic contributions to society.
“Black history is American history,” said Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson. “African-Americans have always played a key role in our country, and those contributions are intertwined and always evolving and deserve to be recognized.”