Assemblyman Ramos: Celebrating Black History Month by Honoring African-American Leaders

March 5, 2012
Assemblyman Ramos presents awards to African American community leaders in recognition of Black History Month [Pictured left to right: Keith Allison, Marvin Smith, Mary Reid, Gail Kirkham, Reverend Roderick Pearson and Dr. Francis L. Brisbane].
Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-Central Islip) hosted an event to celebrate Black History Month on Friday, March 2, at the Brentwood Public Library in Brentwood. Two deceased African-American community leaders from Long Island were honored for their local and national contributions, along with six current African-American community leaders from Central Islip.

“This month is a time to celebrate the great accomplishments African-Americans have contributed to our country,” said Assemblyman Ramos. “African-Americans helped shape every aspect of our culture, from music to politics to literature. Today, we celebrated with a local focus. It was a true honor.”

Those honorees no longer living were John Coltrane of Dix Hills and Jupiter Hammon. Coltrane was a leading pioneer of American jazz saxophone and Hammon was the first African-American to be published in the United States when his poems appeared in print in 1760.

“These visionaries paved the way for today’s African-Americans to make a difference in our communities,” said Assemblyman Ramos. “It was moving to honor their accomplishments today.”

Living honorees were Keith Allison, Dr. Francis L. Brisbane, Marcia Spector, Pastor Roderick A. Pearson, Marvin Smith, Mary Reid and Gail Kirkham.

Keith Allison is the president of the Brentwood Youth Activities, a local program that provides sports and education programs for the youth in Suffolk County. He is also a member of the Islip Town Branch of the NAACP, serves as a youth director at Faith Alive Ministries in Central Islip and has participated in the March for Peace through Central Islip and Brentwood, and the “Don’t Walk By” campaign, which provides assistance to the homeless.

Dr. Brisbane is the Dean and Professor of the School of Social Welfare at SUNY Stony Brook. Her life’s work includes studying and addressing health, mental health, substance abuse, AIDS, violence and education across cultural lines.

Pastor Roderick A. Pearson is the founder and organizer of St. Mark Remnant Ministries and is the president of the Islip Town Branch of the NAACP. He serves on several boards, all of which have a general focus of bettering the communities they serve. He has also won numerous awards for his community service.

Marvin Smith is also a member of the Islip Town Branch NAACP. He is politically active, has been honored by President George H. W. Bush as one of the volunteers in Service to America and works with numerous organizations in Suffolk County geared toward bettering the lives of both youths and adults in the region.

Mary Reid is a community activist who currently participates or has previously participated in numerous organizations, including the Brentwood Booster Club, Brentwood School Board, Brentwood Public Library and the Islip Town Branch NAACP. Among other community activities, she continues to coordinate neighborhood watch activities and assist her church’s food pantry.

Gail Kirkhan is a 33-year resident of Brentwood. She is currently a trustee of the Brentwood Public Library and Brentwood Public School District. She has won many awards for her advocacy, including a trip to Gambia. She has devoted much of her time since then teaching the students of Brentwood about Africa through reading stories to them and sharing African artifacts with them. She is currently the secretary of the Islip Town Branch NAACP chapter and is on the board of trustees at her church, Washington Temple Church of God in Christ of Long Island.

“Remembering and honoring these leaders, both past and present, in such a meaningful and timely way is important for our entire community,” said Assemblyman Ramos. “Events like this can potentially inspire others to go out and make positive changes in our community.”