It is customary for the Borough President’s Office to honor community leaders at its annual Black History Month celebration, and this year the event will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25.
But BP Donovan Richards admitted this year, his first, is going to be somewhat different for him.
“It’s done every year, and I’ve attended some held by Melinda Katz in the past,” Richards said Wednesday morning. “But as the first black man to hold the office, remembering people whose shoulders I’m standing on, like Helen Marshall, who helped make this possible, this one’s a little more special.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James will be the keynote speaker. The event will be streamed live at queensbp.org and simulcast on Queens Public Television.
Those wishing to see the live stream of the ceremony are asked to RSVP by Feb. 23 at queensbp.org/rsvp.
This year’s honoree for community service is Keith Little, president and CEO of SCO Family Services, an agency that offers residential and community-based programs in child welfare, early childhood and youth development, family support, special needs and homeless services.
The Arts & Culture Award will be bestowed on Jolander Headley, the founder, president and CEO of the Joe’s Academy of Music schools in St. Albans and Brooklyn.
Adjoa Esinam Gzifa, who recently retired as director of the Workforce Education Center in the Division of Adult and Continuing Education at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, will be the recipient of the Civic Award.
Christopher Roker, who serves as chief executive officer at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan and is chief growth officer at the agency, will receive the Business Award. NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public healthcare system in the country.
Kelly Johnson, principal of the Baccalaureate School for Global Education in Astoria, will receive the Education Award.
All recipients were selected by the borough’s African-American Heritage Committee.
“We wanted to honor individuals who are out in our community making a difference in the lives of people in many of our underserved neighborhoods in Queens,” Richards said. “These are people who are out there not looking for awards.”
Six students also will be awarded $1,000 college scholarships.
They include Fatimah Coppin of Benjamin J. Cardozo High School in Bayside; Rofeeah Ayeni of Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical High School in Jamaica; Olivia Coward of Scholar’s Academy in Rockaway Park; Marwa Said of Forest Hills High School; Ditya Khan of Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School in Hillcrest; and Ivilez Hernandez of Forest Hills High School.
The borough president believes the scholarships take on an added significance in the time of Covid-19, when so much of students’ educational experience has been interrupted, and when many of them may not have been able to get or keep jobs to help pay their tuition.
“We hope this encourages people to continue their schooling,” Richards said, citing the difference a college education makes in shrinking the wealth gap.
There also will be three speakers offering presentations under the heading of “The Black Agenda.”
Melva Miller, a former deputy borough president, will speak on the subject of economic wealth and development. Roslin Spigner will discuss political engagement. Bryan White’s talk is titled “The Black Family.”
Sponsors of the event include Atled, Inc.;Community Mediation Services; Con Edison; The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Queens Chapter; the Greater Jamaica Development Corp; the Jamaica YMCA; Queens Public Television; and Resorts World Casino New York City.