United for Progress celebrates black history

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In an evening of solemnity and joy, the United for Progress Democratic Club welcomed Borough President Helen Marshall to its installation of officers and Black History Month celebration Tuesday.

The club’s founder, Henry McCoy, a Democratic district leader in the 33rd Assembly District, Part B, introduced Marshall to his members and others in attendance at the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans.

Dr. Thomas Monteiro, the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Jamaica Branch, acted as the master of ceremonies.

In the vein of Black History month, Monteiro spoke about the legacy of Mary McLeod Bethune, the daughter of former slaves who founded the National Council of Negro Women and served as the vice president of NAACP.

McCoy thanked Marshall for coming Tuesday, which was also the date of her wedding anniversary.

“She’s always been a friend, but more than that, anyone who comes here to be with us on their anniversary must really like us,” McCoy joked.

Marshall also spoke about Bethune and her motto that “as you climb, you should reach back and pull someone with you.” The borough president said she would never be in the position she has now if people had not pulled her up with them along their way.

She spoke about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the powerful weapon he wielded: love. Remarking on a painting done by a local artist titled “The King is Dead,” Marshall said she and her friends reacted to the civil rights leader’s murder by saying, “The king of love is dead.”

Marshall recalled how immigrants in Queens have told her that they would not be in this country had it not been for King.

“Here in Queens, which is the most ethnically diverse area, probably in the world, it is important for us to all to pull together,” Marshall said. “Let’s take advantage of this multi-national borough we live in.”

After the borough president’s remarks, young women from the Three Generation Performing Arts troupe took the stage in two modern ballet performances.

Based out of director Wanda Feaster’s St. Albans home and a Queens Village church, Three Generations Performing Arts is a free dance program that won a statewide competition last year.

The four-year-old program included 20 dancers ages 11 to 18 and seven girls in the performing troupe. The dancers must maintain an 87 grade average in order to perform with Three Generations.

Additional entertainment was provided by Kiesha Williams of the Voices of Victory Choir, who gave two spirited performances including a song that she said was sung at King’s funeral.

The Black History Month program continued late into Tuesday evening with words of inspiration from Andrew Jackson, the executive director of the Langston Hughes Community Library in Corona, a post originally held by Marshall.

Jackson read two of Hughes’ poems, “Freedom’s Plow” and “Let America be America Again.” He also encouraged people to make use of the library and all the other branches of the Queens Public Library system.

City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) was scheduled to swear-in the members of the Democratic club at the end of the program.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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