“Harriet, Rosa and Me” Excites Crowd at Town’s 30th Annual Celebration
Play Gets Rousing Reception at Black History Night
The history-based play “Harriet, Rosa and Me” received a rousing reception at its world premiere February 16 2017, performed as part of the Town of Huntington’s 30th annual Black History program.
Written and produced by Grammy and Emmy-award winning director J.D. Lawrence, the musical play tells the story of a high school student named Hope who skips school to avoid attending her Black History class, only to encounter a woman named Rosa (as in Parks) at a bus stop and a woman named Harriet (as in Tubman) at a subway station. Together, they show Hope the importance studying Black History and highlight some of the women of color who have left indelible stamps on history, ranging from an Egyptian pharaoh to women who have run for U.S. president.
“How many of you learned something here?” Lawrence asked the audience of more than 400 people at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. When almost all of the audience raised their hands, Lawrence responded, “It is 2017, we have to do better….This is everybody’s history. It is not just Black History. It is American History.”
The program included songs performed by the Voices of Huntington choir, an invocation by Suffolk County Legis. Dr. William Spencer, the benediction by Pastor Gloria Mixon of Mount Calvary Holy Church and remarks by Town Council Members Mark Cuthbertson, Eugene Cook and Tracey A. Edwards. Supervisor Frank P. Petrone and Councilwoman Susan A. Berland were unable to attend.
“We live in interesting times…that echo what happened 50 and 60 years ago during the Civil Rights Era,” Councilman Cuthbertson said in his remarks. “We are blessed and lucky in this country because we confront these interesting times in a much easier way because of all the work that has been done.” He added, “We must keep hope alive, because the stakes are too high….There is no way we can give up this fight, no matter how hopeless it may seem…if we have hope, and we don’t give up, we will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King and Congressman John Lewis. Having hope and persevering means that the Black American story will not be written until some more difficult chapters are complete. It means not stopping until a final American story is written, where this country truly lives up to the promise articulated in its founding document, the Declaration of Independence…that it is self-evident that all men and women are created equal.”
Councilman Cook noted the 30th anniversary of the program. “It’s a great celebration,” he said. “I’ve been here for a number of years, and I enjoy it every year. Everybody gets together and we enjoy the evening. We can all work together to make things better — it has to be hand in hand together.”
Councilwoman Edwards said, “It is important for us to celebrate, but also to remember. It is very fitting that tonight, on our 30th anniversary, we honor Betty Miller, who started the Black History Month, and fitting that Les Payne, our champion, our journalist, right here from Huntington, is being recognized here tonight.”
In a public career spanning 40 years, Miller served as the Town’s director of minority affairs. She was also honored for her roles in many community organizations, including the Huntington Branch of the NAACP for which she is a past president. She has also served on the boards of Long Island Cares, the Huntington Arts Council, the Family Service League, the Huntington Community Food Council and the National Council of Negro Women.
“This is my community, and I just want to say, I love everybody,” Miller said in accepting a proclamation from the Town Board noting her achievements. “I am grateful to all the citizens of Huntington who I have had the pleasure of assisting. This award has given me a great sense of accomplishment and a renewed dedication to continue down the path I have chosen to follow.”
Payne, a longtime Greenlawn resident, is a former editor, reporter and columnist at Newsday who directed coverage that won every major journalism award, including six Pulizter Prizes. He is a founder and past president of the National Association of Black Journalists and the founder of The Trotter Group, a national organization of African-American writers of newspaper commentary.
“This is my home. This is where I live. We raised our family here,” Payne said in his remarks. I am a big fan of the Town of Huntington. Its magnets have always appealed to me – the Heckscher Museum, Book Review, the Cinema Arts Center an IMAC. We love this place, and we live here, and I expect after that to be here.”
Special thanks were given to Huntington Toyota, the sponsor of the evening.