Huntington’s 31st Annual Black History Month Program Will Highlight Contributions by Women of Color

The Town of Huntington will mark its 31st annual Black History Month celebration February 15, 2018 by focusing on achievements and contributions women of color have made to scientific research, social service agencies, government and business.

The program will give special recognition to Huntington resident Margaret Breland, who spent nearly two decades as the director of the Huntington Head Start program, beginning in 1975, establishing a number of health initiatives designed to better the lives of Head Start families and the community at large. Her passion for child advocacy and community involvement led her to become a board member, committee member, or ground worker for numerous organizations throughout Suffolk County. For more than 40 years, she has volunteered at the Huntington Food Pantry in various capacities, and currently serves as its vice president.

The program will also recognize Henrietta Lacks, a Maryland resident whose cancer cells are the source of one of the most important cell lines in medical research. Lacks was the unwitting source of these cells, taken form a tumor biopsied during treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD, in 1951, shortly before her death. Researchers discovered that the cells were unique in that they reproduced at a high rate and could be kept alive long enough to allow more in-depth examination. The cells were used to help develop the polio vaccine, among other breakthroughs, and were the first human cells to be successfully cloned. Lacks had not given permission to harvest her cells; at the time, permission was not required. In the 1980s, after the contribution became known to the Lacks family, the situation became a leading case on the question of privacy. The significance of Lack’s cells’ contributions to medical science will be the subject of a special talk by Dr. David Spector, director of research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. 

The keynote address will be delivered by Dix Hills resident Vanessa Braxton. An engineer by training, she had a 20-year career in the field of construction management and civil engineering, where she managed construction and engineering contracts worth over $350 million. More recently, however, she has become known as a successful entrepreneur as the founder, president and chief executive officer of Black Momma Vodka/Black Momma Tea and Café. She is the first African-American woman distiller and master blender and operator of a nationally-distributed vodka in the United States and the only black-owned tea and beverage manufacturing facility. She has mentored and presented entrepreneurship seminars to business owners throughout the United States, presented innovative programs about seeking domestic and international government contracts and implemented strategic developmental task to start and/or expand economic empowerment.

“Each year, the Town’s Black History Month program highlights the achievements, both current and historical, of persons of color, and this year is certainly no exception as it focuses on timely topics and notable contributions by women,” Huntington Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci said. “I invite everyone to join us for what should be an informative and entertaining evening.”

The program will begin at 7 p.m. at the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School, 152 Lowndes Avenue, Huntington Station. It will also feature selections performed by the Voices of Huntington Choir, Leon Jameson and Michelle Wilson.

A collation will follow the program. The public is invited to attend; admission is free, For further information, contact Kevin Thorbourne, Director of Minority Affairs, at 631-351-2842, or

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