In 1976, President Ford officially bestowed the month of February as an opportunity to acknowledge and honor the many black Americans for their oftentimes overlooked accomplishments and achievements. As a contribution to our observance of Black History Month, we had the opportunity to chat with three prominent black members of our South Huntington community to provide a fresh reminder of the importance of heritage, history, and visibility through February and beyond.
Tracey Edwards is currently the NAACP Long Island Regional Director and is the voice on behalf of Long Island as she combats injustices and inequalities by focusing on gaining and sustaining improvement in economic development, education, criminal justice, civic engagement, health, housing, the environment, and especially the empowerment of our youth. “My parents are my inspiration. My Dad, who was the first African American Police Detective in Suffolk County, as well as my mom, who taught me the importance of civic engagement and community service,” Tracey says. Her sentiment on Black History Month is highlighted by the profound time to open the conversation about the past struggles and to also celebrate the many successes. She adds, “It also allows us to focus on all of our advancements and partnerships with other cultures that continue to flourish over time.”
Assistant Principal of Guidance, Mr. Corey Blair, comes from a long line of black educators. His father, Ben Blair, was a Special Education teacher at Walt Whitman High School as well as the supervisor of an alternative school, where he helped students at risk of dropping out. As he continues to live out his father’s legacy as an educator, Blair recalls, “Growing up in a predominantly white school district and being an ‘average’ student, I feel that my school counselor forgot about me. That's why I went into the counseling field. I often pride myself on being a familiar face in the hallways and getting to know all students at Walt Whitman High School.”
Dr. Gayle Steele, Assistant to the Superintendent for Elementary Education, provides a powerful testament to Black History Month. She says reflectively, “I was fortunate to be raised in a loving environment. The elders in my household lived through the Civil Rights Movement and would often share their first hand experiences of their struggles to move this nation forward in regards to equal opportunities for all. I mention that because their influence was the catalyst for my success as an African American woman. I was the first in my family to attend college and encouraged to strive for the best no matter what path I chose.” She continues, “This is also why I feel Black History Month is an important part of our school year. Partly because of my personal experiences, but also because I view it as an opportunity to continue to educate each generation of the value of their history.”
NAACP Long Island Regional Director, Tracey Edwards (left), Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, Dr. Gayle Steele (middle), and Whitman's Assistant Principal for Guidance, Corey Blair (right).