Cultural event celebrates West Haven’s black heritage

Written by Michael P. Walsh

WEST HAVEN, CT — The city honored the inspiring legacy of African Americans and the pioneering contributions they made to shaping America’s promise and greatness at the 26th annual Black Heritage Celebration on Wednesday.

During the City Hall cultural event in honor of Black History Month, the West Haven Black Heritage Committee cited West Haven High School juniors Randy Alston and Ayannah Obas for their leadership and honored Reverend E. Carl Howard as African-American Citizen of the Year.

Howard, the senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Haven, received a citation from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi for personifying “the best of West Haven.” He was joined on stage by his wife of 32 years, Belinda Howard.

Reading the quote, Rossi said, “Your bold spirit and inspiring good works have made West Haven a better place, and the people of our town and your congregation are grateful for your spiritual leadership and support.”

Howard is the first African-American pastor in the First Church’s 302-year history. Previously, he served as pastor of church supply and bridge.

He graduated from Yale Divinity School and earned several master’s degrees from Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary.

Howard was born and raised in Stamford and has lived in West Haven for over three decades.

Howard also received a citation at the General Assembly from West Haven Democratic Representatives Dorinda Borer and Treneé McGee and West Haven Republican Representative Charles J. Ferraro on behalf of the city’s delegation.

The hour-plus program, held in the Harriet C. North Community Hall, included an awards presentation by Rossi and committee chairman Steven R. Mullins, the master of ceremonies.

A powerful rendition of the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was sung by Stephanie Townsend, and opening and closing prayers were given by committee member Christopher M. Suggs, who sits on the Board of Police Commissioners.

The ceremony also included a spirited rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by the assembled dignitaries, family, friends and residents.

Alston and Obas, who excel in academics and sports, received a certificate of achievement from the Black Heritage Committee and a $100 Barnes & Noble gift card from Mullins on behalf of the committee.

Alston is a point guard for the West Haven High basketball team and a video game enthusiast. Obas is a member of the school’s indoor and outdoor track teams, is president of the Junior Class Council, and a member of student government.

The program featured remarks from Rossi and the Reverend Denya C. McGee, the keynote speaker, as well as remarks from Vertical Church pastor Ken Vance and retired House of Jacob Church pastor Harold Golston praising their good friend and Peer Howard.

Rossi thanked the committee “for your commitment to continuing a celebration of West Haven’s black community and honorees today.”

“Your commitment to this event, even in the face of the difficulties that COVID-19 has presented, is greatly appreciated by everyone in the West Haven community,” the mayor said.

McGee, pastor of Abba’s House International Fellowship in North Branford, focused her remarks on the many pioneering African Americans who preserved the values ​​of their culture while enriching all aspects of life in the United States.

“It’s an honor to celebrate our rich heritage,” she said.

McGee concluded his remarks by empowering the crowd of all ages to fight racial injustice and inequality, saying, “We are stronger together!”

In honor of the month-long Black History celebration, organizers decorated the walls of City Hall with banners and posters depicting important black leaders and role models around the world. whole.

The committee has worked since 1996 to promote racial harmony in West Haven, transforming City Hall into a display of African-American art and literature throughout Black History Month to educate residents about the black culture.

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