BOROUGH PARK — Continuing a 15-year tradition, Maimonides Medical Center hosted its annual Black History Month celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Guests entered the facility’s Schreiber Auditorium at 4802 10th Ave. to the sounds of “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and “At Last” by Etta James, befitting this year’s theme of music and black history, as photos of legendary black performers such as Harry Belafonte, Nat “King” Cole, Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Whitney Houston appeared on the screen.
Human Resources Organization Developer Cicely Wilkinson served as master of ceremonies for the event. “We are very fortunate that the executives at Maimonides are interested in our culture and are willing to accept diversity within our organization,” said Wilkinson.
Students from the St. Mark’s Day School performed the national anthem and Kelly Lekule performed the black national anthem. Father Lawrence Womack of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church delivered the invocation.
The program featured a remarkable a cappella rendition of the gospel standard “Steal Away” by St. Mark’s teacher Perrie Allen.
Douglas Jablon, special assistant to the president, offered the welcoming remarks. “This event was started about 15 years ago across the street and only about five people showed up,” Jablon said as he looked out upon the packed auditorium.
“It brings me tears to see such a large crowd here to celebrate such a beautiful day, a very special day for everybody.”
Jablon introduced Maimonides President and CEO Kenneth Gibbs who explained the importance of diversity within the hospital. He thanked Jablon and Wilkinson for their efforts. “Outreach and celebration always [require] work,” said Gibbs.
“The music we are going to listen to is about transcendence, in that it is a contribution to the very essence of American culture, giving us a way to talk about pain, to talk about injustice, to talk about a stained history and yet to do it in spirit to obtain transcendence and to have an ecstasy of the soul, to build a culture and to leave a positive mark,” he said.
“And this music is an incredibly important part of our history,” Gibbs continued. “It has played an incredible role, not just for the people who created it, but throughout our culture.”
The Contemporary Dance Theatre of Medgar Evers College Preparatory School danced to songs including the American civil rights anthem “Oh Freedom,” “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole and “Georgia on my Mind” by Ray Charles.
The performers were all sixth, seventh and eighth graders, and the entire production was choreographed by students.
Also attending the event was City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene. Michael Antoniades, executive president and COO, gave the closing remarks, thanking everyone at Maimonides for their efforts in putting the program together.
“Even though I’ve only been with this organization for a short 17 months, this is a phenomenal program and I want to thank our entire organization. The sky’s the limit,” added Antoniades.