STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.– February 25, 2011. In celebration of Black History Month, City Council Member Debi Rose hosted a “Special Salute to Trailblazers in Staten Island’s Black Community” on Friday, February 25. Snug Harbor Cultural Center’s Music Hall is allegedly haunted but no ghosts were in attendance — the house was packed and there simpy wasn’t any room for interlopers.
Although Lynda Lee Macken’s slim volume, Haunted History of Staten Island, asserts that there is indeed a “Music Hall” ghost — he prefers balcony seats — the only legendary figures attending Friday’s observance were honorees receiving City Council proclamations from Council Member Rose.
Proclamations were presented to a number of African-American trailblazers from Staten Island:
- Virginia Allen of Sea View was the first African-American Female Union Representative on Staten Island.
- Derek Alvez of New Brighton is the Staten Island Advance’s first black photographer, sportswriter and lifestyle columnist, authoring the “Man to Man” column from April 1995-May 2003.
- Aurelia Curtis of Ward Hill is the first African-American to be named as principal of a high school on Staten Island and the first female principal of Curtis High School. She was appointed in 2003.
- Ronald A. Gregg of Mariners Harbor is the first African-American New York Administrative Law Judge from Staten Island. In addition, he was inducted as a member of the Supreme Court of the United States.
- Bill Hughes of West Brighton, a trombonist, is the first African-American from Staten Island to direct the famed Count Basie Band.
- Jane Anne Morgan Lyons of Sunnyside is the first African-American CEO of Sea View Hospital Rehabilitation Center and Home and the 1st African-American woman appointed to a Staten Island Borough President’s Cabinet.
- Robert Pipkins, formerly of Arlington, is Staten Island’s first Winter Olympian and the first African-American luger.
- Joan B. Rannie of West Brighton became the first African American school principal on Staten Island in 1971.
- Sandy Ground is the first community established by free African-Americans on Staten Island. (Award accepted by Sandy Ground Historical Society director Sylvia D’Alessandro)
- James E. Taylor of West Brighton was the first African-American Male Union Representative on Staten Island.
- Captain Avis Washington of the 122nd Precinct is first African-American woman to be promoted police captain on Staten Island. (The award was accepted by Margie Garvin)
The awards were presented by Rose, herself a trailblazer. Ms. Rose is the first African-American elected official on Staten Island. A staunch fighter for her district (49 — Staten Island’s diverse North Shore), Rose is popular with her constituents.
The program featured entertainment by singer Jeannine Otis and the St. Marks Ensemble, drumming and dancing by The Century Dance Complex, dancing by Deon Mitchell and Olivia Salabarria of Curtis High School’s Black Awareness Club; classical music by Norman Clark, and; spoken word by poets NYOIL and Nene Ali.
The event also featured exhibits from the Staten Island Museum, the Sandy Ground Historical Society and the collection of historian Leon Wallace.