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PR- 057-09
February 2, 2009


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today hosted a reception at Gracie Mansion in honor of Black History Month, celebrated during the month of February to commemorate the contributions of African-Americans in the United States. At today's reception, the Mayor honored five-time Grammy Award winning soprano Jessye Norman for her contributions to music and culture in New York City. Norman will be serving as curator of the upcoming festival titled, Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy presented by Carnegie Hall. The Mayor was also joined by decorated actress, comedienne and co-host of The View, Whoopi Goldberg, former Mayor David Dinkins and Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis Walcott.

"As our nation celebrates the inauguration of our first black president, the 100th Anniversary of the NAACP and the 75th anniversary of the Apollo theater, this is an especially exiting year to commemorate and look back at the inspiring history that all Americans can take pride in," said Mayor Bloomberg. "As we honor that history, our Administration is also charging ahead on the great civil rights challenge of all time: ensuring every student has access to top-quality public education. This year we will continue to work together to eliminate the achievement gap between white and minority students, raise graduation rates and improve test scores, and ensure our kids get the education they deserve to live out their dreams."

Jessye Norman is one of the most admired contemporary opera singers and recitalists in the country. The internationally renowned African American opera singer will curate Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy, a city-wide festival featuring more than 20 events celebrating African American culture with a wide array of performances and panel discussions at venues throughout New York City including at Carnegie Hall, The Apollo Theater, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall, the Schomburg Center, Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center of the Queens Public Library, and Kingsborough Community College. The festival, which runs from March 4th through March 23rd, will celebrate African American music, artists and trailblazers who have left an impact on the world.

Created by historian and scholar Carter Woodson as Negro History Month in 1926, Black History month highlights the many contributions of Black Americans throughout the country. It is celebrated the second week of February in honor of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist activist Frederick Douglas, two Americans born in the month of February and who dramatically affected the lives of Black Americans. At tonight's reception, Songs of Solomon, a choir of New York City High School students, performed By and By from A Child of Our Time, a concert of arranged spirituals by renowned Composer Michael Tippett. These students were selected from several hundred students who are exploring the role that Spirituals have played in bringing together and uplifting African American people throughout history. Sponsors of this evening's reception included Carver Federal Savings Bank and National Grid. Talent Unlimited High School Jazz Band provided entertainment at tonight's reception.


Stu Loeser/Evelyn Erskine   (212) 788-2958

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