Children’s Aid Society Celebrates African-American & Dominican Heritage Month

Email Twitter Facebook MySpace Stumble Upon Digg | More |

Coconuts! Coconuts were everywhere, strewn across the floor, sitting under handmade palm trees, by beach chairs that lounged in front of the wall-length mural of the beach that, to anyone who has been in the city for the last few months, is just as good as the real thing. At least I didn’t have to clean out sand from my shoes.

This year’s African-American & Dominican Heritage Celebration at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Community School in Washington Heights offered a tropical escape from the crisp air and slushy streets. Students, parents and staff from eight Children’s Aid Society community schools in Washington Heights, East Harlem and the Bronx celebrated their heritage on Friday, March 5th.

The school doors opened to a lobby full of paintings, ceramic statuettes, live music by The Ebony Hillbillies and a variety of foods, including fish in coconut sauce the and the Dominican Republic’s traditional dessert made of beans called Habichuelas con Dulce. One could really feel the tropical culture; Children’s Aid staff were dressed in authentic African attire, and sarongs, large brightly colored hats and flip flops.

The evening’s performances opened with the Dominican Republic’s National Anthem and was followed by over 100 performers showcasing African-American and Dominican inspired moves. The students, ages 5-18, performed a variety of dances from hip-hop to merengue.

A touching moment came when students from I.S. 166, wearing “I Love J.O.” t-shirts, dedicated their performance to their former Community School Director Jobis Ozoria, who passed away last December.

"The African-American and Dominican Heritage celebration is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Richard Negron, Director of The Children’s Aid Society’s Community Schools. “It is wonderful to see the community come together and students, their families, Children’s Aid staff and our Department of Education partners working to put the event together. Seeing the auditorium at the SU Campus filled to capacity is energizing."

Photos by Ben Russell