A Welcoming Gathering, a Peace March of Hundreds, Bronx Bethany’s Chosen Choir and an Animated Panel of Esteemed Speakers Signify the Beginning of a Meaningful Conversation in New Castle and Beyond
On Sunday January 29th, residents of New Castle and neighboring communities joined for “I Have a Dream”: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month, a peace march and program at the Chappaqua Library organized by the Town of New Castle Committee on Race, Equity, and Inclusion (CREI) in partnership with the Chappaqua PTA, the PTA Diversity, Race, and Belonging committee, the Chappaqua Library, the Horace Greeley High School BIPOC Student Union (BSU), and New Castle United for Youth.
The peace march and gathering beforehand allowed participants an opportunity to demonstrate community solidarity and connect with neighbors. Chappaqua PTA President Tara Ramirez kicked off the event with her remarks in front of Scattered Books bookstore, by the peace pole which bears the message ‘May Peace Prevail on Earth’ in several languages. Attendees of all ages also had the opportunity to share their messages of peace and hope on a peace board. High school students Mariam Cisse and Emma Ramirez joined to perform the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” before more than a hundred participants walked together, some linked arm-in-arm, to the town library.
The program at the library featured a panel discussion based on excerpts of Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, reckoning with our nation and community’s progress toward social justice in the intervening years since that speech was delivered. Panelists included local residents, students, and leaders. The discussion spanned the experience of discrimination by students of color at the high school, commentary on national and local political discourse around diversity and equity, and the importance of continuing to educate others on the realities and harm caused by racism in our own town.
The purpose was to bring a discussion that often exists on the sidelines, sometimes steeped in presumptive assumptions from all sides, into the open, for residents to hear firsthand about the experience of Black residents and leaders and their insights on how to move forward and make progress toward greater equity and inclusion as a community. The program also included joyful performances from the Bronx Bethany’s Chosen choir, led by New Castle resident and former Council on Race and Equity co-chair Nichelle Maynard-Elliott, and speeches from CREI committee members and town board liaison Victoria Bayard-Tipp. The CREI will organize this event annually in partnership with other community groups to keep this conversation going and to grow and maintain strong and meaningful connections across the entire New Castle community.
Appearing on the panel were commentators including: Mondaire Jones, CNN political commentator and former Congressman who served as our Representative from 2021 to 2023, and who was recently appointed a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Tonya Wilson, principal of Roaring Brook Elementary school since 2020, who has been an educator and administrator for 27 years; Ralph Carter, a New Castle resident, who is the parent of a multi-racial child in the Chappaqua Central School District. Ralph works as a lawyer, and advocates for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal profession as an active member of several bar organizations, including the National Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association.; Gavrie Elliott, a Horace Greeley graduate who will complete his degree from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 2024. BSU was founded in 2018 by Elliott as the Black Student Union. Around a year and a half ago, it was renamed as the BIPOC Student Union by then co-presidents Nailah Elliott and Kyra Chung-Olagbaiye to reflect club membership.; and Horace Greeley seniors Joyce Chen and Mariam Cisse, who together lead the Horace Greeley BIPOC Student Union as co-chairs.
Additional members of the BSU participated as readers of excerpts from Dr. King’s speech, they are: Ava Herman (10th grade, BSU Vice President), Cindy Chen (9th grade), Adam Kamal (9th grade), Riona Datta (10th grade, BSU Secretary), and Asha Kalathil (9th grade).
Inside Press Photos News/Caption Info Courtesy of the New Castle Council for Race, Equity and Inclusion