Recognizing Black History In Queens
By Natalia Kozikowska
While it is recognized by three countries across the world, Black History Month is greatly embraced in Queens. The Borough has been home to some of the most influential Black leaders and legends, especially in the fields of music and sports, making it an area rich with history and culture.
|Louis Armstrong lived in North Corona with his wife Lucille. His home is now the Louis Armstrong House Museum.|
Jazz’s very own founding father, Louis Armstrong, lived in Corona for a good portion of his life. Although he was born in New Orleans, the composer, trumpeter and vocalist lived at 34-56 107th St., in North Corona with his wife Lucille. His former home has since been turned to the Louis Armstrong House Museum and is open to the public.
The neighborhood of St. Albans is home to several jazz legends including Count Basie and John Coltrane. Basie is best known for his hits “One O’clock Jump” and “Jumpin’ At The Woodside.” Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz. He also organized at least 50 recording sessions during his career in the 1950s and 1960s.
St. Albans is also home to some of the world’s most famous athletes. Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in sports, lived in Addisleigh Park. He was the first African-American player in Major League Baseball when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. In addition to his impact to the Civil Rights Movement, Robinson had an incredible baseball career. In his 10 seasons in MLB, he played in six World Series.
MLB’s first Black catcher and three-time National League Most Valuable Player, Roy Campanella, is also from St. Albans. Campanella was inducted to the Hall of Fame as a Brooklyn Dodger in 1969.
Malcolm X, the controversial Muslim minister and civil rights activist, had a home in Queens. In June of 1964, the Nation of Islam sued to reclaim the property in the Borough, which they claimed to own. The lawsuit was successful and Malcolm X was ordered to leave. The night before the scheduled hearing to postpone the date of eviction, the home was burned down. Malcolm X and his family survived and no one was charged with a crime.
Founder of Def Jam Records, Russell Simmons, was raised in Hollis. Simmons has done incredibly well for himself, having also created clothing brands Phat Farm, Argyleculture and American Classics. In 2011, he was the third richest figure in hip-hop with a net-worth of about $340 million. His brother, Joseph Ward Simmons, known as Rev. Run, was also raised in the Hollis home.
Rounding out the Forbes’ five wealthiest hip-hop artists, Curtis Jackson, more commonly referred to as 50 Cent, was born and raised in South Jamaica. The famous rapper has come a long way since his days in the poverty-stricken area selling drugs. Last year, Jackson earned $100 million on the sale of his Vitaminwater stake in 2007.
Onika Tanya Maraj, better known by her stage name, Nicki Minaj, is a Trinidadian-born rapper and singer-songwriter. When she was just five years old, she moved to Jamaica. She released three mix tapes between 2007 and 2009 and signed to Young Money Entertainment. She is one of three women signed to the label. On Nov. 19, 2012, the hip-hop star even returned to her old school, PS 45, to surprise students with free Thanksgiving turkeys.
Rafer Alston, a professional basketball player that played for six National Basketball Association teams, grew up in Jamaica and attended Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside. Alston stood out for his untraditional basketball moves, which made him particularly good at getting past defenders during a game. Alston served as an inspiration for the AND1 Mixtape tour, a 1999 videotape of his extreme moves. The video attracted attention from basketball fans across America.
The inspirational Robert “Bob” Beamon, a former track and field athlete best known for his world record in the long jump at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, was also born in South Jamaica. Beamon attended Jamaica High School where he was discovered by Larry Ellis, a renowned track coach. Beamon’s record in 1968 remained the world record for nearly 23 years before it was broken in 1991 by Mike Powell. He was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983.
The first Black person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work at the United Nations, Ralph Bunche, lived in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens from 1953 up until his death in 1971. The political scientist, academic and diplomat received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Palestine. In 1963, he was also rewarded the Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy. There is an elementary school named after him in Springfield Gardens.
Civil Rights activist Roy Wilkins moved to Queens Village after moving from Minnesota to Kansas. Wilkins was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement and famous for his leadership in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, succeeding Walter White as the head. He also helped organize Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. Today, a park in Queens Village is named in his honor.
Son of jazz musician Olu Dara, multi-platinum rapper Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known as Nas, relocated from Crown Heights, Brooklyn to the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City when he was a young child. Nas released his first album, “Illmatic,” in 1994 and received universal acclaim from the entertainment industry. It is frequently referred to as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or email@example.com.
Recognizing Black History In Queens
Resorts World Casino Exhibition
NOW through FEB. 28
Resorts World Casino in South Ozone Park is culminating a month-long celebration of Black History Month with an exhibit displaying photographic work from the archives of The Daily News. Visitors will have the chance to see a series of classic and recent photographs of notable African-American figures.
FRIDAY, FEB. 22
York College Celebrates
The York College Performing Arts Center will feature the band 23rd Son with special guest Camille Thurman. The event will also feature Catarina dos Santos. For additional information, contact Sean White at (718) 262-2555. The event is free and will be held at the performing arts center from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. York College Performing Arts Center is located at 94-45 Guy R. Brewer Blvd.
SATURDAY, FEB. 23
United African Dance Troupe
The United African Dance Troupe, in association with the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, will present their 5th Annual Black History Month Celebration. The event will be held at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center located at153-10 Jamaica Ave. at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $10 for children under 12.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27
A Salute to African Americans in the Military
From 6 to 9 p.m., the Surrogate’s Court Building, located at 31 Chambers St., Manhattan, will have a reception to salute all African Americans in the military. The event is presented by the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs. Reservations are necessary. Call (212) 788-8609 to RSVP.
THURSDAY, FEB. 28
“When Harlem Saved A King”
Sylvia’s Restaurant, located at 328 Lenox Ave., in Manhattan, will be exclusively screening the trailer for “When Harlem Saved a King,” a documentary chronicling the 1958 stabbing of the Rev. Martin Luther King in a Harlem department store. The screening will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Reservations are required. To RSVP, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 281-0809.