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Hudson Valley Press

Hickman is Promoted to Prestigious Major Rank

HUDSON VALLEY PRESS — Jamie Hickman always knew she wanted to join the Army. A spark was ignited when she was a little girl and saw her father putting on his military uniform. It then became ignited a little earlier than she had planned on September 11, 2001.



By Jennifer L. Warren

HIGHLAND – Jamie Hickman always knew she wanted to join the Army. A spark was ignited when she was a little girl and saw her father putting on his military uniform. It then became ignited a little earlier than she had planned on September 11, 2001.

“She is a true patriot, who decided to join after September 11,” Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams, Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, who is the first to hold the position as an African-American in the School’s 216 year history, told a room full of guests. “She ran to the sound of guns, and that’s a very big deal, in and out of combat.”

It’s that commitment to her military passion, along with exceptional leadership and tactical skills that led Hickman to receive an elusive, distinguished honor of Major at a special Promotion Ceremony, held at The Thayer Award Room at Taylor Hall Friday afternoon.

Surrounded by esteemed military personnel, family and friends, Hickman was presented with the title by Williams, who she met in Camp Humphrey’s, South Korea where he was the Deputy Commanding General for Support, and she served as a Commander with Distinction.

Williams would often visit Hickman’s brigade footprint. Referring to this time as one of the most important phases in her military life, Hickman also spoke of another connection she “shared” with Williams…football.

“The first time we formally met, I knew he was a huge football fan, particularly for Army, so I prepped extensively,” said a smiling Hickman, who in actuality knew very little about football. “Luckily, when we met, and he asked me how Army did in the game the day before, I just happened to know they won, so it all went well.”

Williams also spoke of still another thread the two shared: marrying their high school sweethearts. In addition to praising Hickman’s husband, Marc, for all of his support during Jamie’s military venture, Williams also indicated the incredible love of the entire family, including her parents, sister Erica (also in the Army) and highly accomplished, and high school daughter Asia.

After Willliams’ words, Hickman spoke, explaining how the day’s Ceremony was not just about her achievement, rather the support and love of all those in attendance, ones who have assisted her during her 17 year military journey.

“Today is dedicated to family, friends, mentors, soldiers and cadets who I have led and taught, and everyone I have met, even for the briefest moment, that has inspired me to become a better soldier, leader and person.” said Hickman.

After recognizing those in attendance and thanking them for making this day possible, Hickman reflected upon her military career up to this point as well as how it has shaped her outlook for the future.

“In my deepest solitude I have gained a greater sense of self-awareness and gratitude for the opportunities that have come my way and all the wonderful people who have helped make these opportunities a reality,” affirmed Hickman. “As a result, I feel a great deal of responsibility and honor toward my future as servant leader, and I want to promise everyone that has been there along the way that I will do my very best to improve the world and carve a brighter path for those that follow.”

This article originally appeared in the Hudson Valley Press
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Hudson Valley Press

Pine Street African Burial Ground Hosts Ceremony

HUDSON VALLEY PRESS — Some 200 people participated in a community gratitude ceremony on Saturday, to commemorate the successful preservation of a long-forgotten Kingston historical site — the unmarked resting place of many colonial and early-American New York slaves.




By Hudson Valley Press

KINGSTON – Some 200 people participated in a community gratitude ceremony on Saturday, to commemorate the successful preservation of a long-forgotten Kingston historical site — the unmarked resting place of many colonial and early-American New York slaves.

A event, including a drum procession, guest speakers, Harambee prayer circle, and discussion, was held at the Pine Street African Burial Ground, located on the outskirts of uptown Kingston, near St. James Street, at the backyard of #157 Pine.

It was the public’s first viewing of the lost graveyard — a kick-off for Kingston’s 7th Annual Juneteenth Celebration in honor of African American freedom from slavery, held later that same afternoon at Hasbrouck Park, down Delaware Avenue.

“Don’t erase our history, we must watch over our ancestors. This cemetery, this gravesite, where our ancestors are, we will watch over them. Ancestors must rest in peace,” said Odell Winfield, library director of the A.J. Williams-Myers African Roots Center. “We must claim our space. I do acknowledge the Land Trust, Open Space, and all the other allies that helped us create this space, where our ancestors rest, but we must take care of our ancestors,” he said.

“This African burial here, it was a community effort, it was not about a color barrier, it was a whole diversity of a community that came together, that saw this was important enough to say, we need to do something about it,” agreed Tyrone Wilson, executive director of Harambee, Coalition.

A total of $140,000 has been collected, through the Kingston Land Trust, donors including Scenic Hudson, and the Old Dutch Church – allowing the property to be purchased this spring. A remaining $60,000 fundraising goal remains to rehabilitate the existing house into an interpretive center, operated by Harambee Coalition. Other projects include further ground-penetrating radar, and possible exhumation testing.

Interest in the project began in 1990, during a reconnaissance archaeological survey conducted by Joseph Diamond, a SUNY New Paltz Anthropology professor, and Edwin Ford, the Kingston city historian. They were looking for an African burial ground noted on old area maps, including specifically the 1870 and 1875 Beers Atlas of Ulster County.

Neighbor Andrew Kirschner gave the two researchers a box of human bones collected from his basement floor, while repairing water lines. Kingston Police sent the remains to the Onondaga County medical examiner. Forensic anthropologist Dr. William Rodriguez declared the bones “probably African-American in origin.” Diamond reported the findings in a paper presented in 2001 to 68th annual meeting of the Eastern States Archaeological Federation, in Watertown NY, titled “Owned in Life, Owned in Death: The Pine Street African and African American Burial Ground in Kingston, New York.”

Evidence from the maps, combined with other historical records including deeds and old meeting minutes, were corroborated by the human skeletons, and later also ground-penetrating radar, showing multiple grave plots, some of them layered and criss-crossed.

The general area was once a public commons, called the Arm Bowery, or “Poor Farm,” located a few blocks south of the Stockade historic district. Marius Schoonmaker, author of the 1888 “History of Kingston, New York: From Its Early Settlement to the Year 1820,” details original partitioning of these lands, by the Trustees of Kingston, on October 6. 1750, with “a burial ground for colored people designated and laid out on the west side of Pine Street, 200 feet south of St. James Street, where it is now covered by a lumberyard. It was used as a burial place for over 100 years.” A landscape of the original field, illustrated from the Five Corners, is used as frontispiece for Schoonmaker’s book.

The Kingston African-American Burial Ground Project, an ad-hoc preservation group, failed in the mid-1990s to persuade Kingston officials, and the Friends of Historic Kingston, to assist in acknowledging the unmarked graves.

“If you know anything about the laws of New York State, and some of the federal laws, when a person was buried, if there was not an above-ground marker, it was not considered a cemetery. That’s why this land could be sold, and these people under the ground, can be owned in death, like they were owned in life,” Winfield noted.

“We must understand, slavery was a part of American history. We can’t allow it to die, we can’t acknowledge it today, and not acknowledge it tomorrow. We can’t say that we got a gravesite, and turn it into a center; this is a war against bad history,” Winfield added. Similar sites at Bard College in Tivoli, and at Cragsmoor, have also been discovered; the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, excavated in 1993, being the most publicized.

“Maybe there’s an awful lot that can be learned from this site; it’s such a wonderful opportunity, I can’t think of a better project for us to do right now,” Ford said. Other city officials, including the Kingston mayor and several city aldermen, were present but did not make remarks.

The African ceremony contrasted with the recent May16th re-dedication of a forgotten cemetery at the Ulster County Fairgrounds, by including spiritual components to the program.
The former county poorhouse graveyard, rather than being preserved and respected, was bulldozed using the sloppy and sacrilegious coroner’s method. The former Houghtaling Cemetery, also abandoned on Pine Street, met a similar fate, with a small portion deposited into the Old Dutch Church graveyard, to make way for a medical center.

“We are here for those who were lost; for those who were stolen; for those who were left behind; for those who died in the Middle Passage, on their way to this land; for those who stood on the auction block, for those whose children were snatched from their arms, never to be seen again; for those who labored in the grist mills and the saw mills in this valley; who labored to build the houses of stone, that stand today as a monument to them; we acknowledge you, our ancestors, every time we look at a stone house, or drive on the Albany Post Road that you built; we say that we remember and we will not forget,” said Evelyn Clarke.

“This Oath is for those our Ancestors
Our Ancestors, Blacker than a thousand midnights
Our African Ancestors
It is to you that we, your Children, give Respect and Honor
Oh, Ancestors, we call upon you, we welcome you to this place
African Ancestors, let your Presence fall, and fill this place
Oh, Ancestors, we have been purposefully excluded from the history books
You have been purposefully excluded from the history
And so, that the World would not even know of your Greatness
Oh African Ancestors, who gave Civilization to the World
Our African Ancestors who gave the Arts to the World
Our African Ancestors who gave Music to the World
Our African Ancestors who gave Science to the World
Our African Ancestors who gave Mathematics to the World
Our African Ancestors who gave Medicine to the World
And gave Literacy and Philosophy and Consciousness to the World
Oh, Ancestors, we thank you
For devoting your Life to make a Future for us, your Children
Now, stand with us, strengthen us, guide us, teach us
And protect us from the snare of our enemies
Rise up, oh Ancestors, and let your enemies be scattered
And give us the Wisdom and Boldness to deal with our oppressors
Liberation and Empowerment of our People
Rise up, oh African Ancestors, and live in us
And we will not fail to Honor you
We will not fail to hear you
And we will not betray you
Asẹ, Asẹ, Asẹ.”

This article originally appeared in the Hudson Valley Press

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Baptist Temple Church Installs New Pastor

HUDSON VALLEY PRESS — There are coincidences, and then there are callings. Dr. Dollyann Newkirk-Briggs believes the turn her recent pastoral path took is definitely the latter. Recently “released by God” from her pastoral duties at the PHJC Modena, where her niece took over that position, Newkirk-Briggs, very soon after received a phone call from Byron E. Williams Sr., Pastor at Baptist Temple. The Church needed a new Pastor and they were interested in one person: Newkirk-Briggs.




By Jennifer L. Warren

NEWBURGH – There are coincidences, and then there are callings. Dr. Dollyann Newkirk-Briggs believes the turn her recent pastoral path took is definitely the latter.

Recently “released by God” from her pastoral duties at the PHJC Modena, where her niece took over that position, Newkirk-Briggs, very soon after received a phone call from Byron E. Williams Sr., Pastor at Baptist Temple. The Church needed a new Pastor and they were interested in one person: Newkirk-Briggs.

“I thought I was retiring; however, I truly believe when God speaks, we need to follow his direction,” said Newkirk-Briggs, who was installed Saturday afternoon as the new Pastor of Baptist Temple Church. “It’s not what we think, but what God has planned for us; I’ve been running from the ministry for 44 years, and I finally surrendered five years ago.”

That surrender has not only landed Newkirk-Briggs the new position, but another esteemed honor: The first African-American female Pastor at one of the three major Baptist Churches in the City of Newburgh. The road to the position has been one paved with many devoted years of religious training and involvement with the churches. Holding a Masters Degree in Theology from the Newburgh Bible Institute and a Doctorate of Biblical Studies from Christ Theological Seminary, Newkirk-Briggs has been heavily involved in her church gospel choirs as well as the recipient of a host of awards from Bible institutes, seminary, college, and community organizations. In addition to her religious background, she enjoyed and is retired from a 35 year career as a Keyboard Specialist for several New York State Departments. Her selection for the position has brought unbridled excitement to many, including the Honorable Mayor of the City of Newburgh, Torrance Harvey, who presented her with a City of Newburgh Certificate at the Installation Service.

“This is a transformational day in Newburgh as well as Baptist Temple Church,” affirmed Harvey.

Dee Russell, the Administrative Assistant at Springfield Baptist resonated further what many are feeling about the historic installation of the new Pastor.

“We are delighted and thankful to God for giving us Pastor Dollyann Newkirk-Briggs, the first African-American female Pastor of a Baptist Church in the City of Newburgh,” said Russell.

“We are looking forward to great things here at the Church, community and abroad.

One thing is certain: Newkirk-Briggs will be doing everything in her power to make those amazing things transpire.

“I’m just so thankful God has trusted me with his Word and with his people,” said a humbled Newkirk-Briggs. “I’m determined to do what God wants me to do.”

This article originally appeared in the Hudson Valley Press

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Newark Museum Black Film Festival Marks 45th Anniversary

HUDSON VALLEY PRESS — The Newark Museum Black Film Festival (NMBFF), the longest-running black film festival in the United States, is celebrating its 45th anniversary with a blockbuster lineup of films and documentaries.




By The Hudson Valley Press

NEWARK, NJ – The Newark Museum Black Film Festival (NMBFF), the longest-running black film festival in the United States, is celebrating its 45th anniversary with a blockbuster lineup of films and documentaries.

In keeping with a cultural event that is authentically Newark, this year’s opening night will screen the HBO documentary United Skates on June 26 and will feature a one-of-a-kind experience – a pop up roller rink set up outside the Museum. The festival will close on July 31 with a screening of Boyz N the Hood and an appearance by Donald Bogle, a film historian and award-winning author. Other films in the line-up include Losing Ground (July 3); Sammy Davis, Jr., I’ve Gotta Be Me (Jul 10); and 72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story (July 24).

“Since 1974, we have been a constant champion of films for and by African Americans and the African Diaspora,” said Linda C. Harrison, the Museum’s Director and CEO. “In the beginning, we were one of the few places where you could see films that reflected the diversity of the black experience. In staking our claim to authenticity, we are embracing the tagline ‘Reel Black.’”

NMBFF also will include festival pop-ups focused on African films on Sunday, July 14; and Latina films on July 28. Additionally, the Museum has partnered with Woman in Media to present Girls on the Reel, a STEAM program that provides 15 high school girls from Newark with an opportunity to take stop-motion animation workshops in the Museum’s MakerSPACE. The students will create, shoot and edit a Museum-inspired motion picture that will be screened as part of the NMBFF on July 24 along with 72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story.

In the past 44 years, NBFF has screened more than 917 films to an audience of more than 194,000 adults and youth. Past films of note have included Selma, Ashes and Embers, Body and Soul, Do the Right Thing and Daughters of the Dust. In partnership with organizations and businesses in Newark, NMBFF films have been screened at Rutgers-Newark, the Newark Public Library and Cityplex 12.

“This year we will continue to uphold our mandate to bring the best of cinema from across the Diaspora to the citizens of Newark and surrounding municipalities,’’ said NMBFF Chair Richard Wesley.

NMBFF has brought to Newark luminaries such as the late Gordon Parks and Paul Robeson, Jr. and James Van Der Zee; and James Earl Jones, Danny Glover, Reggie and Warington Hudlin, Ayoka Chenzira, Spike lee, Pam Grier, Donald Bogle, Richard Wesley, Euzhan Palcy, Ava DuVernay and S. Epatha Merkerson to participate in post-screening discussions.

“The intimate discussions between the audience and filmmakers is a unique aspect of NBFF,” said Pat Faison, NMBFF Coordinator who has been with the festival since its inception. Among the guests this year will be Oscar and Emmy nominated Samuel D. Pollard, who directed Sammy Davis Jr., I’ve Gotta Be Me.

The NMBFF started in 1974 with a touring black film festival that was put together by filmmaker Oliver Franklin who worked at the Annenberg Center for Communication, Art & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. The late Gus Henningburg, who was then the Executive Director of the Greater Newark Urban Coalition, learned about the festival and proposed it to the Newark Museum.

In 1976 when the touring festival was no longer available, the Museum made the decision to produce the Festival and established a Selection Committee, whose volunteer members represented important institutions in the community.

In 1981, a Children’s Festival was added, which is now called Youth Cinema. In 1985, the Museum initiated the Paul Robeson Awards to honor excellence in independent filmmaking in five categories.

Warrington Hudlin, President, Black Filmmaker Foundation said, ‘’The Festival came into existence to fill the void left by movie theaters that were fleeing Newark and other inner cities throughout the United States. The real beneficiaries soon became the newly minted generation of young African American filmmakers who were graduating from film schools with films under their arms and looking for a place to screen them. And even today, if a filmmaker wants to put his or her film to a litmus test for authenticity, I say ‘screen it in Newark’.’’

“Newark Museum Black Film Festival is a total and complete national treasure,” said actor- producer-director-filmmaker Penwah. “It is such an honor to be associated with such a groundbreaking and vital movement! The staff, the content, the participants – just plain and simple ‘blacknificence.’ They are official originators, not duplicators. Follow their lead!”
Financial support for the festival from Bank of America for the past 19 years has allowed it to expand in the past to venues beyond the museum, including the NJ State Museum in Trenton, Rutgers-Camden and Monmouth Arts Council in Asbury Park.

“The Newark Museum Black Film Festival never fails to bring an impressive lineup of movies to Newark and beyond,’’ said Bob Doherty, Bank of America New Jersey president. “Celebrating differences in culture, ethnicity and experience helps create stronger and more vibrant communities.’’

Tito’s Vodka is the official Spirit Sponsor for the second year. The 2019 NBFF season will begin on June 26 and run through July 31 at 6:30 pm. For a complete schedule, visit

This article originally appeared in the Hudson Valley Press.
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