Albany County holding virtual Black History Month celebration

Albany County

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and the Albany County Legislative Black Caucus held a Black History Month event. “Living Through the COVID Pandemic” started at noon and was streamed via Facebook.

The speaker for this year’s Black History Month event was Paul Collins-Hackett, the executive director of RED Bookshelf, (Read Each Day), a local nonprofit that helps provide free books to kids. He spoke about his work promoting literacy in the community, specifically through the impact of the pandemic on families.

“Black History Month is an important part of the year where we get the chance to celebrate the rich diversity and culture that exists here in Albany County. But it’s also an opportunity to highlight the racial injustices and inequities that continue to exist in our society, and those who are fighting to change those realities and improve lives,” said County Executive McCoy. “The disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on our black and brown communities are highlighting those inequities. The work of Paul and The RED Bookshelf in promoting literacy and readership, one block at a time, has never been more important, and it will continue to be important long after the pandemic is over.”

The Legislative Black Caucus represents majority-minority districts, or are members of color who share common interests with constituents in those districts. Members are:

  • William M. Clay, Chairman
  • Samuel I. Fein
  • Wanda F. Willingham
  • Carolyn McLaughlin
  • Norma J. Chapman
  • Merton D. Simpson
  • Beroro T. Efekoro

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the disparities once again in Black communities as opposed to other communities. Our Black Communities are being faced with stressors that impact them on a structural and interpersonal level. Even though there have been giant steps to eliminate racial discrimination within the Black community, it still exists throughout the country as well as the County of Albany,” said County Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Bill Clay.

As part of the national theme of, “The Black Family and Identity,” this year for Black History Month, Executive Director Collins-Hackett discussed how family identities have been changed by COVID-19. With jobs lost, some parents and guardians have been forced to work additional hours all while schools are closed, childcare remains essential, and younger kids have been forced to take on more responsibilities. Without childcare, kids have had to babysit their younger siblings, as well as cook, clean, and keep up with schoolwork all at the same time.

Additionally, losing a job is a huge stressor that has reportedly been putting strain on families who may already not have enough to get by.

“This year’s Black History Month takes on a whole new meaning as we address themes of representation and identity. COVID-19 has changed the way we govern, educate and even how we interact with one another. We thank Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Bill Clay and our friends at The RED Bookshelf for helping us examine these important themes and helping us all move forward in a positive, equitable way through this crisis,” said Albany County Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce.

The caucus is interested in fair and representative redistricting and resource management, increasing diversity, and supporting economic growth for communities. Last year alone, despite the ongoing pandemic, 35,000 books were distributed throughout the City of Albany.

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