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West Haven News

Posted on: February 23, 2022

Cultural event celebrates West Haven’s Black heritage

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PHOTO — West Haven African American Citizen of the Year the Rev. E. Carl Howard, second from left, is joined by his wife, Belinda Howard, third from left, as he receives citations from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and West Haven Black Heritage Committee Chairman Steven R. Mullins during the 26th annual Black Heritage Celebration at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 23. Howard is the senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Haven. The cultural event, in honor of Black History Month, is presented by the Black Heritage Committee. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

WEST HAVEN, Feb. 23, 2022 — The city paid homage to the inspiring legacy of African Americans and the pioneering contributions they have made to shaping the promise and greatness of America at the 26th annual Black Heritage Celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 23.

During the City Hall cultural event in observance of Black History Month, the West Haven Black Heritage Committee cited West Haven High School juniors Randy Alston and Ayannah Obas for leadership and honored the Rev. E. Carl Howard as its African American Citizen of the Year.

Howard, the senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Haven, received a citation from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi for personifying “the best of West Haven.” He was joined onstage by his wife of 32 years, Belinda Howard.

Reading the citation, Rossi said, “Your daring spirit and inspiring good works have made West Haven a better place, and the people of our city and your congregation are grateful for your spiritual leadership and support.”

Howard is the first African American pastor in First Church’s 302-year history. He previously served as the church’s supply and bridge pastor.

He is a graduate of the Yale Divinity School and has earned several master’s degrees from the Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary.

Howard was born and raised in Stamford and has lived in West Haven for more than three decades.

Howard also received a General Assembly citation from West Haven Democratic Reps. Dorinda Borer and Treneé McGee and West Haven Republican Rep. Charles J. Ferraro on behalf of the city’s delegation.

The hour-plus program, held in the Harriet C. North Community Room, included an awards presentation by Rossi and committee Chairman Steven R. Mullins, the master of ceremonies.

A powerful rendition of the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was sung by Stephanie Townsend, and opening and closing prayers were given by committee member Christopher M. Suggs, who serves on the Board of Police Commissioners.

The ceremony also included a spirited rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by the standing room-only assembly of dignitaries, family, friends and residents.

Alston and Obas, who excel in academics and sports, received a Black Heritage Committee certificate of achievement and a $100 Barnes & Noble gift card from Mullins on behalf of the committee.

Alston is a point guard for West Haven High’s basketball team and a video game enthusiast. Obas is a member of the school’s indoor and outdoor track teams, is the president of the Junior Class Council and is a member of student government.

The program featured remarks by Rossi and the Rev. Denya C. McGee, the keynote speaker, as well as remarks by Vertical Church Pastor Ken Vance and retired House of Jacob Church Pastor Harold Golston lauding their good friend and peer Howard.

Rossi thanked the committee “for your commitment to continuing a celebration of West Haven’s Black community and the honorees today.”

“Your commitment to this event, even when facing the hardships COVID-19 has presented, is greatly appreciated by all in the West Haven community,” the mayor said.

McGee, the pastor of Abba’s House International Fellowship in North Branford, focused her remarks on the many trailblazing African Americans who have preserved their culture’s values while enriching all aspects of life in the United States.

“It is an honor to celebrate our rich heritage,” she said.

McGee concluded her remarks by empowering the all-ages crowd to fight racial injustice and inequality, saying, “We are stronger together!”

In honor of the monthlong Black history celebration, organizers have decorated the walls of City Hall with banners and posters depicting important Black leaders and role models worldwide.

The committee has worked since 1996 to promote racial harmony across West Haven, transforming City Hall into an exhibition of African American art and literature throughout Black History Month to educate residents about Black culture.

— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator

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West Haven African American Citizen of the Year the Rev. E. Carl Howard, second from left, is joined by his wife, Belinda Howard, third from left, as he receives citations from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and West Haven Black Heritage Committee Chairman Steven R. Mullins during the 26th annual Black Heritage Celebration at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 23. Howard is the senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Haven. The cultural event, in honor of Black History Month, is presented by the Black Heritage Committee. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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West Haven High School junior Randy Alston receives a Black Heritage Committee award for leadership from Chairman Steven R. Mullins as, from left, Alston’s father, Randy Alston, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and Alston’s mother, Michelle Alston, look on. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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West Haven High junior Ayannah Obas receives a Black Heritage Committee award for leadership from Chairman Steven R. Mullins as, from left, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and Obas’ mother, Nadia Obas, look on. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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The Rev. E. Carl Howard is joined by wife Belinda as he receives a General Assembly citation from, from left, Reps. Charles J. Ferraro, R-West Haven, Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, and Treneé McGee, D-West Haven, as Mullins looks on. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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Mullins, the master of ceremonies, delivers opening remarks. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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Stephanie Townsend sings a powerful rendition of the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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Rossi gives remarks honoring Black History Month. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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The Rev. Denya C. McGee delivers the keynote speech. McGee is the pastor of Abba’s House International Fellowship in North Branford. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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Retired House of Jacob Church Pastor Harold Golston talks about his good friend and peer Howard. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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Vertical Church Pastor Ken Vance gives remarks lauding Howard. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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Howard is gracious in accepting the African American Citizen of the Year honor. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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