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West Haven News

Posted on: February 20, 2019

Cultural event celebrates West Haven’s black heritage

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PHOTO — African-American Citizens of the Year Millicent Huff Corbett, second from left, and Patricia Donaldson Turner receive citations from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and West Haven Black Heritage Committee Chairman Steven R. Mullins during the 23rd annual Black Heritage Celebration Wednesday, Feb. 20, at City Hall. The cultural event, in honor of Black History Month, is presented by the Black Heritage Committee. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

WEST HAVEN, Feb. 20, 2019 — The city honored the extraordinary legacy of African-Americans and the incalculable contributions they have made to shaping the greatness of America at the 23rd annual Black Heritage Celebration Wednesday, Feb. 20, at City Hall.

During the cultural event in observance of Black History Month, the city’s Black Heritage Committee honored West Haven High School senior Brandie James for academic excellence and recognized Millicent Huff Corbett and Patricia Donaldson Turner as African-American Citizens of the Year.

Huff Corbett and Donaldson Turner received a citation from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi recognizing their “pioneering good works.”

Reading the citations, Rossi said, “Diversity is the heartbeat of our nation, and your indomitable spirit and inspiring contributions are a testament to the promise of America.”

Huff Corbett is a woman of firsts. A Democrat, she was the first African-American elected to serve on the City Council, representing the 5th District from 1989 to 1991. She was also the first woman to serve in the New Haven Police Department’s motorcycle unit, having been an officer in the Elm City for 16 years.

Huff Corbett is a paraprofessional at Bailey Middle School.

Donaldson Turner, a Republican, served on the Board of Education from 1989 to 1993. She was an assistant teacher at St. Thomas’s Day School in New Haven for 15 years and served as a substitute teacher in West Haven for many years.

Donaldson Turner is a lifetime member of the Greater New Haven chapter of the NAACP.

The hourlong ceremony, held in the Harriet C. North Community Room, featured an awards presentation by Rossi and committee Chairman Steven R. Mullins, the master of ceremonies whose daughter, West Haven High sophomore Nora E. Mullins, sang a spirited rendition of the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” She was accompanied on the performance by the near-capacity assembly of dignitaries, family, friends and residents.

James, who plans to study law at Temple University next fall, received a Black Heritage Committee certificate of achievement from Mullins, who was joined by Rossi, Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro and West Haven High Assistant Principal John DellaCamera.

James serves as treasurer of the class of 2019 and is co-captain of the mock trial team. She also serves as treasurer of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and is a member of the math club, Theatre Workshop and the international club.

Mullins’ son, Carrigan Intermediate School sixth-grader Steven Christian Mullins, received an award for youth achievement. He is an actor starring in the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots.”

The program included remarks from Rossi, Cavallaro and New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp, the keynote speaker, as well as committee founder Beulah “Bea” Johnson, committee President Emerita Ernestine Jackson and Councilwoman Robbin Watt Hamilton, D-5.

Rossi thanked the committee for its commitment to keeping the Black Heritage Celebration event “relevant and vibrant,” saying: “I know the decorations subcommittee took care in making sure everything was just right. Your volunteerism is truly appreciated.”

Harp focused her remarks on African-American women in public office, asking the crowd of mostly women, “Who better to serve the public interest than women?”

“This latest wave of women in public service could not have come at a better time,” she said, referencing the surge of women in positions of influence at the local, state and national levels of government.

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

23rd Annual Black Heritage Celebration 061 (Small)

African-American Citizens of the Year Millicent Huff Corbett, second from left, and Patricia Donaldson Turner receive citations from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and West Haven Black Heritage Committee Chairman Steven R. Mullins during the 23rd annual Black Heritage Celebration Wednesday, Feb. 20, at City Hall. 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 senior Brandie James is presented with a Black Heritage Committee award for academic excellence from Chairman Steven R. Mullins as, from left, Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro, Mayor Rossi and Assistant Principal John DellaCamera look on. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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Carrigan Intermediate School sixth-grader Steven Christian Mullins receives a Black Heritage Committee award for youth achievement from his father, Steven R. Mullins, as Superintendent Cavallaro and Mayor Rossi look on. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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West Haven High sophomore Nora E. Mullins sings the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp delivers the keynote speech. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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Black Heritage Committee founder Beulah “Bea” Johnson gives closing remarks. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

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