UNION, NJ – The Township kicked off its Black History Month Celebrations with a program which included the presentation of the Eulace Peacock Unsung Hero Award and a live history performance of Langston Hughes.

Speaking of the Township’s events for the month, Mayor Suzette Cavadas said, “we have carefully curated a collection of movies and cultural experiences that give us the insight into the contributions and accomplishments of and barriers broken by members of the Black community all while overcoming social, economic and racial inequality.”

“In light of the state of the world today, I think it’s more important than ever to revisit these themes if for nothing more than to remind us that not only have we been here before, but we’ve excelled, succeeded and come out stronger,” added Cavadas.

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Keith Henley performed a live history of Langston Hughes, depicting the “real life struggles of Blacks in the lower economic strata, where his criticisms focused on the divisions and prejudices based on skin color within the Black community.”

Hughes was a poet who utilized the American language, music, slang and religious views to educate the world about African American lifestyles during the Harlem Renaissance.

Henley, as Langston Hughes, talked recited some of his famous poems, talked about his family and history and discussed the details of the Harlem Renaissance.  “The Renaissance was a wonderful time in the lives of Blacks in back in the 1920s,” said Henley as Hughes.  “The fuel from the Renaissance made me who I am today.”

Hughes read his first poem, written when he was in grade school and inspired by his father leaving the family, entitled “When Sue Wears Red”.

Hughes recited other poems including “Let America be America Again” and “The Negro Mother”.

Union County Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh said, “Every time I read a Langston Hughes poem I take away something different.  They are so special.  Hughes was so humble about the impact he had on our society and on our County.”

The Eulace Peacock Unsung Hero Award is given yearly to an individual who has made a substantive yet unrecognized contribution to the Township of Union, be it through athletics, public service, mentorship or social activism.

This year’s Eulace Peacock Unsung Hero Award was presented by Bertha Mathews to Union resident Tracy Young.  Mathews described Young’s contributions during her tenure at Union High School, including contributing on the basketball court and track and field events with records in the conference high jump and in the long jump.  “Tracy had the rare distinction of beating one of the top athletes in the nation, Carol Lewis, who happens to be Carl Lewis’ sister, in the high jump during her sophomore year,” said Mathews.

Young attended Stetson University on a basketball scholarship.  She relocated back to New Jersey to finish her schooling and played on the Lady Owls basketball team at Union County College, where she appeared in 23 games and averaged 12.3 points and 13.7 rebounds per game.  Young transferred to Seton Hall University and played for the Lady Pirates where she was recognized as a leading rebounder her junior year. 

Young works in the pharmaceutical industry where she maintains the laboratory database and is contributing to a treatment for pediatric cancer.  In 2013, Young was inducted in the inaugural class of the Union High School Athletic Hall of Fame. 

“Growing up in Union, that is such as tight-knit community, and with the support of my family, it was a great experience,” said Young.  “What I’ve learned about competitiveness in sports has carried me through.  I took it right from the court to the job.”

The Township of Union’s Black History Month celebrations continue with these events, free and open to the public:

Tuesday, February 14, 11:00 a.m. – Movie screening of “Garrett’s Gift”, Vauxhall Public Library, Rated G

Saturday, February 18, 2:00 p.m. – Special feature of “Southside With You”, the story of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date; Jefferson School, Rated PG-13

Tuesday, February 21, 6:00 p.m. – Special feature of “Hidden Figures” at Union Theater, free for all and includes drink and popcorn, Rated PG

Thursday, February 23, 3:00 p.m. – Moving screening of “Journey of Henry ‘Box’ Brown”, Vauxhall Public Library, Rated G

Saturday, February 25, 1:00 p.m. – Movie screening of “Race”, Union Public Library, Rated PG-13

Tuesday, February 28, 7:30 p.m. – MLK Essay Contest Winners announced; Town Hall.  Visit uniontownship.com for more details.