Small shop owners, community representatives and local supporters gathered at the historic Weeksville Heritage Center on Feb. 21 for the Brooklyn of Chamber of Commerce’s annual Black History Month celebration.
According to Randy Peers, president and CEO of the commerce, last night was the first time they were able to hold the tribute fully in person — and what better place than at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s cultural center.
“It’s really a special kind of night because we’re getting to see and celebrate in person and we’ve got four incredible honorees,” Peers told Brooklyn Paper. “It’s just an extraordinary line up. When we talk about partnership, this is what it’s about. That’s empowerment, when you can partner together, it’s really powerful.”
The night featured locally sourced eats, a musical performance by Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, and a ceremony where the four honored guests where presented with awards for their work in the borough.
Looking to the future during Black History Month
Kenneth Ebie, executive director and CDO for the Black Entrepreneurs of NYC, took home the “Community Leader” award. As founder of Ebie Strategies LLC, the businessman works firsthand with businesses and organizations seeking to make policy and cultural changes — and as the executive director of the city’s Black Entrepreneurs NYC program, Ebie is working to shrink the racial wealth gap by boosting Black-owned small businesses.
“It’s important to take some time during the year to reflect on the tremendous contributions of Black people in the history of the United States and in particular just take a look around and look at the impact and the contribution to this great city,” he said. “It’s not just looking to the past and speaking names of people who have done great things in the past, it’s looking to ourselves and looking to the future.”
Jeff Lindor, founder of Gentlemen’s Factory, was awarded the Samuel L. Dunston Award for Business Excellence. Lindor’s collaborative space gives Black and brown men a place to develop the personal and professional skills they need for success. He said the platform is all about helping the men of color navigate the world — according to the Gentleman’s Factory website, while there are plenty of groups and guides to success, few address the specific obstacles faced by Black men in business, health, and career advancement.
“I’m super happy that they are able to acknowledge the work that’s being done at Gentlemen’s Factory, helping Black working professionals and entrepreneurs in our city,” Lindor said. “I’m super honored to be honored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce given the legacy in Brooklyn, New York City and all of the United States of America.”
Edward Gordon, owner of the Nubian Conservatory of Music, thanked his family, friends, and chamber members as he received the Small Business Leader award. Gordon’s work at the Nubian Conservatory of Music promotes diversity and excellence in the orchestral world, where Black and brown musicians are underrepresented. The Conservatory provides regular music lessons and audition prep for young virtuosos — ultimately “platform for low-income families to afford classical music lessons for their children,” according to the organization’s website.
Finally, Council Member Mercedes Narcisse was honored for her work in public service. Narcisse, a former nurse who ran for elected office unsuccessfully for years before she was elected to the city council in 2021, recognized the impact of celebrating Black accomplishments at Weeksville, an ancient site known for fostering Black creativity and freedom since its start in 1838.
“Black communities, we’ve been through so much, but we’re always fighting for better, and to be the leaders representing our communities with integrity and sincerity,” she said. “So I am honored to be in this space.”