Coney Island youth groups celebrate Black History Month at annual exhibit

Black History Month celebration in Coney Island
The Coney Island Sharks take the stage at tonight’s Black History Month celebration.
Photo courtesy of Priscilla Santos.

A group of Coney Island youth initiatives will be teaming up to host their annual Black History Month event at Surfside Gardens Cornerstone on Friday night. 

The Coney Island Sharks and Sharkettes, an organization for young adults in the neighborhood, put together a celebratory night of musical performances, presentations, poetry, dancing and more.

According to Priscilla Santos, president of the group, the students will be the ones running the entire event as a way to show the community the public speaking and organizational skills they have learned in the program.

“We give them the skills in the mentoring program to learn to run community events and they handle the whole thing,” Santos told Brooklyn Paper. “They’re able to not only learn how to be community effective but they use the skills that they learn in their mentoring class. We show them the give back —you don’t just take from the community, you have to be able to give back to the community that you live in and take care of it.”

Coney Island celebrates Black History Month
Music, dance, poetry and more to be featured at this year’s presentation.Photo courtesy of Priscilla Santos.

Neighboring youth groups plan to get in on the fun as the local Cub Scouts will perform a flag ceremony and  Coney Island Youth Alive’s marching band will take the stage.

Local government leaders, Council Member Ari Kagan, Assembly Member Alec Brook- Krasny and District Leader Dionne Brown- Jordan are also co-sponsored and promoted the show.

With the children in charge of the night, Santos says the event is all about having the kids take pride in their growth.

“It’s a way of the kids showing you ‘hey this is what I’m getting from the program and I want to share it with you,’” she said.

Tonight’s demonstration is just one way Coney Island Shark’s try to immerse the kids in academic and personal success. 

Throughout the year they work as a preventative program, offering free sports, tutoring, counseling and community service which keeps the little ones off the streets and instead prepare them for their future.

Coney Island celebrates Black History Month
Local youth groups will also perform tonight including the Coney Island Cub Scouts and Coney Island Youth Alive.Photo courtesy of Priscilla Santos.

“We really entice them with the sport [and] get them off the street so they’re not getting in trouble.We keep them so busy, they don’t have time to get in trouble,” the group president said. 

Whether it’s through college tours or visiting historical centers, mentors like Santos encourage them to meet academic goals and stray from potential violence.

“There’s a whole world outside of this area that we live in, you’re not stuck on an island. There’s a whole world outside of you,” Santos said.

Stop by the HeartShare center at 2947 West 28th Street from 6 until 8 p.m. to see this year’s Black History Month exhibit.