Celebrating Black History Month

Rustin IPS Employment Specialist Aloke Blake and a resident at Black History Month open mic

All this month, Lantern has been honoring the history and identity of our clients and staff with Black History Month participatory events, art-making, and film festivals.

At Rustin House on the Upper West Side, IPS Employment Specialist Aloke Blake and Arts & Culture Director Karisa Antonio organized an Open Mic celebrating leadership of the past, present and future. Clients and staff took turns to share their stories of inspiration, talking about leaders such as Martin Luther King Jnr, Rosa Parkes, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, and how their stories had impacted their own lives.

Rustin resident Quanisha recently started working, thanks to an employer connection made through Lantern’s IPS program. Not one to stop there, she spoke about how she was inspired by Madam C. J. Walker, America’s first self-made millionaire. Quanisha said she plans to open her own salon one day, taking inspiration from the way Madam C. J. Walker grew her business empire of beauty products for black women. As well as the open mic, Rustin’s event included a drumming performance and dancing,  a beautiful rendition of Natalie Cole’s Inseparable by IPS Supervisor Connie Hines, and clips of performances by spoken word artists.

Aloke says that the employment service he offers creates a space for people to open up about their hopes and dreams. The Black History Month Open Mic was a way to extend that space. He said:

“I wanted us to share stories of challenge and difficulty, but that our history is about being able to overcome. Our challenges aren’t who we are, and what we go through doesn’t have to define us. Who we are is bigger than that: we can do whatever we dream, and even more.”

View our gallery of Black History Month events below, including the Rustin Open Mic, a Kara-Walker-inspired artwork by clients at Clover Hall in Brooklyn, and art by children at Leeward Hall in the Bronx.

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