2021 is the 25th anniversary of Black History Month in Orange County

Goshen. Former Orange County Legislator Noel Spencer reflects on the moment back in 2006 when he wondered if the resolution recognizing the contributions Black Americans have made would be approved by county lawmakers.

Goshen /
| 23 Feb 2021 | 02:12

On Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006, the Orange County Legislature began the annual recognition of Black History month by voting unanimously.

The first two African American Orange County legislators - Harvey Burger of the City of Newburgh and Noel Spencer of the Town of Chester - co-sponsored Resolution 26 of 2006, recognizing Black History officially for the first time in Orange County.

Legislator Jeff Berkman co-sponsored the proposal, which was was seconded by Legislator Ben Winstanley. The historic occasion took place in the Orange County Legislature chambers room in Goshen.

That was the result. But what happened first was not so certain.

Spencer shared the following reminiscence:

In 1976, President Ford created February as Black History month in the United States. Each state and counties throughout the United States began recognizing the legacy.

Noel Spencer, who was elected to the Orange County Legislature in November 2005, was attending his second legislative meeting in February 2006. He noticed that Black History Month recognition was not on the agenda.

Spencer sheepishly approached Legislator Harvey Burger.

“We have to correct this oversight,” Burger said. “Let’s move.”

Spencer said the session was starting in 15 minutes. “We could wait until next year to get it on the agenda.”

”No,” Burger said. “We are doing it today. Right now.”

Burger said they needed to go to the attorney for the legislature.

She said: “Done deal.” In ten minutes, she went to work before the session started.

A number of resolutions were motioned during the session. The session was coming to a close. Nothing about the Black History Month resolution was mentioned during those two hours. Burger kept reassuring Spencer that the item will be a consent agenda item.

Then the historic moment arrived:

Clerk Gail Sicina read the historic naming of Black History month in the minutes of the Orange County Legislature proceedings:

SPONSORS: BURGER and SPENCER, CO-Sponsor: Berkman. Resolution No.26 of 2006. Resolution Recognizing February as Black History Month.

“However, this was only a sponsorship, we needed a second,” Spencer recalled. “Without a second, we would be left standing there.”

Then Legislator Ben Winstanley seconded the resolution.

The vote ensued:

Aye: 20

No: None

Absent: One

Resolution adopted.

And with that vote, the annual Black History Celebration Recognition received official County of Orange County Legislature Recognition on Feb. 2, 2006.