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Mystic Celebration of Black History Month

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The Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Mystic & Noank Library, Mystic Seaport Museum and Kevin Booker Jr. are presenting our third annual Celebration of Black History Month Program.
Our first celebration in 2022 took place outside in Mystic River Park on February 19. We encouraged students and the community to read from their own writings or from works by black authors that have moved them. The program was hosted by Kevin Booker, Jr., a Mitchell College and Connecticut College professor who also offers training in leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion though his company, Booker Empowerment, LLC.
The second celebration took place Saturday, February 11, 2023 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  It started at the anchor on the Stonington side of the bridge and the group marched up to Union Baptist Church for a program and lunch.


In our third year, we continue to grow the program. Look for information for this year's event that will take place on February 3, 2024 starting at 10 a.m. and additional programming in the afternoon at the Mystic Seaport.


The celebration kicks off on Saturday, February 3 at 10 a.m. by the Mystic flagpole where Connecticut’s 17th State Troubadour, Nekita Waller, will perform the Black National Anthem (Lift Every Voice and Song). That will be followed by a march up to Union Baptist Church.

The program at Union Baptist Church will be hosted by Kevin Booker, Jr. and include performances by djembe performer Matt Dean and Nekita Waller. Guest Speakers include Dr. Akeia de Barros Gomes, the Senior Curator of Maritime Social Histories at Mystic Seaport Museum; Melaijah Armstrong, Community Relations Manager for the Connecticut Sun and other special guests to be announced.  Students from the youth group More than Words will speak in reference to their afternoon Panel Discussion at the Seaport. In addition, a number of local leaders will be present to speak on this special day.


The afternoon program begins at 1:30 at the Meeting House at Mystic Seaport Museum with a panel discussion by the students from More than Words on the student perspective of Black History Month. More Than Words is a youth leadership program composed of students from Fitch, Ledyard and New London High Schools, and students from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. The mission of the program is to promote respect for diversity, facilitate communication and build trust among the school communities. Monthly regional meetings are held to conduct leadership development workshops. The goal of the program is to develop a group of students able to respond to crises, work proactively to prevent problems and celebrate diversity. The program will conclude with music and song by individual performers uniting into a gospel choir. Seating is limited in the Meeting House and registration is highly encouraged for the afternoon events, please register at

Speakers and Event Performers

Nekita Waller

Nekita Waller

Nekita’s diverse musical journey has taken her through chorus groups, musical theater, Hartt School of Music, Gospel in church, and mentoring and performing with many independent artists. Nekita has shared the stage with artists, B.B. King, Ruben Studdard and Dianne Reeves. She has performed on the Steve Harvey Radio Show and has been heard on more than 60 radio stations and by approximately six million weekly listeners. Nekita is an experienced studio session artist as a recording artist, lending her vocal talent on projects with Grammy and Emmy award-winning producers.

Nekita performs with her band of accomplished musicians throughout the region, bringing a mix of pop, Motown, soul, Jazz and classic rock favorites with original music. As a soloist, she sings the National Anthem for the NBA, WNBA and DIV I College sports teams.

Akeia Photo

Dr. Akeia de Barros Gomes

Dr. Akeia de Barros Gomes is the Senior Curator of Maritime Social Histories at Mystic Seaport Museum, she is the Director of the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies, and is a Visiting Scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. Akeia is responsible for curatorial projects of race, Indigenous histories, ethnicity, and diversity in New England's Maritime activities.  She leads a multi-disciplinary team to examine Mystic Seaport Museum's and other regional collections to develop contemporary re-imaginings of people's actions in the past and present, and translate that into content relevant to today's social environment. She is lead curator for the 2024 Mystic Seaport exhibition, Entwined: Freedom, Sovereignty and the Sea a multi-year Mellon Foundation-funded project that reimagines the history of the founding and development of the Dawnland (New England) through Indigenous, African, and African American maritime narratives. This project is a cooperative effort with individuals in Indigenous, African and African American communities so that the narrative is truly one of ancestral and descendant voices. Akeia taught as professor of American Studies and Professor of Psychology and Human Development at Wheelock College from 2008 to 2017.  She received her BA in anthropology/archaeology at Salve Regina University and her MA and PhD in anthropology/archaeology at the University of Connecticut.

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Matthew Dean

Matthew Dean of Bozrah, CT started playing djembe in 1995. He made 4 trips to Guinea, West Africa where he studied under Master Drummers and dancers of the renowned Les Ballet Africans, Ballet Djolibe and many more. Matthew now lives in CT and plays and teaches djembe for dance classes at local colleges and community centers. He can be seen playing congas and percussion with Sugar Band and djembe in his own band Rooster which highlights African rhythms on American instruments. He plays with high energy, big smiles and passion.

Thanks to our Event Sponsors

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