Episcopal Diocese awards scholarships to students descended from slaves

The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island has awarded academic scholarships to an inaugural eight-member class of students who are descendants of African slaves, as part of the celebration of Juneteenth.

The “Juneteenth Jubilee” celebration was held at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, where dozens of people packed the church in a service filled with song, dance and prayer. Juneteenth, or June 19, honors the arrival of troops in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to announce that the slaves were free.

The Barbara C. Harris Scholars Program for Truth and Reparations was created in 2021 to honor the Rev. Barbara C. Harris, who was the first African American woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Anglican Communion. The program seeks to promote equality by providing financial assistance to Blacks, African Americans and Caribbean Americans, officials said.

“It becomes for us an opportunity to not only do prayer and celebrate the reality of the event, but then to do something very tangible to support and encourage those who may have been disadvantaged because of slavery and discrimination,” said the Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, bishop of Long Island.

“This really is a wonderful opportunity to bring people together and have this moment, in which we begin reparations in the Diocese of Long Island. This will be the first of an annual event, we believe.”

Among the inaugural class of scholars were Isaac T. Davis of Arverne, Queens; Nathan Alleyne of Garden City; Marlene McKinney of Dix Hills; Kayla Harris of Elmont; Huntah Finnie of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn; Krystyn Haney of Valley Stream; Faith Steele of Cambria Heights, Queens; and Noah Fields of Holtsville. Each member received a $10,000 scholarship.

Two historically Black Colleges and Universities founded by The Episcopal Church, Voorhees College and St. Augustine College, also received $10,000.

Finnie, 17, is graduating from the Brooklyn High School of the Arts later this week and will be attending her dream school, Howard University in Washington, DC, in August. She said the scholarship will help her pursue a psychology degree.

“I want to utilize drama therapy to give back to at-risk youths specially because they don’t have a stable support system, they don’t have the opportunities to achieve what they want to achieve,” Finnie told Newsday.

She said she was grateful for the sacrifices her ancestors made. “I will never not give appreciation for them,” she said.

Penny Allen Grinage, the chair of the church’s Reparations Committee, said they received 161 applications for the scholarships. After three rounds, they narrowed it down to eight students, who met the academic criteria and exemplified leadership traits.

“After going through all of the data, and reading their applications, they told us what their goals were for the future,” Grinage said. “Taking all of that into consideration, which was a tough job, we were able to narrow it down into eight.”

She said the church is hoping they can give more scholarships next year and are predicting more applicants.

“As word gets out that the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island is offering reparation type scholarships … there will be more applicants,” she said.

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