Love conquers all
Melba Tolliver, pictured, was honored in 2016 for her achievements and contributions as a writer, journalist and former TV news anchor. She returns to host the seventh annual Of Colors Black History Exhibition & Diversity Celebration at Artspace in Patchogue this weekend.

File photo

Love conquers all



This Saturday, Feb. 10, Of Colors will host their seventh annual Black History Exhibition & Diversity Celebration at Artspace Patchogue.

Known for his ability to pack a house, coordinator Tracy Todd Hunter was hard at work last week hanging the artwork in the Artspace gallery. A total of 35 artists are featured in the show, from as near as the Patchogue arts community to artists from the Long Island Black Artists Association and from as far as Texas. “I started this event so artists of color would have a place to show their work,” Hunter said, pointing out that the artists are as diverse as the work itself. From sculpture to glass to paintings, the artists span different backgrounds and cultures. “It’s a diverse and eclectic show,” he said, noting that the theme is Love Conquers All. “It’s not about politics. It’s about love.”

This year’s list of 10 honorees includes some impressive achievements, including Nassau judge Maxine Broderick and recently elected Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, the county’s first African-American sheriff. Hunter will also honor Shadrack Boakye, a native of Liberia who is now an actor based in Brentwood; Clayton Hudson, who serves on the Town of Brookhaven Black History Commission, and Dr. Sabrina Johnson, who practices in Patchogue.

This year’s diversity honors include physical therapist Justin Bonacci, community volunteer Pam Farino, longtime Patchogue Arts Council volunteer Pam Sweeney and Patchogue Theatre board chair Christopher Capobianco. “He’s done a lot for the village of Patchogue,” Hunter said.

Martin Tankleff will also be honored for his contributions to seeking justice for those wrongfully convicted of crimes. Tankleff made local headlines in the late 1980s and 1990s, when he was wrongfully convicted of murdering his parents in Belle Terre. He served 17 years in prison before an appeals court overturned the conviction in 2008. In April of last year, Tankleff passed the New York State bar exam. He has dedicated his career to fighting other wrongful convictions, serving as the vice president of Absolutely Innocent, a Manhattan nonprofit, and on the Innocence Project’s Exoneree Advisory Group.

The event will be hosted by former New York City ABC news anchor and reporter Melba Tolliver, the first-ever African-American news anchor on a news network, who is also known for being denied airtime due to her Afro. 

Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kennedy and Lisa Edwards, a Port Jefferson-based teacher whose mother lives at Artspace, will co-host the event. “[The celebration] is one of the most fruitful events Patchogue has to offer,” Edwards said. “It’s a great time to come together and embrace each other.”

The event will also feature several speakers, spoken word, dancing and music, including flautist Dwayne Kerr of the Erykah Badu Band.

A portrait of James Brown will welcome guests Saturday night, and its creator, Michael Vivona of East Patchogue, donated the painting to be auctioned off. He hopes that the funds raised can help fix some of the Artspace gallery walls. “I like James Brown’s music the same way I like the Beatles and everything else from that era,” Vivona said at the gallery last week. “He has a lot of character in his face.”

Drawing hundreds every year, the Advance asked Hunter about the year more than 100 people attended during a blizzard. “It was more than that,” Hunter said, laughing. “That was crazy. I came down [from my apartment] expecting a few people. But everybody came.”

All are welcome to the free annual event, which begins Saturday at 5 p.m.  “It’s a night of building friendships and sharing cultures,” Hunter said.