Anti-Bias Task Force Chair Announces New Events: 'I Believe In Unity'

RIVERHEAD, NY — The Riverhead Interfaith Anti-Bias Task Force has a free event coming up soon meant to celebrate Black History Month, unite the community — and offer dialogue and insight through conversation with local law enforcement.

Mark McLaughlin, who became chair of the ABTF in November, told Patch that the ABTF teamed up with The Suffolk for a free showing of “Just,” starring Michael P. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson at on February 28 at 7 p.m. at the theater, located at 118 E. Main Street. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the event also features a pre-screening forum featuring Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, and Riverhead Town Supervisor Tim Hubbard. The panel will be moderated by McLaughlin.

Speaking with Patch about his vision for the event, McLaughlin said: “We have some trailblazers in this community and I wanted to get all the trailblazers in one room, to unite us all.”

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His goal is to foster discussion and communication, and give many who’ve never heard Toulon speak have the chance to do so. “We want to have him inspire people for possible futures in his line of work,” he said. “We want to just give people the opportunity to shake hands with them, ask a few questions — just get them all in the same room.”

The film choice, he said, was a joint decision between the ABTF and The Suffolk. “It’s a great film and a true story, but there’s also a lot of ups and downs,” McLaughlin said. “Unity and fighting for right — that’s what it’s about.”

Find out what's happening in Riverheadwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

The theme reflects McLaughlin’s goals for the ABTF, he said. “I believe in harmony. And now, during Black History Month, this gives everyone a reason to come together and have powerful conversations — to meet, unite and create a sense of harmony in a busy world. Sometimes it’s great to slow down, have discussions, and unite.”

The hope is that, rather than react to a negative incident, the ABTF can be proactive in opening doors and dialogue toward common understanding.

To that end, the ABTF has also announced plans for the first-ever “Food Unites: Where Diversity Takes Center Stage On Your Plate” event, to be held on Sunday, June 9 at Town Square. “We’re going to have national dishes — Irish, Italian, Caribbean and more — with traditional flags, song and dance,” he said.

The ABTF has had discussions with the Riverhead Business Improvement District, the Chamber of Commerce and the Riverhead Town Board, he said. “Everyone loves the idea,” he said. “It falls right into what we’re trying to do — we welcome anyone and everyone.”

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