NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- The Norfolk Public Library kicked off its month-long celebration of African American history by recognizing and celebrating the contributions of African Americans within the community.

The library hosted an inaugural event to recognize recipients of the Young African American Leaders of Tomorrow Award.

Dudley Colbert, Multicultural Committee Chairman for Norfolk Public Library, became emotional during his speech to attendees.

“This is the first time we have tried this,” said Colbert. “And I’m very appreciative of all of you for coming out.”

The event allowed attendees to learn and reflect on the history of African American leaders who made significant contributions to society.

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander made a keynote address emphasizing the importance of giving back within the community and leading by example.

“So many generations before us made a significant contribution and it’s our time to make one as well,” Alexander said.

The national theme of African American History Month addresses “The Crisis in Black Education.”

New Journal and Guide Publisher Brenda Andrews said “we are black history in the making” and stated it was necessary for others to speak out in order “to make sure the messages of all of us are heard.”

On Sunday, February 5 at 3 p.m., the library will host the 3rd Annual African American Trailblazers Honors Program in order to recognize educators who have preserved the rich history of African Americans.