William “Billy” Thomas: Denzel Washington Mentor and Mount Vernon Legend

Billy Thomas Way

William “Billy” Thomas began working at the Mount Vernon Boys’ Club (MVBC) in 1955. Over the next 22 years he rose from athletic to program to camp and finally to Executive Director. In 1968, he was drafted into the United States Army and serve in Vietnam. Mr. Thomas also worked for over 20 years in the New Rochelle School District as a special education teacher.

From left, Saleem Sullivan, president of the board, curator Billy Thomas and treasurer Ennis Bennett at the center in Mount Vernon Jan. 3, 2017. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Mr. Thomas is currently the curator of an exhibit at The  (AC-BAW) that marks the organization’s 40th year. The exhibit features gallery-sized commemorative U.S. Postal Service stamps that heralds the achievements of 173 African Americans.

Saleem Sullivan, president of ACBAW, said this is the first time this particular layout of stamps has been presented in the U.S. The association purchased the black heritage stamps from national groups including The Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections (ESPER) and The Black Heritage Commemorative Society. “It’s the first time it’s been transferred from book to gallery-size,” said Sullivan.
Billy Thomas came up with the idea of the stamp retrospective for the Mount Vernon audience. “This is a taste of (local residents) understanding the broader picture,” said Thomas, AC-BAW vice president and curator.
AC-BAW was founded in 1976 by Mount Vernon artists. Its first arts program was for the most underdeveloped communities of the County. It was a summer program called Westchester Artists In The Streets. In 1980, AC-BAW rented an abandoned furniture store on Fourth Avenue. It entered a joint program with the City of Mount Vernon City, local banks and the Gannett Foundation to develop a program to use the arts and culture in the commercial redevelopment of the community. The facility was renovated by high school dropouts. It was the arts critics’ choice as the Gallery of the Year. In the past 35 years, AC-BAW has brought world-class exhibitions, concerts and lectures to downtown Mount Vernon. The Gallery has been the cultural heart and hope of Mount Vernon’s Downtown.
The exhibit runs to the of 2017
1-5 p.m. Saturdays only
Call for additional times and group reservations
Association of Community-Based Artists of Westchester
128 South Fourth Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY 10550
BGCA and Denzel Washington: Billy Thomas

Denzel Washington and Jennifer Lopez

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