The 17th annual Black Heritage Banquet Gala was a night of reflection as the community took a moment to focus on the legacy of strength and a future of hope.
Rod Carter, of WFLA News Channel 8, was the master of ceremony. The Honorable Lesley “Les” Miller was the keynote speaker and, while his speech was brief, it was riveting. He analyzed how far the nation has come, sharing anecdotes of his own past, and inspired all in the audience to work toward achieving all the progress that still needs to be accomplished. He received a standing ovation for his speech and many discussed his message long after the event came to a close.
James McDaniel was the recipient of the Heritage Award. Master Officer Darren Culmer received the Lifetime Recognition Award. The Plant City High School Key Club received the Community Service Award and the Cornerstone Award was given to the Kainos International Church. Several other community leaders were surprised with awards that evening and a local student, Sidney Moore, was given a $500 scholarship.
Prior to the ceremony, attendees enjoyed a saxophone solo from Alphonso Cromartie and then paused for a dinner of chicken, pot roast, pig feet, collard greens, string beans, macaroni and cheese, yellow rice, salad, rolls, cornbread, dessert and sweet tea. The meal was cooked by volunteers of the organization.
The Youth Summit was the next morning at the 1914 East Hillsborough Historical Society Museum, 605 N. Collins St. The free event was open to all youth in the area and focused on topics like mental health awareness, guns in the school, fighting in schools, the effects of absent parents in children’s lives and much more. Minister Denzel Singleton was the facilitator of the event.
As soon as the event ended, the Jazz Festival kicked off at the Robert W. Willaford Train Museum, 102 N. Palmer St. The soulful music could be heard throughout all of downtown and many folks brought their lawn chairs and camped out for the event. There were vendors on site selling food and merchandise, and most who wandered over ended up staying all afternoon.
The weekend of celebration ended with the Black Heritage Gospel Concert at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 604 W. Ball St., at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Praise teams, solo singers, dancers and choirs all worshipped for hours at Mt. Olive in spectacular performances.