MLK celebration kicks off today in Tampa

Remembering the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all but radiates importance in today’s society, and the city of Tampa won’t wait until Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to start celebrating. In fact, they’ll end it there.

During a series of events to commemorate the celebration of King’s life and achievements, the city of Tampa and the Black History Festival will lead almost a weeklong schedule of activities set to begin today.

“The goal of the festival is to motivate and encourage,” said Samuel Wright, associate dean for Student Relations and president for the Black Heritage Festival’s board of directors. “It’s a project is to build self esteems and to celebrate.”

The Second Annual Tampa Black History Festival starts with Fred Johnson’s Martin Luther King Jr. Musical Tribute at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. On Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Special Events Center, USF will play host to guest speaker Al Sharpton, a leader in the modern civil rights movement.

Wright said that the week will shift focus during the weekend and turn to a series of entertainment acts for the audience. The festival reconvenes Friday at 11:30 a.m. at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.

“There will be lots of good food and entertainment,” Wright said.

He said attendees will be able to get “some good ribs, a good time and plenty of good fellowship.”

The fun and fellowship will be highlighted by entertainment acts that are scheduled to kick off the weekend’s festivities.Eric Darius is known to many as “Smooth Breeze.” A jazz saxophonist and freshman at USF, Darius will kick off the festival’s “Jazz in the Park” feature on Friday evening at 4:30. The assembly will be invited to break briefly – for some more ribs and fellowship of course – and gather for more musical acts in the Friday night twilight.

Theo Valentin, a nationally renowned Jazz and R&B singer, will perform at 7:30 p.m. and will be sterned by Johnson, a jazz vocalist whom Wright says will hit the stage around 8:30. The activities on Friday will run until 10 p.m.

Wright said other features will be set up throughout the weekend that offer tents for artists and authors, games for kids, face painting and arts and crafts. The Tampa Museum of Art will host a children’s art workshop on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Saturday night features various music and entertainment acts including gospel vocalist Troy Snead and reggae artists Soca and Calypso. Poetry readings from Donald Dowridge and Evie Larmond will speak and hip hop acts by Az Iz and Boc are scheduled. USF groups including “One Accord” and “Ebony Ice” will also perform Saturday night.

The Anthology of Gospel Performance, an 18 member, co-ed, Chicago-based performing group, will be the center of Sunday’s events as they take the crowd back to the USF campus. Look for this free presentation at the Special Events Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wright described the Anthology of Gospel Performance as a “phenomenal group of actors and singers.”

Monday’s events are highlighted with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade at 12 p.m. beginning at Blake High School. The MLK Commemoration Committee will close out the week’s events by sponsoring an ethnic feast and interfaith service at Beulah Baptist Church beginning at 4:30 p.m. Beulah Baptist Church is located at 1006 W. Cypress Street.

Wright said that last year’s celebration was hindered by cold weather, though with a complete lineup of entertainment acts and motivational speeches, productions and readings, the Second Annual Tampa Black History Festival plans to keep the celebration going strong through Monday.

“I expect a phenomenal turnout,” Wright said. “Pray for good weather, but folks will come by leaps and bounds.”To Wright, it seems the festival couldn’t have a more culturally diverse and ascending host than the City of Tampa.

“As America’s next great city, I believe Tampa has an opportunity to highlight and share the culturally diverse community that resides here,” Wright said, as quoted by the Web site for the Second Annual Tampa Black History Festival.

For more information and a complete list of events, check out festival’s official Web site at .

  • Contact Mike Kerriganat