Hillsborough Black Heritage Celebration lauds Obama

02/13/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Although Barack Obama has had a rough first month in office, there was nothing but unadulterated support in Tampa today, as his historic election was celebrated in the 17th annual Hillsborough County Black Heritage Celebration ceremony at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square.

The event was emceed by St. Petersburg Times columnist Ernest Hooper. His 107 year old grandmother – Ann Louise Nixon Cooper –was mentioned by President Obama in his election night victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago.

As has been mentioned countless times since last November, the election of a black man in the United States has been a transformative event the world over. Hooper says it does have profound significance for people like his grandmother, who through all the rough times, always has remained hopeful.

At the ceremony, the 2009 Legacy Award was given to Freddie J. Hudson, who served for more than 18 years as the executive manager for the county's Department of Aging Services,

The keynote speaker was Frank Sanchez, the former mayoral candidate in Tampa who served as a Policy Advisor on Latin America to the Obama for America Campaign, and was a key fundraiser in Florida for Obama.

Sanchez made headlines this week with news that a local nonprofit and a steel company that he worked for are being investigated by the Health and Human Services Department. That investigation comes at the same time it is believed that he is being vetted for a possible job in the administration. Sanchez would not comment publicly about either issue, but did say that he had done nothing wrong.

The star speaker of the event was Dr. Carolyn Collins, who now works at Tampa General Hospital.

In between speeches and musical performances, Hooper mentioned the various other black men and women who had run for the highest office in the land over the past 200 years, such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Alan Keyes and New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in 1972.

Barack Obama’s popularity has remained high in his first month in office, despite criticism from the right and the left on whether the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus bill will be effective. The housing and credits crises are daunting.

Hooper says Obama’s charisma does transcend race to the extent that the public wants somebody to believe in.

Events will continue throughout the bay area in celebrating Black History month – also, the NAACP observes its 100th anniversary on Feb. 21.

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