Brass bands and vocals help Tampa celebrate Black History Month

02/08/12 Janelle Irwin
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The City of Tampa and the Black History Committee held their 24th annual celebration today at the Tampa Convention Center. Tampa students, city employees and supporters of the African-American community enjoyed lively music and a helping of financial advice.

February marks 28 – and this year because it’s a leap year, 29 - days of honoring centuries of progress in the African American community.

The Distinguished Men of Brass played as Tampa’s Mayor, Bob Buckhorn tapped along. After, he said the city has always been at the forefront of embracing cultural uniqueness.

”But it’s our calling everyday. We need to move beyond the shackles of the past to a much, much brighter future. And each of us everyday have an obligation to make it better, to never tolerate what we know to be wrong, to stand up for what we know to be right. That’s my city and that’s your city.”

His speech to kick off the event drew some charismatic shouts from listeners. It also got Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick up to crack a joke or two.

“I believe I have a mayor that’s going to be sitting in someone’s pulpit soon. I don’t know if you picked that vibe up. In his next job, he’s going to be a minister. I believe it.”

Joking aside, Reddick said that he’s a proud black man because, “… when I look at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we see an African American sitting in the White House.”

Reddick continued with a list of successful African-Americans. But the event’s keynote speaker, Pamala McCoy who began her own credit consultation company, addressed a problem facing all Americans. She said the best way to find financial success in these hard economic times requires education, evolution and empowerment.

“Empowerment is about using that knowledge to gain, to manage our finances everyday and having the courage and the discipline to use these tools to their maximum benefit. The empowerment not only strengthens us as individuals, but also provides the financial power to strengthen our neighborhoods to strengthen our city to strengthen our nation.”

But the manager of minority and small business development with the City of Tampa, Gregory Hart, said figuring out how to be rich isn’t necessarily the best path toward economic stability.

“Let me assure you, that is not how we want to define financial health and wealth management. A bigger income does not always result in bigger savings or financial stability. More often than not, a bigger income results in bigger spending and debt.”

Local students played Caribbean-style music in a nearby ballroom before the program began. Kristian Rey is a student at the Rampello Downtown Partnership School and said the opportunity to play for so many people was “pretty cool”.

“Our steel band director, Mr. Jenkins, he pretty much started this whole thing. He’s been playing steel drums for thirty plus years and loves doing it so now he teaches kids. He’s best friends, or really good friends with our other band director and so we just got the gig and we played it.”

Other students and volunteers also set up a “living” black history museum. Charles Stevens, a Tampa stormwater employee, said it was an interesting touch to the day’s festivities.

“I went in there, they had a guy showing collector’s items like old toys back in the days that it’s probably hard to find them now, but it was like toys with black guys on them and stuff like that.”

Linda Williams, who is also a Tampa employee, finished the program with the African American National Anthem.

Hillsborough County officials will celebrate Black History Month at noon on this Friday at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square. They plan to honor successful African-American doctors and nurses.

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