LARGO — Nestled atop a mural created as a backdrop for the Black History program was a picture of Nelson Mandela, the continent of Africa and photographs of prominent African Americans.
The Florida Department of Children and Families SunCoast Region conducted their annual Black History program called A Century of Black Life, History and Culture, which took place Fri., Feb 6 at the North Pinellas Service Center, 1131 Ulmerton Rd., Largo.
Jelessa R. Oats of St. Petersburg College filled the room with music as she played the keyboard. Operations and Management Consultant Phoebe Quarterman took her rightful place at the podium and with her delightfully, strong voice, The Mistress of Ceremony united the audience in the singing of, “Soon and Very Soon.”
Department of Children and Families’ Operations and Management Consultant, Betty Thomas welcomed the standing room only crowd.
Guest speaker Trenia Cox, the faith-based coordinator of the Juvenile Welfare Board, delivered a flawless speech encompassing culture, family and children.
“We are about improving the community. Are we there yet? We’re not… The good news is we can get there… Being recognized for our humanity is still a struggle for African Americans,” she said as she advised the audience to see the film “Selma” if they had not already done so.
Directing her words to parents, caregivers, social service providers and any staff from other societal institutions, Cox had a list of ways to improve the community: Treat people with human dignity; respect other cultures, families matter and all children matter; they are precious.
Cox wanted to drive home the point to the audience that regardless of position and social status, we all need to work toward creating a better world where character is the focus and not color.
Despite the seriousness and urgency of the discussion, Quarterman and Ben Shirley, Regional ESS Director, continued to inject humor at all the right moments.
The Department of Children and Families presented Cox with a framed Proclamation to express their sincere gratitude for her contributions and commitment to the community.
Several other local leaders were acknowledged with a plaque for their tireless advocacy. Among those recognized were High Point Neighborhood Family Center, CASA, The Children’s Home, Daystar and The Weekly Challenger.
Following the award ceremony, Angela Cowart led the Blessing of the Bounty, and lunch was served.
Everyone rose to sing the Negro National Anthem, written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” followed by a prayer for blessing and guidance by Wendy Atkins of the Department of Revenue and an instrumental solo.
A creative and interpretive dance routine was performed by Sydni Neal of St. Pete Collegiate High School. Dressed in an airy, black, outfit, the dancer had beautiful, long multicolored braids. Her appearance matched her performance, delicate, yet meaningful, as she communicated with the audience without saying a single word.