ST. PETERSBURG – Before the tragic death of India Nicole Welch, a rising star in the community, she was working to bring a festival to the area that would encompass family, community, social issues, education and spirituality. In her honor, the Goodbye Fear, Hello Victory Unity Festival will be held this Sat., Jan. 9 at Gibbs High School.
The community came to a standstill last August when India and her two siblings La’Mour and Tehira, along with family friend, Antwayne Robinson, were killed in a car accident on a rain- swept highway.
“Goodbye fear, hello victory was India’s mantra,” said Courtney Roberts, friend and sponsorship coordinator of the event. It was also the name of India’s book where she revealed her own inner demons, how she overcame them and how she was living in a “season of victory.”
Last June, India started preliminary work on this fun-filled family event where everyone can not only have a good time but will also be able to receive information on some of the issues that plagued the community with fear. Her vision was brought to life by her family, friends and the community she loved so much.
Roberts cited several issues India felt kept the community from moving forward because they are shackled with fear, such as fear of the educational system where some families find it hard to navigate through. Health issues are paramount in the black community, but the fear of a bad diagnosis keep some from seeking medical attention, while others are unaware of free or cost efficient medical services and many are in living in fear with a violent domestic partner.
Members of the Pinellas County School Board, Pinellas County Urban League, Suncoast Hospice and other service providers will be on hand with information on these and other issues. Sponsors include the Tampa Bay Rays, TASCO and Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally.
India was a big believer in the black community supporting its black-owned businesses.
“There is a stigma of doing business with other black people,” stated Roberts. The festival hopes to foster a partnership between small businesses and the community. Some of the businesses that will be there are FameX Hair Extensions, Dope Denim, SouthSide Shugah Shack, Joy’s Kozy Kitchen and personal Zumba instructor Angie Smith.
India was described as a person that was always singing. Her father, Pastor Ricardo Welch of Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ, said that singing was India’s passion from the time she was a little girl. He credits India’s singing as the catalyst for the festival that was first conceived as a gospel concert.
“India was a real compassionate child,” Pastor Welch stated. He explained that she was always solving her friends’ problems and had a unique ability to bring together different ethnic groups and genres of music. With a father’s pride, quiet voice and tearful eyes, he described India’s personal dreams and aspiration. She wanted to be a contemporary gospel artist and to expand her business, India Welch Ministries, which promoted workshops and scholarships.
Pastor Welch paused to reflect on each of his daughters’ attributes. He described La’Mour as “strong willed,” India as “mediator and friend” and Tehira as “sweet and loving.” He said that the first letters of each of their names combine to spell “LIT.”
“My girls lit something on fire,” he said proudly referring to Matthew 5:14. “It causes me comfort and some peace.”
Pastor Welch serving as committee chair, Donna Welch as event coordinator, Marketing Coordinator Nicole Phillip, Talent Coordinator Clarence Skinner along with Roberts has planned for the festival to be a celebration for the community and India.
“We could not just leave it, she would want us to see it through,” said Roberts. “We’ve been getting awesome feedback and everyone is willing to help. India had a heart for service and wanted to give a message of unity because she was a people person.”
The Goodbye Fear, Hello Victory Unity Festival is a free event this Sat., Jan. 9 from 1-8 p.m. at Gibbs High School, 850 34th St. S, St. Petersburg. There will be food trucks with something to tempt everyone’s taste buds, a Kidz Zone, family games and India’s spirit.