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Black Heritage Festival celebrates a hard-won legacy

TAMPA — People roamed around Curtis Hixon park Saturday taking in the sights, buying food, shopping and getting their health checked.

But when the music started, everything else stopped.

The 11th Annual Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival offered families an array of activities for the afternoon — including a free concert from former LTD lead singer and R&B crooner Jeffrey Osborne.

Vance and Eileen Amos of Gainesville didn't even know the festival was going on when they wandered down Ashley Drive and stopped to hear Osborne sing.

"We're here for a band thing for our daughter," Eileen Amos said. "Then we heard the music."

The festival featured several musicians throughout the day performing styles from blues to rock to reggae to Christian hip-hop.

Children had their own village set up away from the shopping, where they were getting their faces painted and participating in educational activities related to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who is the inspiration for the nine-day festival.

"It gives the parents a chance to enjoy themselves," joked Ruby Jackson, the event organizer.

Lines at the fried and barbecue food tents grew and grew throughout the day. A health fair tent offered festivalgoers screenings and free massages. Vendors sold clothing, hair products and jewelry. And community organizations advertised their missions.

Angelica Alexander said her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, had a lot of traffic at its booth Saturday.

"I'm new to the area, and this was my first time," she said. "I really enjoyed myself. It was so good to see black families out having a good time."

Jackson said she expected 3,000 people to attend Saturday's event. By the time Osborne was performing his hit You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song) her estimate seemed to be on target.

Earlier in the day, Ron Williams, 60, walked around with a camcorder. The ad salesman from Virginia came to Tampa to celebrate his birthday because his travel agent got him a really good deal.

"This is awesome. … This was kind of unplanned for us," he explained. He visited with members of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, and looked forward to trying the food.

But the importance of the festival for him was not lost in the fun. He added, "I think people sometimes forget that the struggle is not over. … I just think it's good for people to get together and talk and sort of learn from each other."

Black Heritage Festival celebrates a hard-won legacy 01/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 15, 2011 11:29pm]
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