Sometimes the connection between the past and the present gets distorted, like a bad cellphone call.
Memories, like signals, can fade. Deeds, like parts of a conversation, can get distorted. Every once in awhile, the call gets dropped.
New St. Paul AME pastor Karen Jackson Sims says the inaugural H'Attitude Awards are all about making sure young African-Americans don't get disconnected from the achievements of their most recent predecessors. The awards program takes place at 11:30 a.m. Saturday during a brunch at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay and will recognize key contributors in various categories including business, civil rights, education, arts, medicine and legal.
The event is being staged by New St. Paul AME and Pleasant Chapel AME churches and enjoys the support of the African Methodist Episcopal's Tampa District.
Sims, who lives in Riverview, said after talking to young people, it became apparent to organizers that many young people in the community did not understand the achievements that have been made by and for African-Americans in Tampa Bay.
"Our hope is to spotlight contributions made so to encourage the coming generations to take up the mantle and build upon the foundation laid," said Sims, who is co-chairing the event with Joan Dawson. "It is our hope that taking the time to recognize those who have made contributions will not only thank them, but encourage others to believe in their ability to change the city, county and nation."
While the event will honor various citizens and feature a keynote speech from Atlanta attorney and author Patricia Russell-McCloud, its theme will revolve around the hat, which holds a special place in the history of the African-American church. Sims said they want the awards to emanate the same kind of pride that classy hats generate on Sunday mornings.
"No matter what a man or woman did during the week, come Sunday you would find big, bold and colorful hats, also known as our crown, in every church," Sims said. "You just were not ready to be in the presence of God unless you had your hat on. Ladies and men walked a little taller, had a little more attitude in their stride and headed to the church where our successes, our accomplishments and our building of our communities were celebrated."
Russell-McCloud is an internationally known speaker and a past national president of the Links, a predominantly African-American service group for women. Her latest book is My Journal: Myself, Inside Out.
Juel Smith, founder of the University of South Florida Institute of Black Life and a member of the Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame, will introduce Russell-McCloud. "She is about self-empowerment," Smith said of Russell-McCloud.
Sims said if all goes as planned, the event will become an annual occurrence in Tampa Bay, strengthening the connection between the established achievers and rising stars. "We want to bring some of our history back to life," Sims said.