From Eatonville's Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities in late January to Sunrise's Grace Jamaica Jerk Festival in November, Florida lures African-Americans all year long, with a calendar rich in cultural, professional and culinary events.
They come for food, friends and football, beaches and business, music and motorcycles -- at events stretching from Pensacola to Miami Beach....
08/13/11 Human Interest
I am on a long drive home to Tampa on a Friday evening and my cell phone rings.
"Your ex-girlfriend called." My wife sounds almost amused at telling me this. After more 20 years she never fusses when a woman calls for me.
Before I can guess which ex, she tells me.
I hadn't spoken to Angela in years. She was visiting my boyhood home, the Caribbean island of Montserrat, and got my number from relatives....
07/18/09 Human Interest
Two weeks of torrential rainfall had turned the front lawn of the small, two-story apartment house into an unruly mess of knee-high grass and weeds. But Francesca was undeterred, moving as if wielding a Hoover vacuum. Dressed in flip-flops and last night's floral nightgown, she attacked the grass in rapid bursts, creating her own rhythm of parry and thrust, leaving the green blades neatly trimmed....
It started as a routine class project.
Tom Hallock, an assistant English professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, had his grad students explore the rivers of Florida. They had so much fun that the following spring Hallock assigned them to focus on the rivers of the Green Swamp: the Hillsborough, Withlacoochee, Peace and Ocklawaha.
Hallock then combined the best student essays with contributions from professional writers and academics, including St. Petersburg Times outdoors writer Terry Tomalin, history professor Gary Mormino and nonfiction writer Bill Belleville, author of River of Lakes: Journey through Florida's St. Johns River....
04/21/08 Human Interest
When you feel a calling to make a difference in the world, it's hard to know when to quit.
Just ask Sister Joan Foley.
The 76-year-old nun founded the Connections job development program in 1991 in New Port Richey to help homeless families in Pasco, but this spring she figured she'd retire, turning over the reins to Judy Tilton.
But there was this one last thing left to do.
Foley, who serves in the order of Medical Mission Sisters, had for years wanted to open an office in eastern Pasco. It's a wide county, and homeless folks there could hardly be expected to take advantage of services more than an hour away....
04/17/08 Human Interest
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Andrew Young U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
At the time, I was a high school student in the Caribbean, and even at that distance, I was bursting with pride over having a black man in that high-profile post. Young was a hero. Black boys like me all over the world could dream of becoming U.N. ambassadors.
I had a chance to see Young in person for the first time earlier this week when the former Atlanta mayor and congressman visited Saint Leo University in east Pasco....
04/14/08 Human Interest
Jason Booker was due back on the job in the Hernando County Utilities Department on Monday.
It couldn't have been the kind of return the 20-year-old was looking forward to.
Booker was given paid time off after he accused co-workers of racial harassment, racial insults and horseplay involving a noose.
County officials are still sifting through the allegations. Booker, who has been working for the department for less than a year, has himself been accused of making racial comments....
04/05/08 Human Interest
One evening recently, I joined my son as he watched The Daily Show, the satirical news show, as it spoofed Sen. John McCain's biography tour.
One pseudo reporter was on location at Gettysburg, Pa., where she reported that just before giving his historic address, President Abraham Lincoln received a cool drink of water from the young John McCain.
Maybe my soul was parched, but I laughed out loud and couldn't stop laughing. It was deep down gut laughter. And I guess my son sensed that his grumpy old dad needed to lighten up, because as soon as my laughter subsided he placed his headphones over my ears so I could listen to a podcast of the Onion, a satirical online publication. ...
04/03/08 Human Interest
An encounter with an American nun 25 years ago changed his life, gave him a shot at life outside his native Haiti.
Sister Claire Daneau told Laude Saint-Preux he was special; he was smart enough to get an education in America. Later the Holy Cross nun helped him get into Saint Leo University in Pasco County.
He didn't have to, but in exchange for her generosity, Laude (pronounced Lode) promised Sister Claire he would come back and help those left behind. That's not uncommon. Many immigrants leave home vowing to return with their talent and expertise. But the everyday demands of American life make it easy to forget. ...
03/31/08 Human Interest
Jim Pittman believes people of faith ought to do more than just talk.
So after he opened his office in Zephyrhills three years ago, the Edward Jones financial advisor wanted to know what Christian business owners and managers were doing to help the underprivileged in the community.
He soon found out that there was no one organization to coordinate local relief efforts. A pastors group, individual congregations and civic organizations were barely able to keep up with the struggling families who needed help paying their rent and utility bills or buying groceries....
03/30/08 Mass Transit
In the mid '90s, the fledgling Pasco County Public Transportation ran buses only two days a week on a few routes along the west side. The windows were tinted dark because county officials didn't want people to see the buses were empty. At least that was the joke.
They're still not exactly full, but ridership is way up. In 2007, PCPT transported a million riders — almost half on their way to or from work. ...
The pages of the church minutes and membership have faded over the years, but the names remain clear — if not the details.
You learn when they were born and baptized. But there is no explanation of a certain punishment that shows up next to several of the names of the early congregants at the Withlacoochee Missionary Baptist Church.
In the early 1900s, it seems, there was a fine line between saint and sinner. ...
03/20/08 Human Interest
Maybe it's my imagination, but it sure seems like drivers in Florida run more red lights than in other states.
When teaching my 16-year-old son to drive, we witnessed plenty of that red-light running, which I took to calling Florida Roulette.
Now it seems lots of local governments are embracing a "solution.'' Technology to the rescue. Automatic cameras are going to catch these dangerous motorists and help part them with their cash. ...
03/15/08 Human Interest
It's called progress — with a capital B.
Billions, that is. Seventeen of them.
The initial estimates of how much it would cost Progress Energy to build a nuclear plant in Levy County already seemed astronomical before the company announced last week that it was only kidding. The real price, it said, is actually three times higher.
Oh, yeah, and if you're a customer — which you no doubt are — you have to pay for all this in advance. ...
Harold Hedrick II is 19, two years too young to have a gun permit. Yet the University of Central Florida sophomore regularly joins fellow students at an Orlando-area gun range to pop off a few rounds.
The 2007 River Ridge High grad is a member of the fledgling Knights Rifle Association, a group formed on the UCF campus soon after the Virginia Tech shooting massacre last April. They want students who have gun permits to be able to pack their pistols along with their textbooks when they go to class. And they've become even more vocal following last month's Northern Illinois University campus shooting that left six dead. Hedrick and his KRA mates argue that legally armed students mean less bloodshed, not more. ...