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Tampa police mark Black History Month

TAMPA _ Robert Garcia _ normally the choir's drummer _ sang an emotional a cappella version of How Great Thou Art. The late-arriving University of South Florida gospel choir later joined in with a medley of gospel music, ending to a standing ovation.

And the program finished with dancing children in flowered sarongs _ the Children of the Sun dance troupe.

The Tampa Police Department's second annual celebration of Black History Month presented a variety of entertainment but was also an opportunity for the community to present awards to several outstanding black citizens.

"Let me tell you how pleased I am with the strides our community is making in learning to live together," Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman said.

About 150 people attended the program, including black officers, their families and friends. Very few white uniformed officers were in the audience.

The master of ceremonies was Deputy Chief Curtis Lane, the highest ranking black officer in a department of 800 with about 85 black officers.

Fred Buckine, general counsel for the Florida Department of Transportation, was the guest speaker, providing his audience to a history of famous African-Americans in history _ from the Ethiopian kings who reigned more than 2,000 years ago to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.