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African-American past celebrated Saturday

Dancers in colorful costumes, African-influenced music, animated storytelling, an African-American art show and marketplace, ethnic foods and cooking demonstrations, historical presentations and children's activities: The Seventh Annual Florida African-American Heritage Celebration promises a wide range of fun and educational activities for the whole family.

The free event, at Pinewood Cultural Park in Largo, is popular for both its entertainment and educational value, said Randy Lightfoot, event chairman.

"It's a good time to come together, enjoy life and celebrate diversity," Lightfoot said. He added that new features - a youth stage, a statewide gospel competition and more vendors - promise to make this year's event the biggest yet.

Lightfoot is Pinellas County's supervisor of social studies for grades K-12. He stressed the celebration's educational aspects.

"It is an opportunity for all people of Pinellas County to learn about the rich history of African-Americans in our community," he said.

The Museum at Heritage Village will have special exhibits, including "The Uncrowned Queens of Pinellas: A Tribute to African-American Women." It will showcase 12 extraordinary women who have received little recognition for their contributions to business, education and causes.

The celebration grew out of an archive project to preserve and catalog oral histories, photographs and artifacts relevant to black history in Pinellas County over 125 years.

Guests then and now are encouraged to bring historic photos, tell their stories and help preserve the history of local African-Americans.

"We need to take pride in our legacy," Lightfoot said, "and to pass it on."

IF YOU GO

The Seventh Annual Florida African-American Heritage Celebration takes place from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Pinewood Cultural Park on Walsingham Road in Largo. The event is free. For more information call (727) 588-6342 or visit www.pinellascounty.org/unity.htm.

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