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Holocaust Museum seeks civil rights testimonies at Black Heritage Festival

Now in its 15th year, the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival has featured everything from fashion shows and a gala, to a 5K health walk and leadership luncheons.

This year they have partnered with the Florida Holocaust Museum to bring something new to the 10-day cultural event.

While national artists Ledisi and Atlantic Starr and local groups such as the Black Honkeys perform during the two-day Black Heritage Music Festival at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Saturday and Sunday, the Holocaust Museum will document civil rights testimonies.

Amidst the dancing, music and cultural villages, festival-goers will find the museum's booth where staff will be on hand to videotape memories and stories about the civil rights movement in Tampa Bay. Some of those testimonies will be featured on the museum's website and/or as part of the local Civil Rights exhibition. The museum also will collect documents, advertisements, artifacts and other memorabilia that accurately document the history in the Tampa Bay-Sarasota area. A national Civil Rights exhibit, This Light is Ours, will run in conjunction with the local exhibit, beginning August 1.

"We were talking about how important testimony is for our permanent exhibition on the Holocaust and how often we try and incorporate testimony when we have traveling exhibits as well, and this seemed to be the perfect syncretism," Florida Holocaust Museum executive director Elizabeth Gelman said.

Black Heritage Festival co-chair, Ruby Jackson also expressed enthusiasm about working with the museum.

"Just partnering with them as a whole is important to help get the word out," Jackson said.

The organizers hope documenting civil rights testimonies will send a positive message. Hearing first-hand what that generation went through is a testament that things can change through hard work, togetherness and perseverance.

The local standpoint makes it even more relatable.

"I think it's important that we continue to have discussions and talk about these real important concepts about equality and what it means to have a voice in society and to feel you have a say in your community and in our government, and in our larger world," Gelman said.

"We are a living breathing museum, not simply a history museum. We are about social justice and equality."

The festival also includes arts and crafts, free health screenings, local and regional authors and artists, face-painting, storytelling and children's activities.

Contact Arielle Waldman at