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Black History activities promote sense of solidarity

By Gheni_Platenburg
Feb. 12, 2011 at 9:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 11, 2011 at 8:12 p.m.

Kiamani Perry, 2, left, and Jaden Williams, 5,  wave from the Palestine Baptist Church float titled "Praying for our politicians."

As hundreds of attendees of the Black History Festival began to sing The Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a sense of solidarity and remembrance permeated the crowd.

"It was such a happy feeling," said Sherilyn Shelton, member of the Black History Month Steering committee. "It was awesome."

The festival was just one of three activities organized for the Black History Month Steering Committee's annual Black History Month celebration held on Saturday.

"It's good to see people from the community coming out and celebrating our history together," said 16-year-old Cecelia Hayes, who attended the festival as part of Top Teens of America.

The activities began Saturday morning with a parade, which started at Patti Welder Magnet Middle School, 1500 E. North St., and ended at the Victoria Community Center, 2905 E. North St.

Drs. Deborah Eezzudehmoi, Yvette Westford, Tywaun Tillman and Chelif Junor, all of whom are African-American, served as the parade's grand marshals.

"For the first time ever, we've had several African-American doctors in town," said Willie Ellis, spokesman for the Black History Month Steering Committee. "What they represent are the mentors and role models that we haven't had in this community before."

Additional parade participants included representatives from Victoria College and the University of Houston-Victoria, as well as Tone's Body Shop of Edna and the Houston Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, who blasted tunes by The Temptations and Frankie Beverly and Maze as they rode by.

"We were excited about it," said Heard "Dollar Bill" Robinson, president of the Houston Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers. "It is a great honor to come this way and participate in such an historic event."

The Buffalo Soldiers appeared to be a crowd favorite.

"They were pretty nice," said Victoria resident Brenda Callis, 53. "I liked the motorcycles the most because they had the most black participants out of all the groups."

The festival followed the parade at the Victoria Community Center.

While at the festival, the parade's grand marshals addressed attendees about health issues prevalent among the Black community.

"(Cardiovascular) problems are a very big problem not only in the African-American community, but throughout the country," said Tillman. "But for African-Americans, diabetes, stroke and so forth are among the leading killers."

"I've been here for six years. I should have seen more people than I have," said Westford, 47, as she discussed women's health issues. "There's no reason why anybody should not have had a pap smear or mammogram."

In addition to the health talk, various dance groups performed and youth participants read information about historical local black doctors.

Various organizations set up booths at the festival to sell goods or promote their organizations.

"We came to support the community. We wanted to be involved, and we saw this as an opportunity to sell items to fund raise for Top Teens of America," said Natasha Goode, president of the Victoria Chapter of Top Ladies of Distinction. "The proceeds will go toward helping the Top Teens attend their area conference."

Vendor Barbara Ross-Littles said she not only came out to sell her wares, but she also came for fellowship.

"We wanted to celebrate our black heritage," said Ross-Littles, owner of B&B's Handbags and More. "You get to see a lot of people that you haven't seen all year."

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