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17th annual Black History festival honors several students, adults

HUNTSVILLE — Rosie’s International Services, an organization that seeks to celebrate diversity and culture in the community, held their 17th annual Black History Enrichment and Enlightenment Festival last month at Trinity United Methodist Church.

The festival, held during Black History Month, focused on three areas: sharing our culture, art in education and mentoring.

RIS President Rosie Douglas said the purpose of the festival was to “bring culture awareness and understanding of the African American culture to our youth and the community.”

Douglas said several locals contributed to the event’s success. WZDX’s Charity Chambers served as the emcee for the event, Mae Jemison High School’s JROTC presented the colors and Arthurine Shackleford provided her vocal talents for the national anthem.

The event also featured several musical and other artistic performances to honor African American culture and heritage. Highlights included Herbert Kimbrough’s performance of the “I Have a Dream” speech, saxophonist Dr. Reginald Jackson and Tommy Friend, African drummers, gospel choirs, a performing arts group, a portrayal of Sojourner Truth, Maitland Conservatory, Seminole Boys and Girls Club’s choir, a performance from the Academy for Academics and Arts magnet school, Chapman Middle School choir and more.

Five area schools also received the Tuskegee Airmen Award, which Douglas said is signed by the Tuskegee Airmen president. These schools included Bob Jones High School, Whitesburg P-8 School, Academy for Academics and Arts magnet school, Jones Valley Elementary School and Sonnie Hereford Elementary School.

Five essay winners also received a Tuskegee Airmen of Excellence Award. Four of these were from Whitesburg P-8 School, and one was from the Academy for Academics and Arts. “We acknowledged these students for their hard work and dedication for their 2019 essay writing,” Douglas added.

A couple of local heroes also received awards for their work. The Doctor of the Year award was presented to Dr. Warren Foster, a cardiologist in Huntsville. This year’s Soldier of the Year award went to Sgt. 1st Class Juan Leal.

Leal said it was a “huge honor” to receive the prestigious award. He also expressed appreciation for the festival.

“The celebration of Black History Month in Huntsville, Alabama, has been a huge success and a great promotion to the community and the military,” he said. “The history involved in this event, such as the Tuskegee Airmen (and) the MLK Speech has been an inspiration to all people of different color and background. It’s always a great moment to know people’s background and how they sacrificed to make a better change in life.”

Douglas also congratulated the many winners of the Black History Teachers Artist of the Year award. These winners included Discovery Middle School; Columbia Elementary School; Sparkman High School; Child, Youth and School Services at Redstone Arsenal; Lee High School; Mae Jemison High School; New Hope High School; Academy for Academics and Arts; and the Farley Boys and Girls Club.

Winners of the Student Artist of the Year award came from Discovery Middle School, Columbia Elementary School, Mae Jemison High School, Academy for Academics and Arts and the Farley Boys and Girls Club.

In addition to the entertainment and awards, the festival also featured African clothing, quilts, jewelry, arts, crafts and more. A student art display was also set up to celebrate local youths’ talents.

Douglas said that while the festival’s observance only took place for a day, the culture lives on in various ways: education, music, art, science, engineering, dance, food, family and friends.

“African Americans have made great contributions, accomplishments, and history throughout the world,” she added. “… The event was a success, (and we’re) looking forward to the next year.”

Rosie’s International Services holds several events throughout the year in celebration of various cultures that live and breathe in the community. A few months ago, they held a celebration in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and held a tree lighting ceremony performed by Leal. In the summer, they hold camps for youth.

For more information, visit them at facebook.com/ServiceOrganization.

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