Black history still an important part of American history

With Thanksgiving out of sight, Christmas around the corner and a new year on the way, Priscilla Hawkins is already 9 months ahead of the game, having been preparing since March for Black History Month.

Each year for the past 15 years, Hawkins has organized the Black History Month Festival. In addition to the festival, Hawkins developed a souvenir journal that features a list of Black History Month events going on in the Tallahassee community.

Hawkins shared more about how the idea for this festival came about.

“In 1991, I was working in publicity and promotions for the Miss Black Orlando Pageant,” Hawkins said. “After she was chosen my first order of business was to find activities or events that she could be a part of.”

After calling around to 13 different black organizations to inquire about their plans for Black History Month, Hawkins received the same disappointing answer.

“They all said call us back at the end of January and we’ll let you know. By this time Black History Month had been nationally recognized for the past 10 years, which meant to me no one was planning,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins took matters in her own hands. She tried to find everything that was happening in Orlando and compile it in a book. In the end she came up with four ideas: creating a souvenir journal, nominating honorees, holding a kick-off reception with cultural performances and having a closing event.

The purpose for the festival and the souvenir journal is to make the community aware of the different cultural events that are available during the month of February and encourage better planning.

“The problem is that people don’t start planning early,” Hawkins said. “Often black history events are not planned until the end of January. We want people to uphold a certain mindset. We’re encouraging others to plan ahead,” she continued.

After the success of the festival and the souvenir journal in Orlando for seven years and in Atlanta for two years, Hawkins brought the festivities to Tallahassee and is preparing for its third year here.

Between March and April, Hawkins began identifying lead partners, media partners and committee planners to help organize, host and plan events. This year some of the lead community partners are the Wakulla County Christian Coalition, Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, the Tallahassee Democrat, Cumulus radio station, WCTV Channel 6, and the Capital Outlook.

Hawkins said she is hopeful participation in the journal will increase since there is a real incentive for being involved.

“For a small fee you don’t just get your event listed in the souvenir journal, but in the newspapers, on the five radio stations, on television and on various Web sites.” Hawkins said. “We really want people to see the benefit of getting their items to us early, because we have really good media partners.”

Right now there are no FAMU student organizations listed, which is a bit surprising to Hawkins.

“With FAMU being a partner there should be plenty of student organizations involved,” she said. “This is a good way for the campus to invite the community.”

Although FAMU’s student organizations haven’t been featured in previous years, faculty from the Office of Student Union & Activities are doing their best to make a change.

“It’s simply a matter of not knowing, but now that we know, I would be more than happy to get that information out so we can see more Rattlers out in the community,” said Saundra Inge, associate director of OSUA.

Morolake Laosebikan-Buggs, director of OSUA, echoed Inge’s sentiments.

“We are definitely going to do our best to get that information out to the various groups and organizations on campus,” Buggs said.

The deadline for event list forms is Dec.15. Forms are available in the Journalism Division Office. Forms can also be e-mailed or faxed by Priscilla Hawkins, who can be contacted at or by phone at (850) 224-0152/877-0453.