Riley House Museum ends Black History Month with celebration gala

The Tallahassee community gathered for the “15th Annual Applause for the Pioneers, Cufflinks and Pearls Gala” event hosted by the John G. Riley Center and Museum. The event was held at the Goodwood Museum and Gardens on Thursday Feb. 28.

The event honored pioneers Antonio, George, John and Bahamia of the Proctor’s family. These individuals made prominent achievements during the 18thand 19th century. Riley Education Director, Paige Lee expressed the museum always made an effort to highlight the past generation of African-Americans each year.

“We always honor a prominent African American person that contributed to the community tremendously and remarkably,” Lee said. “We have almost 200 guests in attendance along with the local businesses that look forward too every year, coming together honoring our history along with great food and music.”

The Riley staff found five generations worth of information about the Proctor family. The staff managed to connect distant family members along with collecting vital information.

Communications officer Seneca Digs recalled how the search for information led to new discoveries within the Proctor family.

“We had people calling in that we didn’t know were a part of the family telling us history,” Digs said. “One of the family members came from New Jersey that gave her story of her getting connected to the Proctor family. She was an orphan and didn’t think that she even had any family until she heard of this event.”

At the event, guests were treated to live music. Local musician Fred Lee Jr. focused on the story of the Proctor family through his music while The Washington Sisters traveled from Gainesville to sing “A Spiritual Musical Trail”.

For Lee, having the chance to perform was something he considered an honor.  

“It’s a tremendous honor, the Riley House Museum is an essential part of this community and unbelievable treasure,” Lee said. “They’re very important to this community and I’m honored they chose me to perform tonight.”

The tables were filled with many different people who seemed to have enjoyed themselves at the Gala. There were various members of the community such as police, politicians, artist, local businesses, and others in attendance. There were also ushers that helped people get to their designated tables and helped to serve food.

Bookkeeping Manager Felicia Miles expressed the importance of events that are informative and educational to the community.

“This event is annual, and it highlights a lot of history we don’t know about,” Miles said “It will be good for the community to know [and] to go to the Riley Museum to find out local history that isn’t so broad.”

Besides showcasing black history, the gala also helped with the Riley Internship Program. The internship program works to pay interns enrolled in undergraduate to graduate degree programs who work at the museum.

An intern helped set up the event along with getting hands on experience on how to facilitate an event accordingly. For intern, Tatyana Peen, institutions like the Riley Museum are places people from any age could benefit from.

“I want more people my age to understand that history is important,” Peen said. “Not for a class, assignment or a grade, but because history repeats itself and the people my age or younger should be interested in learning from the mistakes of the country.”

Overall, the event was a success and the Riley House Museum hopes to bring in more people along with a younger crowd with events in the future.