The Westside Gazette

The 2nd Annual Black History Celebration Spins Stories of Excellence and Knowledge

On Friday, February 22, 2019 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, there was a showcase of talent, storytellers, Poets, Dancers, Drummers, Singers, Actors and Actresses. This was a wonderful evening of Black time travel, where the vision of the two directors Dr. Sybil Johnson PHD, and Sydel LeGrande MD. beaconed a call to our ancestors, they were honored   with a phenomenal performance from everyone involved.

The name of the performance was “Rhapsody in me” and from the very beginning, the focus of the show started with teaching our children, and ended with teaching a child. Understanding our history and learning of our past is essential, if you believe that Africa is calling the children of the Diaspora back home. Many will ask, who the children of the Diaspora are, and that question was answered by the Kuumba Dancers & Drummers from Tampa Florida.

For 20 minutes the dancers and drummers presented traditional and authentic dancing and the audience showed their appreciation with tremendous applause. As the group performed, there were visual images of the horrific experiences of slavery and the selling of our people.

Throughout the entire production the screen was used as an educational tool of good times and negative truth telling of the evil treatment of Blacks in America. There were scenes of gospel singing and preaching, and the audience sang along with the actors and actresses, and some were ready to testify. But, the most haunting and impactful scene was the dance scene that illustrated the horror of lynching. The dancer, Keturah Robinson from Tampa Florida, was dressed in all Black, and rhythmically and mournfully danced to the song Strange Fruit sung by Nina Simone

Once the screen transitioned to the Reconstruction post slavery era, and then the Great Migration. Fred Johnson Jazz vocalist extraordinaire illustrated in song the Harlem Renaissance   with very little instrument accompaniment. The last two scenes were the civil rights era, and a final reminder that King’s dream, indeed our dream has yet to be realized. The names and faces of Black men and women who were killed by police and other Blacks in our community were remembered.

What a beautiful and enlightening production, and this statement from Dr. Sybil Johnson explain why the arts are so important and vital to our community. “Perhaps here in Orlando we can begin a new conversation.  A conversation, which recognizes that the visual and performing arts are undoubtedly, the life blood of a healthy and thriving community.”

Thank you to Don Johnson of “Book Beats,” the Project I.A.M. students, Poetry Coach/I.A.M. teacher Ms. Diane Talbert, Choreographer-Mr. John Parks, Jere’ James of Inez Patricia  School of Dance, all the dancers, singers, Director/Writer Dr. Sybil Jonson, and narrator Alex Lewis. To the founder and visionary Sydel LeGrande M.D., the community, the attendees, the performers, and friends, thank you for being a light, when only you could see the way – another great job and production.

To find out more information or make a donation, go to




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