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Black History Month celebration will recall Booker T. Washington's visits to Allentown

Sage O"Ava
Courtesy Kari Holmes
Sage O'Ava is the youngest entrepreneur receiving an award at the Rising Sun Initiative Black History Month celebration in Allentown.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — An awards ceremony, fashion show, and sampling of soul food are all part of the Black History Month celebration commemorating Booker T. Washington's visit to Lehigh Valley.

Community leaders, local artists and entrepreneurs will be honored at the event held from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, at Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St.

  • Rising Sun Initiative will host a Black History Month celebration at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown
  • The event commemorates orator and activist Booker T. Washington's visits to the Lehigh Valley in 1902 and 1914
  • 13 community leaders and business owners will be honored

Locals honored

Many of the 13 nominees have served the community for decades.

Among the notable names: Carmen Bell, director of healthy aging, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Katarah Jordan, director at the James Lawson Freedom School, Beatrice Kamga-Gray, former president of the Liberian community association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Phil Davis, senior pastor at Greater Shiloh Church in Easton.

Voting for this year's nominees was put together by members of the Rising Sun Initiative, which has hosted the Black History Month celebration in the city since 2014.

According to the organization's founder, Kari Holmes, contributions by Black people in the county are often overlooked.

"When we first started the Rising Sun Initiative 12 years ago, it was based around the idea that Allentown has had the conversation on race relations and diversity since the beginning of our city's history," Holmes said.

"But the recognition of Blacks is often dismissed in every area of society — even here in Allentown. There are buildings standing here that wouldn't have been built without the Black infrastructure and workforce. It is important to acknowledge the efforts of African-Americans for an accurate level of history. Without celebrations like these, the significant contributions of Blacks in the entire community would not be recognized, they would be erased."

African inspired fashion
Courtesy GinEse Couture
Gina Boamah will present her fashion designs at the Black History Month celebration held on Sunday at the Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown.

Reciting history

Local poet Anthony Thomas will recite part of Washington's speeches from his two visits to Allentown. The Black educator and orator came to rally at the symphony hall (known then as Lyric Theater) in 1902, and 12 years later to the Zion Reformed United Church of Christ.

The cries to end racism and inequality spoken by Washington are still relevant today, Davis said.

'Black history is world history. Our beginnings exceed our sojourn on the Western Shores of the Americas. The whole must be told not just a portion. It will elevate our self view and inspire generations."<br/>
Pastor Phil Davis, Greater Shiloh Church

"Black history is world history. Our beginnings exceed our sojourn on the Western Shores of the Americas, " he said. "The whole must be told, not just a portion. It will elevate our self-view and inspire generations."

Fashion and food

Kari Holmes
Courtesy of Kari Holmes
Kari Holmes, of Rising Sun Initiative, is among the performers attending a Black History Month celebration in Allentown on Sunday.

Holmes will kick off the festivities with a rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Black national anthem.

Later she will be joined by her brother, Ian Holmes, a former "American Idol" contestant, who will also sing uplifting tunes that evening.

Models will showcase African-inspired designs by Gina Boamah, of Ginese Couture, and chefs from Da Judah's Kitchen and the Loaded Plantain in bite-sized samples of African and Caribbean-style eats.

African food
Courtesy Kari Holmes
Sample cuisine for Lehigh Valley's Black-owned eateries such as Da'Judah's Kitchen and the Loaded Plantain.

The youngest honoree of the evening, 4-year-old Sage O'Ava, will sell her handmade beaded bracelets, along with other arts and crafts vendors.

The event is free. For info, call 484-619-3896 or email theRisingSunPA@gmail.com.