PANAMA CITY — Black History Month celebrations are growing in Panama City, and the local community hopes to keep it that way by offering more engaging opportunities for local African American history.
While Black History Month is annually observed nationwide in February, Panama City is aiming to enhance the celebrations throughout the community with more than just one or two events. To do that, the city is partnering with several local groups and organizations to bring a series of events to help keep rich African American history alive in Bay County.
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Sean DePalma, director of the city’s Quality of Life department, said he formed a team in mid-October with local organizations to find ways that the city could be more interactive during Black History Month. He said they wanted to tie together the components of education, economic growth and development and entertainment of Black history.
“We want to effectively share these historical components with our community, but we knew one day would not be enough,” DePalma said. “So we broke it down to make sure we’re hitting all those desired points of delivery within the community.”
As a result, Panama City partnered with DADSRA of the Panhandle, Florida State University Panama City, LEAD Coalition of Bay County and Minority PC to create a community-based, monthlong series of events to commemorate Black History Month.
Panama City Commission candidate Michelle Bryant said although the city hosts Black History Month events each year, she thinks the delivery of the history was limited and hopes the turnaround of the events would be just what the community needs.
“Black History Month should be more robust in Panama City, and it should have multiple components to give the community historical data about the city we live in and just give people the opportunity to see what the African American community looked like many years ago,” Bryant said. “We’ve gotten to a place in history where our youth just doesn’t know where we come from, and I think with all of those pieces missing, this is a perfect time to have an event like this.”
Here’s a look into next month’s events:
- Feb. 4 – Baseball Family Day will be from noon to 2 p.m. at Oak Grove Field, 17th Street and Lincoln Avenue. This is the site where local Black baseball leagues would meet in Bay County. The event will honor the local history of African American baseball.
- Feb. 11 – Nurse Flossie Lewis Health Fair will take place at Florida State University Panama City from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will include 20 health-based community vendors, a panel of local physicians and health care professionals, and an exhibit honoring Nurse Lewis, who advocated for health awareness in the African American community.
- Feb. 18 – The Culture and Resource Fair will be at Rosenwald High School, 924 Bay Ave., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is a creative and informative cultural awareness event that dives into the history of the first African American families in Bay County.
- Feb. 25 – Second Panama City Family Heritage Festival will be from 1 to 5 p.m. at Carl Gray Park, 4600 Collegiate Drive, celebrating the past, present and future of Black History. There will be live music, entertainment, food trucks and over 50 vendors.
DePalma said he looks forward to continuing this series in the future while promoting Panama City’s diverse community.
“This just shows that there’s compassion for neighbors and our community and that we’re really trying to ensure that any kind of adverse past doesn’t repeat itself and we’re open-minded to embracing everybody in our community regardless of their background,” he said.
Looking ahead, Bryant said she hopes the city is able to pave the way to create a Black history committee where they can feasibly organize events and promote Black history throughout the year.
Organizers are still looking for volunteers and vendors to help participate in this year’s events. For more information or volunteer opportunities, call Bryant at 850-215-4024, or the Quality of Life department at 850-872-3199.
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