Celebrating diverse cultures and the future: Black Heritage Calendar Fest, 2023

In a month already filled with ways to honor Black history and history-makers, a local sorority annually toasts achievements past, present and future, too.

A crowd of 350 celebrated those memorable moments at the recent 21st Black Heritage Calendar Fest, hosted by the Melbourne-Palm Bay Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, at the Eau Gallie Civic Center.

Centered on the theme "Black Excellence: Celebrating Our Diverse Cultures," the richly hued party offered an evening of African American art, history, music, dance, cultural experiences, and, "of course, soul food," organizers said.

"The importance of this event cannot be overstated," said Robin Rice, this year's chairperson.

FLORIDA TODAY reporter Jeff Gallop, third from left, was honored with a Community Spotlight of Black Excellence Award at the 21st Black Heritage Calendar Fest, presented by the Melbourne-Palm Bay Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Pictured with Gallop, from left, are Hyla Plummer, Sandra Pelham, Kimberly Foxworth and Robin Rice. Also named as a Community Spotlight honoree was Benjamin Cain, founder and executive director of Ebony News Today.

"Our community, county, and country need more experiences like the Black Heritage Calendar Fest to highlight the achievements and diversity of the African diaspora.”

The evening's exhibits and tributes, designed to reflect the diverse nature of the African American experience in America since 1619, touched on everything from historical figures such as poet James Baldwin, athlete Wilma Rudolph and former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954, Kwanzaa, Juneteenth and the Gullah culture.

Storied past; bright future

Now 120 years old, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., was founded by 22 women at Howard University to promote academic excellence. One of the world's preeminent service-based sororities, it has more than 300,000 initiated members and over 1,000 chartered chapters around the globe.

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The Melbourne-Palm Bay Alumnae Chapter, chartered in 1989 in Central and South Brevard County, focuses on Delta’s five major program areas:  economic development, educational development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health, and political awareness and involvement. The annual Heritage Fest was founded by chapter member Sandra Pelham.

The highlight of the evening, organizers said, was the recognition of the Community Spotlights of Black Excellence awarded to two individuals chosen for their service to Brevard County.

Honored were Benjamin Cain, founder and executive director of EBONY NEWS TODAY, and J. D. Gallop, religion and criminal justice reporter for FLORIDA TODAY.

Tieshia Alexander and Adrian Felton, along with Aria Ramos and Amiah Ramos, in front, celebrated with hundreds of others at the recent Black Heritage Calendar Fest, presented by the Melbourne-Palm Bay Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Tieshia Alexander and Adrian Felton, along with Aria Ramos and Amiah Ramos, in front, celebrated with hundreds of others at the recent Black Heritage Calendar Fest, presented by the Melbourne-Palm Bay Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

The sorority's work and the showcase of local history, talent and achievements is always appreciated and a learning experience for all ages, said Hyla Plummer, chapter president.

"Sometimes, they just don't hear about all the history," she said. "The night of the event, I talked about people who had received awards, and there were some who hadn't heard of these people. (Local attorney) Alton Edmonds, for example, has just written his first book, and it's available on Amazon ... that's a milestone.

""We really try to capture different aspects of the history of our different cultures — different genres of music and more. Knowing our history, learning, is so important for young people and adults, too."

Britt Kennerly is education/breaking news editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Kennerly at 321-917-4744 or bkennerly@floridatoday.comTwitter: @bybrittkennerly Facebook: /bybrittkennerly.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Diversity, Black history honored by Brevard's Delta Sigma Theta chapter