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Celebrate Black History Month In Greater Fort Lauderdale

Where Sounds of Gospel and Jazz Will Fill the Air

Greater Fort Lauderdale is the top destination of choice for African-American family reunions, and Black History Month this year offers some special family-friendly events. Highlights include historical looks at music and art, the founding of Fort Lauderdale’s historic Black community, and resistance to post-Civil War-era racism in Florida.

According to a recent national poll, reunions draw people who want to reconnect with family members and share family history, and who also want to make new memories. Fort Lauderdale’s accessibility as a major hub for U.S. travel and its proximity to the Caribbean makes it easy for extended family members to reconnect year-round. And, throughout February, Black History Month offers entertaining, informational African-American heritage experiences that can make a reunion even more memorable for adults and kids.

Gospel music takes the stage first at the Miramar Cultural Center when the Harlem Gospel Choir, America's premier gospel ensemble, brings its 2013 tour to town as part of the Signature Performance Series on Feb. 9. The group, famous for its musically tasty gospel brunches at the B. B. King Jazz Club in New York City's Times Square, has been raising the roof with joy internationally on the road as well for 26 years while raising money for enrichment programs for inner city youth.

On Feb. 16, “Hallelujah the Musical: The Legacy of Gospel Music,” a musical timeline of gospel’s evolution from Africa to today featuring the legendary Dixie Hummingbirds, will be reprised on the stage of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center. The revue, developed and staged by the Broward/Fort Lauderdale Gospel Announcers Guild, premiered at the 10th anniversary celebration of the library in October, 2012, but this will be the first guest appearance by the Dixie Hummingbirds. The group was founded in 1929.

During the month, the weekly Wednesday series Midtown Gospel Café continues from 6- 10 p.m. at the historic Elks Lodge in Fort Lauderdale’s historical Black community. The event is a social networking environment where rising young gospel artists are invited to showcase their talent. Women in Jazz South Florida, which promotes the historical contributions of Black female jazz artists in programs throughout South Florida, presents the “Amazing Music Women Concert” on Feb. 2 at the Bienes Center for the Arts at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Fort Lauderdale. Some of the country's busiest female jazz and blues singers and musicians who make Greater Fort Lauderdale their home base will be featured in a rousing concert that gets the audience involved.

The African-American owned, UniverSoul Circus is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year and for the first time bringing its interactive show to the Miramar Cultural Center, Feb. 5-10, including a visit by the artists to area schools. For tickets, visit An exhibit of designs by Sam X, the Gourd Master, who creates African-American and African-themed carvings, will be on display at the Old Dillard Museum for the month, and a workshop on gourd carving will be held on Feb. 7.

Discussion of Florida's too often forgotten – or intentionally hidden – lynching history outlined in the newly-released book The Beast of Florida: A History of Anti-Black Violence by Florida author psychologist Dr. Marvin Dunn will be held at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center on Feb. 25. Dr. Dunn explores anti-Black violence in Florida dating back to the Reconstruction era after the Civil War and up until 1961 when the last known lynching of a Black person occurred in Jacksonville.

Fort Lauderdale closes out Black History Month with the annual Sistrunk Parade and Festival on Feb. 23 when the area’s historic community becomes a pedestrian thoroughfare for the day. The event salutes historical roots and diverse Pan-African influences today, featuring marching bands and floats, lots of youth-oriented activities, and dancing to the music of the Zapp Band.

Families who gather in Greater Fort Lauderdale this year will find African American history woven into the fabric of Fort Lauderdale’s present and future beyond Black History Month activities. On May 18 at the Old Dillard Museum, Blacks in Broward will honor Florida Emancipation Day, May 20, 1865, when slavery ended in the state, as part of the statewide celebration of the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s landing on the east coast of La Florida.

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