rose royce

Rose Royce at the Tampa Black Heritage Festival (Photo by Ricky Richardson)

*Tampa – I had the pleasure of returning to my hometown for the 12th Annual Tampa Black Heritage Festival “Celebrating the Heart and Soul of Tampa Bay.” This fantastic festival is a ten-day cultural event that features local and nationally known speakers, musicians, artists, poets, lecturers and craftspeople and a film night.The festival traditionally begins January 12th, which is the weekend before and concludes the weekend after the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, January 21, to promote diversity and cultural sensitivity.This years theme is Keep the Dream Alive- “Something for Everyone.” Each day of the festival provides both adults and children with an opportunity to increase their awareness of African and African-American culture and history.

I enjoyed the fact that most of the events were taking place in downtown Tampa, within walking distance between each venue.

The festival kicked off January 12th with Heritage Movie Night Q & A featuring the movie “Blood Done Sign My Name,” a marvelous biopic about Dr. Benjamin Chavis life as a youg civil rights leader. The movie was shown at Tampa Theatre. The Tampa Theatre brought back many fond memories of my youth. We frequented this beautiful theatre, both inside and out-you can take a virtual tour- http://tour.tbo.com/tour/stops/tampatheatre.htm.The Tampa Theatre is a favorite gem in Tampa for its’ offering of a busy schedule of diverse and exciting shows.The Tampa Theatre presents world class entertainment in the heart of Tampa Bay.

A short walk away, Marsha Ambrosius a former member of Floetry was holding court at the David A. Stratz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.The talented and sought after songwriter and revered platinum selling artist thoroughly entertained the audience with many hits from her debut CD Late Night & Early Morning” that featured the Grammy nominated tune “Far Away.” The Grammy Winners will be announced next month, February 2012.I’m hoping that she tours the West coast in the future.The show also featured Trumaine Lamar.

Friday, January 13th, the Heritage Evening Gala was a stellar event held at the Stratz Center for the Performing Arts.The evening consisted of a reception,silent auction and post dessert event.Entertainment was provided by Black Violin who kept the energy flowing with their electrifying performance while blending jazz,hip-hop,funk and classical music.

The Heritage Street Festival was held on Saturday, January 14th and Sunday, January 15th at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. This location also brought back fond memories of my youth.First, my friends and I use to go fishing in the Hillsborough River for catfish.We also caught crabs as they rested on the side walls of the river.Next, this site was once the location of the Curtis Hixon Hall.I remember, as if it happened just yesterday, going to a concert featuring a drummer name Bohannon and his band. What stood out for me was seeing Bohannon descend from the ceiling of the building.Imagine the pandemonium taking place on this memorable evening for me and eveyone in attendance.

The Heritage Street Festival Old School Saturday featured many local and nationally known artist performing for an attentive audience outside in the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.The highlights feature Rose Royce jamming with some of their timeless,classic hits from their extensive catalog.The crowd were dancing and singing along to “Got To give It Up,” “Ooh Bou,” “Wishing Upon A Star,” “I Wanna Get Next To You,” “This Is How We do It,” “I’m Going Down,” “I Like The Way You MOve,” “Make You Feel Like Dancin’,” “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” and “Car Wash” just to name a few of the tunes peformed during their crowd pleasing set.

I have stated before that you can’t loose with the blues.I’m glad to be back home in the South for some good old fashion down home blues.Jay Blues Band,is a tight band.This portion of the program were a real treat for the young at heart members in the crowd.Different dances were witnessed during his blues set on the following tunes “One Day,” “Bartender,” “and “Lost” the title track from his debut CD .The band consisted of Jay on guitar,Brian Eliacin on bass,Steve Willis on drums,Carlos Duran on keyboards.Visit www.jaybluesband.com or www.reverbnation.com/jaybluesband to purchase this hot CD.You can find The Jay Blues Band on Facebook,Myspace and Twitter.

The Heritage Street Festival Old School Saturday additional performers consisted of a drum circle led by Myron and Natalie Jackson, Ace Factor and Top 40’s-a popular Tampa based funk and R&B group,Revealing Truth Ministries Marching Band,Daughters of Destiny Step Dancers and Dancing Dynasty, Ken Apperson & Fifty Five South soulful sound on the tunes “Neo,” “Bad Intentions,” “Sinking In,” “Keep Dreaming,”  and “Mine Fantasy”. and original tunes by Rawky- “Rawky City,” “Get Funky.” Rappers KH and Lil DJ rocked the Tampa Black Heritage Festival.Tango and Anjali the Queen served as co-MC’s of the event.

The Heritage Street Festival Gospel/Jazz Sunday featured performer was Paul Taylor.Mr. Taylor is an extraordinnary saxophonist,who delighted the crowd with tight arrangements of popular tunes and original material from his previous CD’s- Paul Taylor Greatest Hits,Steppin Out,Night Life,Ladies Choice,Burnin,Paul Taylor Greatest Hits MP3 download, and Prime Time.Set featured the tunes “Party Time” and “Pleasure Seeker”.

The Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park was turned into a huge Tent Revival.People passing by the park in their cars felt like we were having CHURCH for most of the day.Spiritually uplifting music was peformed by MAN-(Making a Noise for Jesus) an incredible a capella group who performed “Singing for Jesus,” “God Has Smile on Me,” and “Gospel Music.” Jessamine is another loal talent who fed our spiritual needs on “Jesus Take The Wheel,” and ” My Redeemer.” Gods Chose Z sang “We Worship You,” “We are Resting in You,” “We Serve a Risen King,” and “Heaven on Earth.” Church services concluded with a rousing performance by Reaveling Truth Ministries.

REB & The 732 Band and Shauna Solomon were additional highlights of the festival.Keep you eyes and ears open and aware for Tampa based saxophonist Marcus Booth.He left a lasting impression on the crowd and I as he performed “Ribbon On the Sky” by Stevie Wonder.Another WOW performance.Winfield Davis is a smooth jazz bassist who is originally from Bermuda.Winfield and his band warm up the festival with a fantastic set of original tunes from his four previous CD’s Bass and Beyond,Midnight Player,C-Street,and Ethereal Journey.The crowd and I were grooving with the band on the tunes “Every Day Hero,” “Fusion Seeker,” “Cruising the Galaxy,” and a latin tinge “Sunset Samba” a salute to the beautiful,sunny weather of Florida, and concluded his set with “Coast to Coast.” Visit www.winfielddavis.com.

The Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park were lined with informational booths of a Villages:

Health,Artist ,Authors,Children’s,Greek,Corporate Village and a the day started with the Heritage 5k Walk.

Artists’ Village: Local and national artists showcase their wide selection of original, ethnic artwork.

Authors’ Village: Local and national authors showcase their literature.

Children’s Village: Features face painting, storytelling, educational activities, and arts and crafts, as well as several other engaging activities for children.

Greek Village: A platform for sororities and fraternities to showcase their organization and share information of their community involvement.

Health Village: Adults and children are offered free health screenings for HIV, diabetes, hypertension, breast cancer, glaucoma and many other prevalent health concerns.

Heritage 5K walk for cancer and a spin-off to the 2008 Street Festival to confront health issues and emphasize healthy living while addressing health concerns prevalent in the African-American community. The walk is dedicated to the memory of Felecia Ann Wintons -Taylor, a founding member of the Festival.

Corporate Village: Bay area businesses have the opportunity to reinforce their brand. TBBHF supports community development, and the Street Festival allows local businesses to optimize opportunities by presenting a platform to promote products and distribute informative materials.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer,music reviewer and photographer.Contact him Via: [email protected]