Residents organize first Black Heritage Festival in Beaumont

February 24, 2017 GMT

Led by a group of residents hoping to promote unity and bring people together, the first Southeast Texas Black Heritage Festival will kick off in Beaumont Saturday morning with a schedule of educational and entertainment activities.

“We just thought that it was something important to bring to our community, we have so much division at this point in time,” said organizer Talsha Davis. The event came out of wondering, “How can we actually bring people together of all communities, and actually have some fun with it?”

The two-part festival starts with free activities outside the Beaumont Civic Center Saturday morning and ends with a concert by Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Kirk Franklin at night.

Davis and other organizers were inspired by other festivals that have brought the Beaumont community together over the past year, she said, like Oktoberfest, and by a passion to create a new way to celebrate Black History Month.

From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., festival attendees can participate in a number of black history-themed events, including a youth trivia bowl.

Entries have already been submitted for the Apollo competition, which will include poetry, dance, comedy and music performances related to the theme “Unpacking Your Past.” Davis is still accepting audition videos, she said, and winners will take home a $500 cash prize.

Lamar University alumni Greek chapters will teach step routines to kids who will compete for trophies.

The activities “give them a chance to work together as a team,” Davis said. “It promotes competition in a healthy way.”

The festival’s speakers will include Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens, Green Bay Packers running back Christine Michael and New England Patriots linebacker and Super Bowl champion Elandon Roberts, according to Davis. While many of the daytime events are targeted to kids, Davis hopes the event will bring together people of all ages.

After the free daytime events, 12-time Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Kirk Franklin will perform at 7 p.m. inside the Civic Center. Tickets, priced at $30 to $50, are available at ticketmaster.com.

Franklin, who most recently won best Gospel Performance/Song in 2016, will be joined by James Fortune & Fiya.

The Festival Committee hopes the event will celebrate and raise awareness of black history, Davis said, and they aim to make it an annual affair.

LTeitz@BeaumontEnterprise.com Twitter.com/LizTeitz