African-American History Month observed with soul food, music, dancing, art
February 17, 2012
HEIDELBERG, Germany - The Patrick Henry Village Pavilion in Heidelberg was packed Saturday night with community members eager to take in the shows, food, art and camaraderie during A Taste of Soul.
Sponsored by the Heidelberg Arts and Cultural Center, the Equal Opportunity Office and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the celebration was one of several Black History Month events throughout the Heidelberg community.
This year's theme was "Black Women in American Culture and History."
The event has come a long way in the three years since it was an afternoon of slides and snacks, said Les Green, Family and MWR special events coordinator.
"This is not just your typical observance. It's a true celebration of African-American culture, and it's unique to Heidelberg," he said.
Constance Goodwin, Heidelberg EEO, was mistress of ceremonies for the event, which opened with a food tasting and remarks by U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg Commander Col. Bryan DeCoster.
The Mark Twain Village Gospel Choir got the crowd excited for the buffet dinner of fried chicken, ribs, greens, rolls, macaroni and cheese and desserts.
More than 20 contestants entered the best soul food cooking contest, and their entries were gobbled up in minutes.
The winners were: appetizer/side dish -- Danzenia Hard's Zee Lady's dirty rice; main dish -- Sgt. Maj. Brad Weber's spicy cabbage and smoked sausage; dessert -- Heidelberg High School's Junior Association for the Advancement of Minorities' buttermilk pie.
Ten artists exhibited their works, including Andrew Washington, base operations manager for Germersheim Army Depot, who incorporated present-day Soldiers in his painting depicting Tuskegee Airmen.
In another piece, "Defiance," Washington created an African-American man wearing a scowl and a Union Army uniform from the Civil War with oil on canvas. HHS art teacher Sandra Walker and her students also contributed to the display.
Jimi's Souliquity provided tunes while community members finished their meals, and were mesmerized by Rio -- Sgt. 1st Class Syreeta Greene, 30th Medical Command -- in a black sequined jumpsuit, saxophone player Lazlo, Junior Madea and Danny Labana on guitar and Jimi Carrow, classic jazz and soul singer and the band's namesake.
Sgt. Eric Dawkins recited poetry, and JAAM performed a skit, recited poetry and sang.
The students mentioned famous names like Halle Berry, the first and only African-American woman to win a Best Actress Oscar; Beyoncé Knowles, who started in girl band Destiny's Child and went on to become one of the best-selling artists of all time; and Aretha Franklin, whose song "Respect" became an unofficial anthem during the Civil Rights movement.
"We thought we would put our spin on it and zero in on black women of substance. We tried to highlight women throughout history and today who have made significant contributions to American culture; but certainly, we couldn't name everyone," said JAAM sponsor Emily Gourdine.
A Taste of Soul was supported by Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, which provided a coat check and helped organize and set up for the event; the Warrior Zone and student Melody Glock for her piano performance, said Edward Codina, Arts and Cultural Center director.