Pensacola prepares for annual Black History Expo

Photo by Wesley Martin: Cornerstone of the Belmont Arts Center
By: Wesley Martin

“The African American culture is a very unique culture,” says Reverend John H. Powell Sr. “But sometimes we forget who we are.” At those times, according to Powell, “we have to come together to celebrate ourselves.”

Powell, 59, is chairman of the fifth annual Pensacola Black History Expo. (Formally the “Cox Black History Arts Festival,” the event is sponsored by Cox Cable of the Gulf Coast in conjunction with the Historic Belmont-Devilliers neighborhood in downtown Pensacola).

From February 10th – 12th individuals will have a chance to experience community discussions and workshops on entrepreneurship. The three-day event will also feature artistic performances and exhibitions highlighting African American achievements and song. There will also be concessions were local business can sale merchandise and services.

“We felt we could really reach and touch more people by putting freshness to the event,” said Powell, owner of the Belmont building. “You just can’t take one element and say this is what our whole culture is about,” Powell said. “It’s important that we include all the different facets of black history and culture because these different elements combined make up our culture.”

Eugene Franklin, 63, president of the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, believes the annual event can act as a spark to increase revenue for local African American businesses.

“This expo helps not only black businesses, but the in the black community,” Franklin said. “The fastest growing segment of tourism is ‘cultural tourism.’”
Franklin, who also serves as a board member for the national black chamber of commerce, says events like the expo can create a market for local African American businesses to flourish. Concurrently, Franklin states that if African American communities thrive economically, African American communities can be revitalized.

Interestingly, Franklin also believes the African American community in Pensacola has just as rich a culture as other cities like New Orleans and Harlem.
The problem? The local black communities aren’t marketing and packaging itself properly to the masses.

While working with the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, Franklin hopes to change that.

“What we’re trying do is teach communities how to help themselves,” he said. “If you have good communities, with good business and great culture, you have a destination: it’s an economical win,” Franklin said.

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