CLEARWATER — The 5th Annual Harlem Nights event was held in the Crystal Ballroom of the historic Fort Harrison located in downtown in celebration of Juneteenth, an African American event started in Texas to memorialize the fact that two years after the Emancipation Proclamation the slaves there found out they had been freed.
June 19th was established as a holiday in Texas the following year and has spread to 37 others states in the U.S. since. The CEO of the Mt. Carmel Community Development Corporation, Maurice Mickens, a native of Harlem, N.Y., who retired to Clearwater about 10 years ago, wrote a play to dramatize the formation of the Juneteenth celebration and debuted his creation last month at the Fort Harrison for some 100 guests.
Mickens said, “This story is to both entertain and teach, and uses narration, acting and music to recount the history of Juneteenth.”
Actors and narrators were Donald Dowridge, Melinda Watson, Brian Ward, Rita Ballard, Milton James, Roxie Kerr, Maurice Mickens, Jonathan Miller, Marilyn Turman, Rev. Jonathan Wade and Joyce White. Rev. Anita Williams, Roxy Kerr and Allison Stanford provided vocals.
All proceeds from the tickets sales were donated to the Clearwater Martin Luther King Community Coalition, a grassroots group of citizens who took over the Clearwater MLK Community Center in order to save it from demolition and maintain it for the Greenwood neighborhood that it has served for over 40 years.
The Shawn Brown band, a trio of musicians which included Shawn Brown, a master on the Hammond B3 and all keyboards, Dorrell Cannon on the drums and Wade Clark, president of the Clearwater MLK Community Center Coalition on the saxophone.
At the intermission of the play, the coalition members presented Pat Harney, the organizer for the evening’s event and Public Affairs Director for the Church of Scientology, with an award for “Outstanding service to the Clearwater MLK Community Center Coalition.”
Wade Clark said, “We appreciate the work that Pat Harney and the Church of Scientology have done to support the Coalition and keep us going.”