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Black history gala honors those who serve

Several Gadsden Countians were honored for making a difference in their community at a black history gala on Friday night.

The gala, organized by One Gadsden Foundation, in partnership with the MLK Foundation of Florida, was held at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana.

This year, attorney Daryl Parks was the guest speaker at the event, which was emceed by WCTV’s Lanetra Bennett.

“This county has always played a big role in what Ben [Crump] and I were trying to do,” the civil rights attorney said. “We had some of our best days in the Gadsden County Courthouse.”

Parks noted that Gadsden County is a unique county where black people have influence.

“Never let the politics or power of money be bigger than the general welfare of the people, when you have the power to vote,” Parks said.

Parks encouraged everyone in the audience to build legacies and stay true to their dreams.

Midway police officer, Chicara Hearns, was named the 2024 Unsung Hero. In November, 2021, Hearns was shot three times in the line of duty, with one bullet entering her body. After many stressful months of recovery, Hearns returned back to law enforcement.

Former Congressman Al Lawson, a Midway native, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lawson, who has devoted more than half of his life to public service, said the greatest gift an individual can give is service to their community.

The following were honored as the 2024 Trailblazers:

DJ Trucker – Christopher “DJ Trucker” Holt, born and raised in Quincy, is known for hosting many family friendly and events in Gadsden County, and his vibrant beats. He also boasts accolades like ZBT DJ of the Year and AMG Life Awards Southern Soul DJ Icon.

Henderson Mosley – Originally from Hendrson, North Carolina, Tim Mosley is the founder of Less Fortunate Still Matters, which has helped hundreds of families in need. His work and advocacy allows him to serve families in 10 different counties.

Maurice Stokes – Maurice Stokes began his career as a substitute teacher and later a middle school teacher in the Gadsden County School system. Serving predominantly minority and low socioeconomic students, he worked diligently to differentiate instruction and uncover ways to motivate, inspire, and ignite a passion for learning in his students. He was recognized by the Florida Department of Education for the exceptional learning gains that his students were able to make on state assessment exams.  Most recently, he received the Florida Department of Education Transformational Leadership Award for his exemplary work at John G. Riley Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Reginald James – Reginald James is a lifelong resident of Gadsden County and has an extensive, exemplary  record as an educator and community leader. James became superintendent of Gadsden County Public Schools in 2004.  When he took office, 9 of 12 schools were rated either “D” or “F” with no schools earning an “A or B” rating.  James turned the district around with his implementation of a data driven instructional model that resulted in five schools receiving a rating of “A” for the 2010-2011 school year, and repeating their five “A” performance in the 2013-2014 school year. James, who retired in the fall of 2016, was also featured in the New YorkTimes in 2016 for his efforts in raising the district’s graduation rate more than 25 percentage points during his tenure.

Keyunna Tomas – Keyunna Thomas serves as the founder and head coach of Dynamic Xplosion Cheer, Inc. Since 2016, she has been devoted to her life-long dream of nurturing and mentoring more than 150 athletes, ages 3-18. 

Michael Brown – Michael Brown, born and raised in Quincy, is a 5th generation farmer who enjoys providing support to the Gadsden Community by sponsoring youth field trips, feeding the families of his beloved community, and most importantly, preserving his family land.

 Lakeva Evans – Lakeva Evans works for the Center for Health Equity, where she has been employed for almost 20 years. With her passion for public health and desire to see Gadsden County as a healthier place, Evans became a certified Zumba instructor and has offered numerous fitness classes and hours off instruction to Gadsden County residents. Evans said she is passionate and enthusiastic about the work she performs throughout the community, and her purpose is to keep Gadsden and its neighboring counties healthy by making a difference in people’s lives.

Janice Hart – Janice Hart was the first African-American female mayor of The Town of Havana. During her tenure, she advocated for economic development, job creation, skill training, technology, transportation, stormwater infrastructure improvements, and a new healthcare facility with expanded services.

Dr. Abria Harris – Quincy native Dr. Abria Harris is dedicated to serving his community through his involvement with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He focuses on enhancing educational opportunities for Gadsden County students via tutoring, mentorship, and scholarships, alongside aiding the less fortunate through a variety of service projects.

Dr. Sheantika Wiggins-Milton –  Dr. Sheantika Wiggins-Milton has volunteered countless community hours for more than 20 years, providing media coverage and technical support to Gadsden communities, and national communities. 

Ella Parker Dickey – Ella Parker Dickey’s political journey began in 2008 when she was appointed to complete a one-year term on the city council. She continued her advocacy with the Midway Citizen Group from 2008 to 2019, leading up to her election to the city council in 2019. She was re-elected in 202, which she said shows a demonstration of trust and support garnered from the community.

Ronald Colston – Ronald Colston, a Gadsden County native, served as the first mayor of Midway following its incorporation 1986. Colston is a retired pharmacist and practiced pharmacy in the surrounding areas, and serves as a relief pharmacist for Florida A&M University.  He is also a member of the Gadsden County Men of Action, and a Bible Discovery Hour Teacher at St. Peter AME Church in Midway.

Pastor Eloiuise Jones – Native to Havana, Pastor Jones is the pastor of Tabernacle  Praise in Tallahassee. She encourages her congregation to be of service to others. Under his administration, Midway received its first garbage service and fire station. As a servant leader, she has worked diligently for the past 10 years in trying to eliminate food insecurity in the Big Bend Area. She has partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank of the Big Bend and is one of its most successful partners in ensuring that families in our area do not go hungry. The first Saturday of every month, she partners with School Board Member Cathy Johnson and One Gadsden Foundation to host a food bank in Havana.

Erin Hill – Gadsden County News Service