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Havana seniors commemorate Black History Month with annual program

More than 100 people gathered at the Havana Community Development Center for the annual Black History Program.

The festive event included honorable keynote speakers, friendly vendors and ole’ fashioned soul food, which served as a testament to the richness of this quaint community.

The program kicked off with a vibrant choir singing, “This Little Light of Mine.” The jingling tambourines were naturally pleasing to the audience, as it played an important part in the song. 

“The choir and the music really moved me,” described Shirley Bryant, who serves as the Director of Events at the Havana Community Development Center. 

The program continued with an inspiring speech by former Congressman Al Lawson, Jr. 

“How do you get a country boy from Midway who walked to school barefoot in the legislature?” Lawson posed the question 


After a spark of laughter, complete silence filled the room as individuals gave their respective full attention. Standing more than six-feet tall, Lawson shared memories of growing up with little to no money. Reminiscing about the earlier days of traveling with the Gannon men’s basketball team.

“We weren’t allowed to stay at hotels,” Lawson explained. There were people along the way who allowed us to stay in their houses.”

The Midway, Florida native who spent 28 years in the legislature, credited his former basketball coach and mentor, Vernell Ross, for helping him through the tough times.

“I remember when I could barely hold a basketball in my hand.“ Lawson explained. “Coach Ross would demand my presence before homeroom,” 

Lawson shifted his attention on the young people of the community. 

“Reach out to our youth, tell them that they can have whatever they want, but it spells w-o-r-k,” Lawson said, speaking to a majority of seniors, many of whom graduated from Havana Northside High, applauded Lawson.

“Uplift the community, make them proud.” Lawson added.

Barbara Geathers -Thomas, shared her courageous story. The Havana Community Development Center program chairperson discussed raising five kids by the age of 19 without formal education. Geathers-Thomas said fear of taking on new responsibilities prevented her from attending college, and getting an associate’s degree to move forward in life. The single mother continued to work.

“I don’t have all the accolades that you have,” Geathers-Thomas expressed. “I’m proud to be a child of God.”

In 1988, the songstress prepared for an OPS position at Florida State University. After three months, she gained full time employment and remained an employee for the next 37 years. In April of 2023, Geathers-Thomas retired.

In closing, a brief prayer led by Reverend Clifford A. Hill, Sr. prompted the crowd to eat the soul food fixings by Chef Joe Roberts and several volunteers eager to serve. 

Some continued to exchange old stories while others visited the vendors which included Cakes by Liz, Sweets and Treats, Poparazzi Jewelry and t-shirts featuring words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kiwanis White – Gadsden County News Service