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Staying Focused for a Brighter Future was the theme of this year’s annual Black History Month event in Chiefland.
The event took place Saturday at the Tommy Usher Center and was hosted by members of the Black History Committee, Evangelist Rutha Scott, her husband, Pastor Robert Scott, and Missionary Doris Jones.
Several community leaders spoke at the event. Chiefland native and City Commissioner Chris Jones was the night's special guest speaker.
The proceeds from the event, along with funds raised from selling ads placed in the evening's program, go toward yearly scholarships, all of which, according to the Scotts, are funded only by the community. Last year they awarded five scholarships of about $400 each.
According to Doris Jones Monday night, Saturday night's effort collected $248 in cash, though not all the donations had been tallied at that point. Still, she said, things didn't look as promising as previous years.
It's been "a very slow year, the slowest we've had in a long time ... It's not a political year," she said in a phone interview. Despite low turnout, Jones said those who did come out had a good time.
Speaker Chris Jones said he tried to rally people from the community earlier in the week and had little success. But that didn't keep him from delivering his message Saturday night.
“I had a speech prepared, but I’m speaking directly from my heart tonight,” said Jones, who began his presentation talking about some of his favorite childhood memories in the 70’s.
“It was a different era for black people … there was a sense of pride displayed during that time that trumps what we have now,” Jones said, explaining that children nowadays are so far removed from the struggles faced back then that it has affected their level of pride. Now, people are seeing "kids having kids," he said.
Jones said he felt it's his responsibility as a community leader to have a positive influence on young people. He said that everyone in the room that night shared in that responsibility. He mentioned the importance of education but said, “The best education is to have self pride. Without that, education has no value. It’s what you display in your character and works, the legacy you leave behind." He said he wants to be the guy who influenced someone for the better.
Judge James T. Browning, one of several speakers at the night's event, also emphasized the importance of education and said soon today's leaders would be passing the torch to a younger generation. He said it's troubling when viewing young people from behind the bench, and he praised the influence of people like the Scotts.