By Tricia Hall
The Truth Reporter
Toledo residents had several opportunities to celebrate Juneteenth through the weekend, but the Celebration of Black Kings was held on the official day of Juneteenth, Monday, June 19, 2023. The sophisticated black-tie event, at the Toledo Club in downtown Toledo, began at 5:00 p.m. and concluded by 9:00 p.m.
Guests experienced a red-carpet reception starting at 5:00 p.m. featuring Dr. P. Guests and honorees enjoyed live music in a jazz lounge atmosphere. The space offered a buffet style spread connecting the two rooms before transitioning to the ceremony room which began at 6:30 p.m.
Larry Jones served as the master of ceremony and officially welcomed all guests and honorees. “Welcome to the King’s court ard. We are setting the King’s table because it’s about the Kings tonight. We’re here to celebrate these Kings and the Kwanzaa principles as we honor these men who have labored.”
The program opened with a traditional Kwanzaa celebration libation, in which ancestors were acknowledged and elders were honored. The ceremony was led by Diane Gordon and Donald Lynn; Katrina Barnhill performed a soulful rendition of the Black National Anthem on the saxophone; Aman Hicks, a Robinson Elementary student, recited a poem entitled ‘I am somebody’ and Toledo Alliance of Black School Educators (TABSE) presented scholarships to two local high school students.
“The mission of Toledo Alliance of Black School Educators is why we are here. We are here to support our babies and we welcome you to support us in that mission,” shared Chanell Phenix, TABSE president.
This Juneteenth celebration entitled, The Celebration of Black Kings, honored seven groups of Black men who represent one of the seven Kwanzaa principles. The men were called up as a collective group, given their plaques and provided an opportunity to speak. The 33 honorees were:
- Collective: Terry Crosby; Romules Durant, EdD; David Bush; Chief Brian Byrd and Councilman John Hobbs III.
- Economics: Calvin Brown; Michael Day, Sr; Keary Sarabia; Robert Smith; Larry Sykes and John Tooson.
- Unity: Leroy Bates, Jay Black, Darrell Dorn, Johnny Hutton and Dennis Hopson.
- Purpose: Douglas Jones, Keith Miller, Lamar Smith, Reggie Williams and David Young.
- Determination: Ernie Banks; Washington Muhammad; Carnel Smith, EdD; Sammy Spann, PhD, and Nathaniel Young.
- Creativity: Michael Day, Jr, Rahwae Shuman and David Fleetwood
- Faith: Rev. Damon Horton; Rev. John C Jones; Rev. D.L. Perryman, PhD, and Rev. Jerry Boose.
“Tonight, we celebrate Kings. Fathers matter. Men matter, because you make a difference. Each of these men represent a different sector but it’s about how we are bringing our talents to serve the people at the table,” shared Romules Durant.
“I’m honored to be called a Black King. We are somebody, we built libraries, we are doctors and we built the pyramids. We were here before Columbus. We are somebody. I’m honored and want to honor those great men who have come before me, who mentored me and us because God commands preachers and pastors to strive for better as we tell people the good news,” shared Rev. Perryman.
“It’s an honor to be here among these great men. We need to continue to come together to educate and encourage these young kids,” shared Dennis Hopson.
“Thank you for this award, thank you for acknowledging what I do and what we do every day. We work block by block, one neighborhood to another neighborhood, one at a time. It’s a honor to be honored with these men, so thank you. I am determined to make a change and to be the change. I will be a part of that change until the day I die,” shared Ernie Banks.
Lisa “Thee Oracle” Hightower delivered a live performance that closed out the program.
Program sponsors: Juneteenth NYC, TPS and Community RE Investment Coalition Englewood SW.
According to the event history page, the celebration was funded in part by a grant from the Greater Toledo Community Foundation to proactively address concerns raised by communities that are still disproportionately impacted by inequity and lack of access in the greater Toledo area. St. Martin De Porres Parish was awarded a grant to launch a resident-driven leadership training program and job readiness program for the Englewood neighborhood in collaboration with Community Reinvestment Coalition Englewood SW and Robinson Elementary.