At the core of my being is learning and fun. Sometimes it’s fun just to learn, other times it’s learning how to have fun. Black History Month in Pensacola is just that, a time of learning and celebration. This gives me (and so many of my friends) the chance to celebrate and reflect on the beautiful and strong history of African-Americans in Pensacola. Won’t you join me?
An explorer named Esteban the Moor
I enjoy learning the names of early African, European and Caribbean people who explored our shores in the 1500s. I love the backstories and tales of exploration as they traveled with the early Spanish conquistadors. As I learn about them – I can’t help but wonder things like: What did they bring with them to remind them of their homeland? What food did they miss the most? And what do they think of mullet?
One such explorer was Esteban the Moor, sometimes called Estevanico, a Moroccan-born around 1500. According to the children’s book, “Do You Know Estevanico?” by Pensacolian and historian Jeremie Samuels and masterfully illustrated by Carter J. Gaston, he was one of only four survivors of a Spanish expedition in search of jewels and other treasures that brought them through Pensacola, eventually landing in Mexico.
Good food, education and art in a historic African-American community
Do I have you interested in reading about Esteban the Moor? Pick up a copy of the book at the Gathering Awareness and Book Center in the Historic Belmont DeVilliers neighborhood.
While you’re there, take a selfie in front of the murals at Belmont and DeVilliers streets in Downtown Pensacola. Also done by Carter J., the murals feature many of Pensacola’s history makers from this historic African-American community.
After working up an appetite at the bookstore and taking selfies, stop into Five Sisters Blues Café, Blue Dot Burgers or the Dwarf Chicken Shack for a meal and tell them Robin sent you. You’ll get a free smile.
4 Ways to Celebrate a Soulful Pensacola
A party with a purpose is always a good thing and here are four ways to celebrate the month and showcase the diversity in the performance arts.
If you like line dancing and swinging, rhythm and blues and old school music, then bring your beautiful self in your best dashiki to Soulful Sundays “African Night” dance party on Sunday, Feb. 12 from 7 to 11 p.m., at Osceola Golf Course. (Fun fact - Adrian Stills, the golf director and course manager who you’ve probably seen many times on the Golf Channel, is a member of the National Black Golf Hall of Fame.)
On Saturday, Feb.18, from 10 a.m. to noon, experience a history of dance and the preservation of African-American culture at “The Art of Dance: What’s Hidden in the Figures” at Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center with nationally known dance teacher Eleanor Johnson.
Round out your Black History Month with some blue-eyed soul, a nod to our brothers of another mother (can I say that out loud?), with Eric Lindell, the New Orleans blues singer and multi-instrumentalist. His soul-stirring concert is Friday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. at Vinyl Music Hall, and is a part of a month-long Florida tour. In truth, I think he’s the dreamy love child of Reba and B.B., but that’s only in my historical dreams. Just listen to “Lay Back Down” and you’ll hear what I mean.
Your vocal senses can be aroused with the Selma University Choir’s choral performance of “African-American History through Songs” on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 5 p.m. at Englewood Missionary Baptist Church. This choir has sung for many presidents. Yes, they are that good.
History Tours and a Trip to the Beach
Take a tour of the Historic Pensacola Village and be sure to walk through the Julee Panton cottage. The cottage gives an insightful look into to the life of an early African-American in Pensacola, a free woman of color during a time when slavery was still legal.
A trip to Pensacola usually starts and ends at the beach — so in this case, head to Johnson Beach at Perdido Key. As a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Johnson Beach has one of Florida’s best views of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a most enjoyable and relaxing location to fish from, and it’s a great place to bring a basket of goodies for a romantic – or family – getaway for the day. It was named for Rosamond Johnson, Jr., the first African-American and one of the first in the county to die in the Korean Conflict. For his bravery, he posthumously received a Purple Heart. Honor his bravery, and the sacrifices of the many African-American men and women who bravely served in defense of our country, by enjoying Johnson Beach.
I love Black History Month. It’s fun. It’s educational. It’s all about me. And it’s all about you. Join in and celebrate the month right here in Pensacola.