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Across the nation, black history is celebrated during the month of February.

West Volusia is no different, with a rich culture and significant contributions in many ways from African Americans in our community.

Members of the Man Up Mentoring program, the CATALYST mentoring program, and the West Volusia NAACP Youth Council took great pride in recently researching and presenting a special tribute dedicated to those who have come before them.

Those highlighted included Emanuel King, a well-known entrepreneur and family man from Jamaica who later built homes and businesses in the 1980s, in areas of Deltona into which African Americans had not yet moved.

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Lake Helen opened their doors to the young men and young women of these mentoring programs in grades three through 12 during the church’s annual Celebrating Black History “Embrace the Legacy by Understanding the Past” program Feb. 16.

As the church continues a pastoral search, visiting pastor the Rev. Broderick Windell Gordon Jr. presided over the program as his wife, Minister Princess Gordon, blessed the church with her angelic voice during praise and worship.

“We want the community to know that the church is still a beacon of light in this dark world,” said Broderick Gordon.

Over the past 40 years, the church has continued to see greatness from its congregants, including some members of the well-known Bradley family.

Alzada Fowler, an original Bradley and a 1959 Florida A&M University graduate, became the first black teacher at what was an all-white school in 1968, and later retired in 1995 from that very school. It was later renamed Minerva Bond Long Elementary before closing. The building currently serves as Lake Helen City Hall.

“I was delighted to see that Sean King was able to bring all of the young men of the Man Up program,” Fowler said. “We want to pass our history on to them.”

As the guest speaker, King ended the program with a call for mentors to assist him in his journey of helping to build a new reality for young men.

“These mothers cannot do it alone,” King said. “I cannot do it alone.”

On Feb. 17, the Man Up mentees were able to once again deliver a superb presentation at the Deltona City Commission meeting in front of an engaged audience.

Their hard work has not gone unnoticed, for they will once again deliver the presentation at the “Celebrating Us: Black History, Hope and Heritage” community event 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Hope Center, 2855 Lake Helen Osteen Road in Deltona.

To learn more, visit www.manupvolusia.com.

— Cameron, a longtime educator, lives in Orange City. Send email to cameronchronicleslive@gmail.com.

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