tawnicia_rowan_monica blyden_cynthia massiahjpg_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Big hats, small hats, round hats, straw hats, hats with feathers, hats with lace, hats worn on one’s wedding day — all these and more were on proud display when more than 50 women came together for the “Where Did You Get That Hat?” fashion show and contest hosted by the Universal Truth Center Church in Miami Gardens.

The church’s New Lyph Ministry sponsored the show on Feb. 19 as a way to bring together people from different backgrounds and ages for fun fellowship beyond Sunday service.

Program highlights included solos sung by church members Paul Lewis, Reggie Jackson and Darrick and Angel Gaye; two dance numbers by youth in the Children of Truth Dance Ensemble and the Dynasty Dance Ministry; and a PowerPoint presentation on the history of hats by Hallema Simmons, an English professor at Miami Dade College.

Things really got interesting when six women, including Simmons, put on their Sunday – best for the Parade of Hats Contest and Fashion Show.

Cynthia Massiah was ecstatic when she placed first and was awarded $150 for her navy-blue brimmed hat complete with a large striped bow, peacock fashioned lace, rhinestones, a shiny centerpiece — and suit to match.

Massiah purchased her hat and suit from Ashro Magazine specifically for the show.

“When I looked through the magazine, right away I said ‘that’s a winning hat’ so I ordered it. I wanted to be a winner and I also love supporting my church whenever they have something,” said Massiah, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, who has been worshiping at Universal Truth Center for more than 25 years.

Monica Blyden, a Guyanese native, was second and Tawnicia Rowan, of Miami, was third.

Though Simmons didn’t win, her hand-made red-brimmed hat topped with black ostrich feathers, bumblebee wings, a red starburst flower and a rose made quite an impression.

Simmons and a friend made her hat last year when she couldn’t find one she liked to wear to the Kentucky Derby.

“I love hats. I’m a regular hat-wearer and I like to be different. So I spent three hours in Joanne’s Fabrics finding all the right materials. There’s even some things in here that I can’t name,” Simmons said.

Hats have been a long-standing part of black culture, particularly in the church.

“For many black ancestors, dressing up for church was one of the few times they could remove the apron and head rag and dress up in finery,” Simmons said. “The act of covering one’s head during worship has its roots in biblical tradition.”

Trina Robinson of NBC-6 served as the mistress of ceremonies. A former member of the church which is headed by the Rev. Dr. Mary Tumkin, Robinson wore the small, crème-veiled hat she was married in.

“I love this church because they do things a little different and a little off-centered, things you wouldn’t expect from a church. Take this event for example. I’m wearing this hat because it reminds me of the wonderful blessing of having a good husband,” Robinson said.

Regine Paul, chairwoman of the New Lyph planning committee, said she couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. She hopes to make the hat showcase an annual event.

“It’s exactly what I’d envisioned. The women are fabulous and gorgeously expressing their oneness through attire. It had to be God’s work to pull this off,” Paul said.

Cheryl Polite-Eaford, director of the Fellowship Ministry that oversees the New Lyph planning committee, agreed.

“Hats are regalia. I believe in head pieces because they make a woman feel esteemed, walk differently and hold her head higher. It’s a showcase in itself,” Polite-Eaford said.