LAUDERHILL — It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon when Samuel “Sammy” Collie sang and sashayed to the seventies classic I’ve Got the Music in Me while dancers from the Miami Northwestern High School’s PAVAC Performers scampered and catapulted about the stage.
The young entertainers headlined the Bright Star Credit Union/Sistrunk Historical Festival Inc.’s eighth annual Gala Fundraiser on June 5 at the Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill, delighting about 50 attendees with their talents.
The showcase was planned in conjunction with Black Music Month, which is celebrated in June. The evening’s entertainment, all performed by students rallied by HOT 105 FM’s personality Rodney Baltimore, also included performances by the Elegant School of Modern Dance, Edwin Holland Dance Ensemble, Vision Dance Company and Jacquetta Flager, who sang Jennifer Holiday’s And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.
“We decided we had to find a way to raise money for scholarships and, since it was all about kids, we would focus on kids, we would showcase kids, we would let kids do the entertainment and that has brought us to this point,” Festival Chairwoman Margaret Birch said in an interview.
Dedicated to ensuring a successful future for children very much like that of the performers, each year the Sistrunk Historical Festival, one of Broward County’s oldest African-American historical and cultural organization, raises thousands of dollars in scholarship money for students pursuing higher education. To date, Sistrunk has awarded more than $15,000 in scholarships to students who may have otherwise been unable to fully pay their tuitions, festival officials said.
Named in honor of Fort Lauderdale’s first black physician, James Sistrunk, for more than 30 years the not-for-profit festival has sponsored cultural, social, political and educational events to increase awareness of the contributions of the diverse community, as well as celebrate the accomplishments of the African Diaspora.
Festival officials rely heavily on the generosity of friends, supporters and corporations to sponsor their programs that include an annual parade and street festival attended by thousands of people who turn out to socialize, enjoy the entertainment and take part in family-centered activities.
The annual scholarship fundraiser dinner and entertainment show has rapidly become another one of their most prominent events.
“I am just excited because of the fact that it is for the young people. And I know our family very much respects any organization that tries to improve the lives of young people, because they are our future. That’s why we wanted to come and support it,” said Janice Inokon, a great-grandniece of Sistrunk’s.
This year, the festival partnered with the Broward Education Foundation and the Community Foundation of Broward in making available three $1,500 scholarships to students graduating from either Boyd Anderson, Dillard, Fort Lauderdale or Stranahan high schools with an accumulated GPA of between 2.5 and 3.5, who have accumulated at least 100 community service hours, and who show personal leadership qualities as demonstrated in extra curricular school and community activities, or to a full-time student at any accredited college, university or technical school. Applications were accepted until June 9 and the winners will be announced later.
Next year, the festival plans to increase either the dollar amount or the number of scholarships awarded, Birch said.
For Samuel Collie, 16, the future looks bright. For now, the 10th-grader is busy carving a niche for himself as an entertainer. He recently sang the National Anthem at the start of a rally that ended up in Tallahassee to protest government cuts in funding for Florida’s public schools. He also shared the stage with legendary singer Chaka Khan, who was being honored at the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.
“It was amazing,” Samuel said of the experience. “I’m getting a lot of calls now from managers and agents. In the future, I see myself on Broadway singing, dancing and acting.”