FORT LAUDERDALE — The Harlem Renaissance was a period marked by the celebration of black literature, music, intellectual life and culture.
Clothing and dance from the period, which took place in the 1920s and ‘30s, framed the Urban League of Broward County’s 2009 Equal Opportunity Day Annual Red Gala last weekend.
Top hats, pinstripe suits and red feathers adorned many of the nearly 600 people who came to enjoy the evening’s festivities at the Sept. 26 event, dubbed “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”
The Valerie Tyson Band had participants stepping to the beat on two dance floors at the Broward County Convention Center.
A jazz café featuring spoken-word poetry, a mock casino and a silent auction fleshed out the ambiance of the event.
The $200-a-plate fund-raiser supported the Urban League’s programs and services, including services for youth, employment, housing and health, according to Germaine Smith-Baugh, the Urban League’s president and CEO.
The dinner has taken place for more than 20 years, Smith-Baugh said, and was re-branded as the Red Gala last year, when it took on a Caribbean-island theme.
“The name sounds more attractive and has created more of a buzz for the event,” she said.
Red is also the Urban League’s signature color.
Albert Tucker, vice president of multicultural development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, chaired the event, which honored several people for community service.
Ghenete Wright Muir, an assistant Broward County public defender, received the GenNext Momentum Award. The award recognizes a visionary individual between the ages of 21 and 40 who has made significant contributions to his or her field.
“We were looking for an individual not only competent as a professional, but [who also] moves out into their community and demonstrates service,”
Smith-Baugh said of the decision to select Muir. “She meshes both. Many young professionals have not yet made that leap into the community.”
Muir said she has been involved in community activism for 10 years.
“I represent low-income people charged with crimes who cannot afford an attorney,’’ she said. “Low-income people are always at a disadvantage.’’
Muir, 36, born in New York City to Jamaican parents, ran for the city commission seat in Sunrise’s 2009 election. Despite the loss, her campaign made a difference.
She was the second black candidate for the office, and would have been the city’s first black elected official.
“It opened a lot of eyes,” Muir said about the campaign. “Many did not know that they had a city commission and about the decisions they make that ultimately affect their lives. It was an exciting campaign that received a lot of attention.”
Muir received 46 percent of the vote, she said, “And that’s pretty significant.’’
Muir is the president-elect of the T.J. Reddick Bar Association, named after the first black attorney in Broward County, according to the organization’s website.
She also writes a column titled “Legally Speaking” for the Caribbean National Weekly.
“I write it so a lay person can understand it; that’s what made it so popular,” Muir said. “I address several areas of the law and the language makes the information helpful to the community.”
Muir’s family relocated to Jamaica when she was 5, only to return 10 years later. She received her bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts, and her Juris Doctor from Pace University School of Law in New York.
“I’ve been here most of my life,” she said.
Muir has been admitted to the New York, Connecticut and Florida bars.
She relocated to South Florida in 2002 and worked for Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc. until 2005, when she opened her own practice.
“In June of this year,” she said, “I started at the Public Defender’s office.”
She has been married for 13 years and is the mother of two sons. Her areas of practice include family law, child custody, visitation rights, immigration, naturalization and citizenship.
She also serves as a mentor to law students.
Other awardees on Saturday night were Rositta E. Kenigsberg, who won the Margaret Roach Humanitarian Award; Chuck Fallon, who won the Diversity Champion Award, and Ryan Walker, who won the Youth Achiever Award.
Photo: Germaine Smith-Baugh, CEO of the Urban League of Broward County, left, and Albert Tucker, vice president of multicultural business development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, right, celebrate at the Urban League of Broward County’s 2009 Equal Opportunity Day Annual Red Gala on Sept. 26 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.