Pleasant Street gearing up for annual banquet


Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 3:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 3:05 p.m.

In a new venue to accommodate a growing crowd, the annual Claronelle Smith Griffin Distinguished Speaker Series Banquet will continue to provide an afternoon of history, speakers, a silent auction, awards and socializing while raising much-needed funds for a museum to house the history of blacks in Alachua County.

Facts

PLEASANT STREET BANQUET

What: The annual Claronelle Smith Griffin Distinguished Speaker Series Banquet.
When: 3 p.m. April 7.
Where: D.R. Williams Fellowship Hall, 418 NW 6th St.
Tickets: $40 in advance.
Information: Call 352-377-4217.

Sponsored by the Pleasant Street Historic Society, the banquet, now in its fifth year, will be held at 3 p.m. April 7 at the D.R. Williams Fellowship Hall at 418 NW 6th St. Tickets are $40 each and must be reserved in advance by calling 352-377-4217. The deadline is Friday, so hurry up and get your ticket.

In addition, middle school students will have an opportunity to honor someone who has made a difference in their lives and win cash awards by participating in the "Standing on the Shoulders" essay contest. Students also will be honored during the banquet.

The topic is "Because You Did, I Can," and the deadline to submit essays — which must be 500 words or less — is midnight Friday. Email essays to mvbarr@bellsouth.net.

The Pleasant Street Historic Society was founded in 1984 to preserve, promote and protect the Pleasant Street Historic District. Proceeds from the banquet will benefit the renovation of the Smith-Griffin House located at 321 NW 8th Ave. just east of the Gainesville Police Department.

Smith-Griffin, a retired educator who passed away in 2003, willed her house to the society. It was built in 1870 by her grandfather.

Melanie Barr, banquet chairperson and corresponding secretary of the historic society, said the proceeds will go toward a match for a potential $25,000 grant from the Bureau of Historical Preservation.

Barr thinks the society has a good chance of getting the grant because their request was ranked 11 out of 33. "We need the $25,000 match, but we're well on the way," said Barr, adding that the funding would be used for carpentry work and roof work to bring the building up to code. "Next, we need to funds for electric heating and air conditioning, electric wiring and plumbing," Barr said.

Silent auction items will include gift certificates from area restaurants, gift baskets, an original photograph by John Moran, a tote bag made by the Gullah Geechee Group from Charleston, S.C, and a book titled "Lord Fix Me" by Susie Mae White, a Gainesville resident and the first teacher to integrate Buchholz Jr. High School. White also was a recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame award in 1994.

Barr said four Alachua County residents will be recognized in categories that reflected areas of interest to Smith-Griffin. They are:

— Rosa B. Williams, a community activist and one of the founders of the Reichert House Academy, for her contributions to community service.

— Dr. Oliver Jones, a retired educator with 40 years of experience in the Florida school system, including Alachua County schools, for his contribution to education.

— Vivian Filer, a storyteller and community activist, for her contributions to history.

— The Rev. Milford L. Griner, founder and president of the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Committee, for his contributions to religion.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (1861-1865), so Barr said that in keeping with the theme, keynote speaker Dr. Courtney Taylor, assistant professor at Santa Fe College, will speak about the enslaved female experience in the South during the Civil War.

"This year, the Pleasant Historic Society wanted to focus on the memory of the Civil War and how it changed the lives of the enslaved people," Barr said.

Taylor teaches an African-American studies course at SF College and previously served as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Florida, also in the African-American studies program, and at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Last year, Barr said 115 residents attended the event, but this year, 120 are expected to attend.

"People who are interested in learning about African-American history in the South and meeting like-minded individuals and sharing a great meal should attend this event," said Barr.

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