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Celebrate America's African Roots

The Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, a five-day showcase of African-American culture, takes place throughout the Bay area Jan. 16-20, with a street festival and a concentration of events at USF. Highlights include a performance by platinum-selling smooth jazz artist Najee and a day of performances by the area's best gospel choirs.The following is an abbreviated schedule of events.

Dr. John Jackson, national education director of the NAACP, leads a Heritage Seminar at 9 a.m. Jan. 16 in the USF Marshall Center Ballroom. The title of the seminar is The State of Education in America as it Pertains to African-Americans. At 5:30 p.m., Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, gives the keynote speech in the USF Special Events Center.

At 10 a.m. Jan. 17, the Street Festival opens in University Technology Park, on the USF campus behind the Embassy Suites Hotel at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fowler Avenue. The fair-like street festival is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Jan. 17-19, featuring "villages" specific to kids, history, health, artists, authors, USF and more. There are also live entertainment stages, carnival rides and vendors selling art, artifacts, collectibles, clothing, crafts and food.

At 2 p.m., Jan. 18, multitalented artist Michelle Wood — whose exhibit at Tampa Museum of Art traces the path of African-American music in a series of paintings — leads a theatrical production of her book I See Rhythm, a tribute to jazz women. And at 7:30 p.m., Najee brings the quiet storm, playing smooth to straight-ahead jazz. Both performances take place at the street festival's main stage.

From 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Jan. 19, local gospel and college choirs perform The Best of Gospel Music. At 2 p.m., Michelle Wood reads and signs her storybook I See Rhythm at Tampa Museum of Art, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa (813-274-8130). At 6:15 p.m. at the USF Marshall Center, film producer Will Packer Jr. (Pandora's Box) speaks on "The Art of Film Producing." At 7:30 p.m. at the USF Special Events Center, the Community Theatre Guild and The Messiah Dance Company perform The Retirement of Miss Jessie. A post-production reception takes place at 9:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 3705 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa (813-977-7066).

Jan. 20, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the board of the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival encourages everyone to attend the area's numerous celebrations, parades and concerts. For a complete list of these events, see the MLK Jr. Day section of The List.

USF is located at 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa.

All of the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival events are free and open to the public. For more info, visit www.tampablackheritage.org, or call 888-529-1749.

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