Festival creator Juande Ragsdale-Blevins, CEO/Founder, said she is setting a foundation for the festival to continue past her years through her granddaughter and through her right hand Leonard Thompson, the recipient of the Presidents Award.
The three-day event saw entertainers from film, music, and stage perform and enjoy each others company. Bonding on the trip down from Los Angeles, with transportation provided by Amtrak, they met new friends and sealed relationships with old ones.
Friday evening the youth were showcased and the opening was held at Bethany Christian Church.
ChitChat and Chew was a time for workshops and for dialogue on Saturday. And on Saturday evening MC John Phillips, Jr. set the stage for the high energy Raeven Larrymore Kelly.
The singer and actress lit the room up, as she performed a mini concert complete with dancers and original music written by her and her mother, who also serves as her manager. Kelly has appeared in several movies, television series, and commercials.
She was the young Tina Turner in Whats Love Got To Do With It. She is the Lisa in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. In The Ghosts of Mississippi, the story about the life of Medgar Evers, she played young Rena. She has had professional acting, voice, and dance training and has won many awards.
The next star was Renee Joi Diggs, a 12 year old classical recording artist who wowed the audience with her talented voice and presence. Joi wrote her own music (A Childs Cry) and was introduced as the next Leontyne Price.
Cheryl Brown, Publisher of Black Voice News, also performed a monologue from the play written by Rickerby Hinds, Straight From Tha Underground. It stirred the hearts of the senior citizens and made the young people think about the past and what their ancestors had given up for them.
The Story is about a young man (B-Boy) who loves to write raps and finds about life and the importance of the ancestors when he finds himself in a Harriet Tubman escape saving freedom seekers (run away slaves). Browns character is Hope and she narrates the story.
Nick LaTour, a 2003 Academy Award nominee, the festivals lifetime achievement winner recited a piece that riveted the audience. And we heard from saxophonist Clora Bryant, who has appeared with the great performers of the world.
Special honored guest was Vernee Watson Johnson, who most recently played Annette in the Antwone Fisher Story. Her credits also include: Grace Under Fire, The Drew Cary Show, JAG, Martial Law, Suddenly Susan, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Welcome Back Kotter, to name a few.
On Sunday at the Mt. Zion Church, pastored by Rev. J. L. Whitmill a former Riverside resident, the announcement of the awardees was made.
Nick La Tour, the 2003 Lifetime Achiever was introduced by Bryant. She said, " he has been on the battlefield for 50 years and his perseverance has won him the very coveted nomination for this years Oscar for a documentary Mighty Times, The Civil Rights Movement and Life of Rosa Parks in which he is the narrator."
LaTour is a familiar voice and face on the stage and screen. His singing debut was in 1948 at the age of 15 in a nightclub in New York City where he was trying to be like his idol Paul Robeson.
His extensive list includes, The Jeffersons, Heat of The Night, Murder She Wrote, 227, Beauty and the Beast, the Jamie Foxx Show, Steve Harvey Show, The Gregory Hines Show, Hill Street Blues, August Wilsons Fences, Joe Turners Come and Gone and in numerous other projects.
He has developed a one-man show, The Spirits In The Wind, and in his spare time teaches at the LA Academy of Fine Arts. He also is a master storyteller and works with students in the public schools and colleges.
Hester L. Hargett, is a second time winner in the category named for the great Oscar Micheaux, an early filmmaker. She is the executive Vice- President and Co- Producer of Raffaellas Productions and is filming in England presently. Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Hargett represented her; he is a retired Congregational minister.
H.B. Barnum, a former Living Legend Awardee, was presented by Daniel (the performer known only by first name) Daniel, a recording artist, said that H.B. Barnum is one of his idols. He is currently working on his music career. His new single and video "Dance If U Wanna will debut soon.
Barnum is a giant in the music industry. He has been showcased on the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, NAACP Image Awards, Black Achievement Awards, Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Salutes, Olympic, Freedom Fest.
As a child Barnum appeared in Amos N Andy and the Jack Benny Show. His originals have been heard on Grace Under Fire, Allen Ludden Show, Lola Falana and Diahann Carroll Show, Amen and 227.
Ragsdale-Blevins, just received a Fortune 500 Award, was named to Black Enterprises 100 and last Monday received the Bob Marley Humanitarian Award
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