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Published: Sunday, 7/16/2006

Festival stresses the positive

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jermayne Bush hoists the Stars and Stripes as he marches with other members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 250. Jermayne Bush hoists the Stars and Stripes as he marches with other members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 250.
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Hundreds marched through the streets of central Toledo yesterday, spreading joy, hope, and a sense of community in a celebration of African-American culture and heritage.

The parade stretched nearly a half mile along the two-mile route, weaving through neighborhoods between Smith and Nelson Grace parks in a predominantly African-American area of the city.

Fifty-two groups took part in the 90-minute parade - from pom-pom shaking cheerleaders and stereo-fueled freestyle dancers, to candy-throwing politicians and rifle-toting members of Mecca Temple, some of whom zipped along on miniature scooters.

Waving and cheering them on from sidewalks and front porches were hundreds of neighborhood residents. Some camped out on lawn chairs under umbrellas to escape the steamy late-morning weather.

"I love it! I love it!" exclaimed Annie Dixon, 46, watching from the lawn of her Dorr Street apartment with her 5-month-old son and neighbors.

As the parade moved through the intersection of City Park and Indiana avenues, Keshia Serrant, 29, smiled.

"I think this is wonderful," she said.

"We need more support for the black community in the inner city."

Among those marching were 45 Boy Scouts from three Toledo African-American troops, all established in the past year.

"We want [the community] to know there are African-American troops out there, and that there is something positive going on in the community," said leader Christopher Mitchell, executive director for the area's Boy Scouts of America Scoutreach Division, which serves underprivileged urban youths.

The parade came on the third day of the second annual African-American Festival, at Detroit Avenue and Indiana, which runs today from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and concludes with a gospel celebration.

The festival was organized by the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union with additional support from area banks and community groups.

Forty-two food, game, arts, crafts, and other vendors are participating this year, more than double last year's number, said Suzette Cowell, a festival organizer who also is the credit union's chief executive officer.

Last year's festival also included a parade, although yesterday was the first time the festival combined its parade with a smaller one put on each year by Mecca Temple No. 43, an African-American Shriners fraternity.

Mrs. Cowell said that due to an unforeseen scheduling coincidence on the credit union's part, the two parades last year occurred just two hours apart on the same day. "So for the best of the community, we decided to come together" this year for one parade, she said.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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