cultural-heritage 8The Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc. recently held their annual Pan African Cultural Heritage Leadership Conference at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Downtown Pensacola to launch their Pan African and National Cultural Heritage Initiative. ‘The Initiative’ includes the use of cultural economics, cultural heritage tourism, and the arts to promote and develop disadvantaged communities. The Initiative was developed based on research conducted in the promotion of the Historic Belmont De Villiers Community and its businesses and leaders. The conference speaker’s presented their individual programs and businesses and explained how their entities support the Pan African and National Cultural Heritage Initiative.

Approximately seventy Initiative partners and leaders were in attendance from across the globe. Nathalie Blanc Chekete, Cultural and Heritage Tourism Project Manager for the National Agency for Heritage and Tourism for the country of Benin, in Africa, spoke of her country’s work in developing a cultural heritage program and interviewed several of the conference attendees for feedback. Owen Roper traveled from Michigan to seek first hand advice on a community development project he is working on, that includes portions of the research model.

Highlights of the conference were presentations given by Dr. Phyllis Gray Ray, a professor and researcher at Florida A&M University and the Director of the Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute, Inc. Her review of her acclaimed book, "The African American Experience, Real and Imagined", that deals with the realities of African American history, was well receive. She was followed by Dr. Theresa Okorochukwu, a native of Nigeria, and graduate of the University of Florida and developer for African Network Television, located in Gainesville, Florida. Theresa’s presentation allowed the audience to see the potential of marketing to the African Diaspora and showcased the cultures and huge growth of the middle class population. She warned against the traditional stereotyping of the Great Continent and its people. Everyone was thoroughly impressed with her presentation and speech.

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The Estevanico Awards’ were presented in several categories to each of the speakers for their work in support of the Pan African and National Cultural Heritage Initiative. The awards were presented by Captain Frank Smith, USN/Retired, and Chairman of the Florida Black Chamber. Hank Harris, Director for the National Black Tourism Marketing Corporation and Conference Sponsor, assisted Chairman Smith.

Awards were presented as follows:

Chairman’s Award’:  Dr. Phyllis Gray Ray, for work as Director, Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute, Inc.

Sponsor of the Year’: African Television Network, Inc., owned by Theresa and Victor Okorochukwu, for work in connecting and promoting Pan African culture and heritage.

Person of the Year’:  Alison Davenport, President - Johnson Beach Society, for her work on the Private Rosamond Johnson Beach Celebration and Commemoration.
President’s Award’:  Sonja Griffin Evans, Artist, for her work in support of Cultural Heritage Tourism and the Arts and her traveling exhibit, "From Whence I Came! – De Villiers!" 

Partner of the Year’:  Pam Tedesco, National and Florida Black Business Support Corporation, for her work in funding Black Businesses.

Cultural Heritage Tourism’: Kitty Pope, Publisher - African Diaspora Tourism Magazine, for her work in support of the Pan African and National Cultural Heritage Initiative.

Accolades were also given to Chef Judy Lewis and Chef Early McWilliams of Sister Sarah’s Catering for their outstanding meal and menu, and to Georgia Blackmon of the Gathering Awareness and Book Center for her excellent display of Black Classic Literature. Artist Erik O’Neal received praise for his artistic rendition of the ‘Estevanico Trail’. Kudos were also given to the National Black Tourism Marketing Corporation for their evolution as a national tourism marketing entity.

(Pensacola) The Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc. announced its Boards of Directors for the Affiliates Organizations under the Pan African and National Cultural Heritage Initiative. The chamber was organized in 2004 as a ‘State Chamber’, with the mission of supporting the economic development platform of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Incorporated, Washington, D.C.; and to act as a resource for minority chambers and economic development organizations in the State of Florida. The Florida Black Chamber’s primary focus is to be an advocate for Pan African American businesses and communities.  All effort is placed on accurately marketing, advertising, and promoting the culture and heritage of African Americans and seeking opportunities for minority owned businesses and chamber members, by involving the community, as a whole in our efforts. No resource or relationship is discarded in Florida Black Chamber’s effort to create jobs and business opportunities. A Pan African and global cultural marketing strategy enhances the opportunities and success for all initiative and chamber members. For more information on event, visit


Pictured: Rev. Dr. Eugene Franklin presents Estevinico Awards to African Network Televison founders Theresa and Victor Okorochukwu. Hank Harris, Director of National Black Tourism Marketing Corporation looks on.