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Let Every Voice Be Heard, African American History

February 11, 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm| Main Library (Traverse City)


This event is a celebration of African American history and culture, in song and story.  Please join us as stories are told, songs are sung, poems are read and history comes alive.  Learn about local African American families and what drew them to this area in the late 1800s to present.

This program is in collaboration with the Benzie County Historical Society and the Empire Area Museum with appreciation of their photo archives. 




Presenters for this event listed in alphabetical order:

Eugene “Geno” Allen – owner of Geno’s sports Bar and Grill in Thompsonville, known for his fund-raisers for Christmas for the children at the Betsie Valley Elementary School and also for bus trips from Thompsonville to games in Detroit to raise money for NFL players who have trouble paying their medical bills for injuries incurred during playing. A graduate of Benzie Central, a state wrestling champion who went to Ferris University on a wrestling scholarship, Allen worked downstate until he came back in 2008 and bought the sports bar in Thompsonville, making it famous for the Thursday night barbecue ribs based on his mom’s secret recipe. He will talk about how his family came to Thompsonville in the 1950s.

Fleda Brown – has a poetry column in the Traverse City Record-Eagle and commentary on Interlochen Radio. She’s professor emerita at the University of Delaware and was poet laureate of Delaware from 2001-2007. Her newest book of poems, “The Woods Are on Fire,” was chosen by Ted Kooser for his University of Nebraska Poetry series.  Fleda Brown will read “The Fifth Day” a poem by Jane Hirshfield from the April 1917 Gathering of Scientists in Washington, D.C. 

Marshall Collins, Jr.  –  Instructional Services Specialist for School Health at TBAISD and soccer coach with TBAYS, is one of nine children of the legendary Reverend Marshall Collins, Sr. who, along with Collins Jr.’s mother, Mary, a gifted singer, inspired the Northport community and was honored in 2013 by the History Center in Traverse City. Marshall Jr. was the December 6, 2017 featured speaker at the Leelanau County League of Women Voters.  He will explain how his preacher-father and singer-mother and nine children travelled annually between Florida and Northport in the 1970s.

Terry Connolly – gifted story-teller from the Irons-Brethren area, and cousin to James Earl Jones who also grew up there, comes from a large family that moved north from Mississippi during the Great Depression. This family with many children, founded a church in Brethren, among other civic achievements. Connolly worked in the auto industry downstate before retiring back to Irons.  He will speak about how his family came from Mississippi to Brethren-Irons during the Great Depression.

Emerick Dee – choir teacher from Traverse City Public Schools and a graduate of Central Michigan University, is an active member of the Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA) where his students consistently receive top ratings. He and his choir from the Traverse City West Middle School will perform a medley of songs.

Meredith Parsons Mc Comb – a contralto and Traverse City native who recently moved back home, was mentored in Traverse City by musicians Dave Parrish and Byron Hanson. She graduated from Vermont’s Middlebury College, U of M School of Music and has sung at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. Her career has spanned stages from Paris to Tel Aviv, from Traverse City to Manhattan. She will sing the poems “Litany” and “Heart” by Langston Hughes.

Misty Sheehan – Director of the Benzie Area History Museum, was professor of Asian Studies at the College of DuPage in Chicago and of philosophy at Northwestern Michigan College. Dr. Sheehan travelled widely for many years in China and India before returning to Empire, Michigan. She will speak on the history of African American pioneers on the northwest coast of Michigan.

Isiah Smith, Jr. – an attorney from Washington D. C., has a Master’s in psychology and a law degree from the University of Miami. He retired in 2013 from the Department of Energy’s Office of General Counsel where he served as a Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Administrative Litigation and Information Law. Smith was a columnist for the Miami Times and is currently a columnist for the Northern Express. He serves on the Traverse City Human Rights Commission. Mr. Smith will emcee the event.

Crystal Turner – a lyric coloratura soprano originally from Detroit, Michigan. She has starred in the Vy Higginson off-Broadway musical, “Mama I want to Sing,” in New York City and Detroit, and has performed with the gospel musical “Perilous Times”. Crystal has performed at the Detroit Opera House, Music Hall as well as the Fisher Theater, and has headlined with some of gospel music’s most talented artists such as the Clark Sisters, Vicki Winans and Yolanda Adams.


February 11, 2018
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
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Main Library (Traverse City)
610 Woodmere Ave
Traverse City, MI 49686 United States


McGuire Community Room