Event set to recognize Black firsts in education, sports

Fred and Doby Flowers will be among the honorees being recognized as
Tallahassee’s Black history firsts.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

When Dot Inman-Johnson decided to break the mold in terms of the way Black history is recognized, she did so with a sense of purpose.

Stands the reason she set out to put together a program that will recognize a group of local Blacks who have established firsts in education and sport. She’s also using the night of entertainment and recognition as a fund-raiser to help  improve the lives of young people who live in the Orange Avenue Apartments.

First she had to find worthy everyday people to recognize, without turning to more prominent figures, Inman-Johnson said.

“A lot of times during Black History Month and Martin Luther King weekend, a lot of the same people get recognized over and over again,” Inman-Johnson said. “They go way back in history to find people to recognize. We wanted to make sure that we were recognizing our hometown Black heroes instead of the people who are recognized and go way back in history. You don’t have to go the ’60 to find Black history heroes; we have a lot of them in our community.”

In all, the program that is scheduled for Jan. 17 at the Civic Center will recognize 16 people – 10 in education and six in sports. The event also will feature entertainment by the Atlanta-based band Wild and Peaceful. Vocalist Don Brown, lead singer for a Motown review act, also will perform.

Tommy Mitchell

“I wanted to make it a big event his year, something that people will start to look forward to,” Inman-Johnson said. “That’s why we added the entertainment.”

The Orange Avenue Apartments complex was chosen as beneficiary of the event because of a relationship that she and her husband, pastor Lee Johnson, have established with the neighborhood. It began last spring when they reached an agreement with Tallahassee Housing Authority to set up their church, Loved by Jesus, in the Oliver Hill Community Room.

That same room is used for some of the services that the Johnsons are already providing for young people in the complex. They are currently operating on a small grant from Leon County Sheriff’s office, but they will be able to do more with funds raises from the upcoming event, said Inman-Johnson.

Future plans include adding an after-school program.  In March, they will hold a job conference and summit for teens and young adults. The idea is to teach vocational skills and hopefully match participants for summer jobs, Inman-Johnson said.

Tommy Mitchell, one of the honorees, praised the effort by the Johnsons, saying their plan for working with young people is a viable one. He said similar programs were the basis for his career in basketball, including being a dribbler with the Harlem Globetrotters.

“These programs are absolutely important to the African American community,” Mitchell said. “I’m glad that we are being honor, but the most important aspect is that this money can go toward programs that inner city kids that too often don’t have the kind of funds to go to a summer camp. It’s a tremendous opportunity anytime you have programs like this.”

Mitchell, who played college ball at FAMU, played three years with the Globetrotters. After his last game with the renowned touring team in 1964, he played in the Eastern Pro League and later joined the Scranton, (Pa.) Miners in the Harlem Pro League until 1974.

 Mitchell has received several honors since returning to Tallahassee in 1979, but none is as is sentimental as the one he will receive next week, he said.

“One of the flattering things is you’re honored like this, people that you know recognizing you,” he said. “I’m flattered that my hometown chooses to honor me. It’s the greatest honor you can get.”