Honoring Local Black Heroes during Black History Month
Black History Month began as a way of remembering important people and events in the African communities across the world. The United States observes this month during February each year, and Winter Haven is building a new tradition by bringing the remembrance close to home.
2021 saw the cancelling of key Black History Month events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This spurred conversations amongst City staff about another way to commemorate this important celebration. An idea rose to the surface – line the parade route with banners honoring black heroes. Banners were ultimately placed along the parade route and throughout downtown Winter Haven.
Bringing the Tradition Home
The original banners showcased national heroes from black history such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Aretha Franklin, but Winter Haven has a rich history of local black heroes who have made a marked impact in the local community. In 2021, a committee was formed to identify and honor local black heroes. The community submitted nominations to the group of community leaders who made up the committee, and four outstanding honorees were selected. These local heroes each blazed new trails while demonstrating passion, dedication, and empathy or compassion for the community.
2022 Local Black Heroes
Mr. Geathers left a lasting impact in the community with the legacy he created as a valedictorian, veteran, educator, consensus builder, mentor, civil rights leader, Commissioner, Mayor, community activist and much more.
The Week of January 31, 2022 will be Lemuel Geathers Week in the City of Winter Haven.
Larry D. Hardaway
Mr. Hardaway left a lasting impact in the community with the legacy he created as a class president at Winter Haven High School, athlete, attorney who gave pro bono support readily, civil rights leader, tutor, mentor, community activist, and much more.
The Week of February 7, 2022 will be Larry D. Hardaway Week in the City of Winter Haven
Mr. Johnson left a lasting impact in the community with the legacy he created as a member of the Planning Commission for more than 20 years, author, college professor, mentor, veteran, tireless servant, community activist and much more.
The Week of February 14, 2022 will be Ulysses Johnson Week in the City of Winter Haven.
Mrs. Darby left a lasting impact in the community with the legacy she created as the first and only African American female Commissioner and Mayor, advocate for elder services, voice for the impoverished, activist for access to quality childcare, community activist and much more.
The Week of February 21, 2022 will be Ann Darby Week in the City of Winter Haven.
Honoring our Heroes
The City of Winter Haven invites our full community to follow along throughout February as we share the stories of our four honorees. Each week of the month of February has been dedicated to one of the 2022 Local Heroes by way of proclamation from the Mayor of the City of Winter Haven. We look forward to sharing more of each of the heroes’ stories each week.
Continuing the Tradition
Looking forward to 2023, the City of Winter Haven plans to continue this tradition, honoring four additional black heroes each year. One day, the parade route will be fully lined with local black heroes as the community celebrates the positive impact they’ve had right here at home.