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The Beautiful Dreamer art sticks crafted by Martine Young.

WHITE SPRINGS — The Tourism Center in downtown historic White Springs was the venue for a celebration of African-American family values, music, art and culture during the Beautiful Dreamer Awards dinner held to recognize five new honorees.

The celebrated Beautiful Dreamers include the University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) Associate Program Director Dr. Ryan Morini, who leads the African-American History Project conducting interview recordings in Hamilton County. The SPOHP is an award-winning, social-justice research center engaged in experimental learning initiatives all over the world. The program’s team of student researchers, interns, volunteers and staff are dedicated to gathering, preserving and promoting living histories of all people. SPOHP is committed to using critical historical inquiry and digital humanities production to encourage civic engagement and dialogue between the past, present and the future.

SPOHP’s collection is a public archive that features more than 8,500 interviews. It includes interview recordings available through UF’s Smathers Libraries at the UF Digital Collections. It includes close to 2,000 items, and more than 150,000 pages of interview transcripts. The collection, which includes White Springs residents, can be accessed at https://ufdc.ufl.edu.oral.

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Dr. Ryan Morini with Martine ‘Pokey’ Young, who made the art sticks that were presented as the Beautiful Dreamer awards.

Professor Martha Kohen of the UF’s School of Architecture and Executive Director of the Consortium for Hydro-Generated Urbanism was recognized as a Beautiful Dreamer for her continuing work with White Springs for more than a decade. Kohen and her UF student classes have conducted a number of valuable interpretative design projects for the community, recognizing that the history of White Springs is always present in efforts to forge a collaborative vision for the future. Kohen is highly-regarded internationally for her architectural design and construction expertise, leadership and planning capabilities — by local, regional, state, and national governments and students alike.

White Springs’ extended Brown Family was recognized as Beautiful Dreamers for its annual Old Fashion Day family reunion, held in October of every year. Old Fashion Day has brought home thousands of Brown family members and friends over the years to celebrate family values — chief among them, honoring one’s parents and elders for their sacrifices to create better lives for their children and future generations. These values include helping ones family and neighbors when they are in need, compassion in loss, happiness for others’ success and a continuing belief that faith, hope and love are permanent, rock-solid guides for behavior in our society.

Old Fashion Day is the legacy of Annie Lee Brown, matriarch of the Brown Family, locally known and beloved for her large and fashionable hats, as well as her focus on family. While Annie Lee lived her entire life in the small, rural community, love for her traveled the planet in 2014, when Mayor Helen Miller applied for a pictorial postmark commemorating the 11th annual Celebration on Oct. 26, 2014. At the time, the Post Office in White Springs reported the highest number of postmarks with Annie Lee’s personal pictorial mark ever in the town’s history. Letters with Annie Lee’s personal postmark circled the globe — a truly remarkable feat. Annie Lee’s pictorial postmark continues to celebrate her legacy as history moves forward. Family spokesperson Linda White issued an open invitation to the Old Fashion Day 2020 to all in attendance.

Love and appreciation for the Marshall Family of Greater White Springs fueled its recognition as Beautiful Dreamers in 2020. The Marshall Family, with its family elder Leroy Marshall, were celebrated for their service to community as “Healers, Chefs, and More.” Joyful love for all their family members has led to “All Bear Marshall Descendants” proclaiming themselves as “The Best Family on Earth.” The Marshalls, including Celebrity Chef Teddy Bear, are unique people in White Springs and beyond. In addition to cooking with love for family reunions and get-togethers, Leroy and Teddy Bear are “go-to’s” for major milestone events such as funerals which bring in hundreds of relatives to mourn losses and celebrate life. Sister Joyce is an herbalist and pastor. She tends to both physical and psychological distresses of her flock, and has a calming effect on all whom she encounters. Sister Shirley is a creative force; writing plays, designing African-American clothing and conducting fashion shows, and now focusing on her growing collection of more than 600 dolls, with a majority being African-American. Shirley is exploring the emergence and role of African-American dolls in U.S. society.

The Sunrise Choir of White Springs was recognized by Project HOPE as this year’s Beautiful Dreamers, whose music transports one and all to the heavens and beyond. True to form, the Choir responded with a thunder of song! The Choir engaged everyone with “What’s the Matter Now?” and a rousing “Down by the Riverside.” Musical director Earnestine Johnson noted the passing of legendary choir member Wash Newsome, who was a force like no other for his singing and his praise dance. The Choir then welcomed William Udell of Live Oak, harmonica virtuoso and gospel singer, to join them in a concluding selection of musical improvisations, which touched everyone’s hearts, hands and feet. The Sunrise Choir is composed of members from all the churches in White Springs. The Choir voiced an open invitation to join Sunrise, if the spirit so moves.

This year’s Beautiful Dreamer awards were Art “Sticks” designed and hand-crafted by White Springs carving artist Martine “Pokey” Young. Young is well-known for salvaging tree limbs, branches and even roots, and transforming them into magical stories though his carving, artistic use of color through paint and crystals, and humorous plays on each wood’s idiosyncrasies.

During the event, Young befriended Rafael Lloveras, UF student from Puerto Rico who accompanied Professor Kohen, and presented him with his own “art stick.” Rafael, who had served as the event’s bartender, was humbled and most appreciative.

The Beautiful Dreamer toastmaster was Mrs. Lila Udell, and her son William Udell provided musical entertainment through demonstrated mastery of his harmonica.

Caterers for the Beautiful Dreamer dinner were Raymond & Patricia Brady and Kendrick Harris, along with assistance from family and friends. Dr. Morini noted several times in his remarks that the meal of grilled chicken and tender pork, grilled cabbage and rice pilaf was “absolutely delicious.” The large Beautiful Dreamer 2020 cake was decorated to celebrate each of the five honorees.

Rhonda Johnson served as the Event Designer, transforming the Tourism Center into a Bistro for dinner theater enjoyment among friends old and new. Johnson’s use of African-American fabrics, figures and flowers, along with candle lighting and scents accentuated the tenor of the evening.

Project HOPE’s Board Members Anita Rivers, Nicole Williams and Helen Miller — who organized the event — expressed their appreciation to Stephen Foster Park Manager Manny Perez for use of the Tourism Center and to the Suwannee Valley Community Foundation, based in Lake City, for their grant in support of the Beautiful Dreamer Awards Dinner and Program.

Project HOPE is a 501c3 non-profit public charity organized to support children and their families through its outreach programs, which include the HOPE summer program for K-12 children, and the HOPE Fuel Bank, which provides wood for low-income home-heating. Project HOPE operates through fundraisers and charitable contributions from individuals, businesses, and foundation donors. For more information, please contact Rivers, Williams or Miller.

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