understands that to succeed in the future, one must embrace the past. Which is why, for the past 24 years, Calhoun has served as coordinator for the Anniston Museum of Natural History's annual Black Heritage Festival - she remembers a time when African-Americans such as herself weren't allowed in the museum.
Even after the walls of segregation were torn down, however, the black community continued to stay away, says Calhoun
, who still lives in Anniston. But that changed when she became the museum's first black League Board member in 1980 and created a festival to celebrate black heritage.
"Blacks just weren't really into going to the museum," she
says."When I got on the board, I wanted to find a way to get my people involved.So the Black Heritage Festival was my vehicle to change all that."
The first festival was held in the spring of 1979 and since that day the crowds, once numbering in the hundreds, have swollen to more than 1,000 each year.
"When I first started, I could have never imagined it would get this big," Calhoun
says."It truly is a blessing."
The tradition continues Saturday, Feb. 7, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. at the museum, located off McClellan Boulevard.The festival is held in February as part of Black History Month.
Though it's termed a Black Heritage Festival, Calhoun
says that the celebration does not exclude other races; rather it offers a lesson for everyone.
"Everybody can benefit from attending this festival," she
says."The more you learn about someone and their culture, the more accepting of other people you become.It's both educational and entertaining."
This year's event, like those of the past, is devoted to educating area children about the history of their culture, which Calhoun
says is often omitted from school lessons.
"I call it a ‘heritage festival' because to me heritage means people have used their talents to create a history that gives them memories that they can respect and use to command respect," she
"It's gotten real competitive," Calhoun