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2nd Black History gala promises to be bigger, better, planners say

The organizers of the second annual Black Tie for Black History Extravaganza on Friday say they have planned an event that will be bigger and better than last year's, when about 400 people attended.

The black tie gala will be held again this year at the Stillwater, 481 Delaware Ave., but this time the restaurant will close its doors to the public and give the event full run of the courtyard and dining rooms, said general manager Eric Reitler.

"We're stepping it up a bit," said Marnetta Malcolm, event coordinator and host.

Net proceeds from the extravaganza will benefit the Juneteenth Festival. The same organization was also last year's beneficiary, receiving $4,000, said Marcus Brown, president of the festival's board of directors.

"We thought it was going to be a success, but I didn't have any idea it was going to be as successful as it was," Brown said, adding that during last year's extravaganza, he had family visiting from Texas, which has a historical link to the celebration.

"They were really impressed we were doing something like this for the festival in the midst of winter months. People were out and had a good time," he said.

Juneteenth is the oldest celebration commemorating the end of slavery on Jan. 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation became official, according to the Juneteenth Web site.

The "June" portion of the name is tied to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that slaves were free.

The $4,000 raised last year was used to help pay for Juneteenth Festival entertainment, insurance and other expenses.

"We have a lot of bills," Brown said.

The black tie event has even more importance this year because of funding cuts to the festival, which organizers briefly considered canceling because of the dwindling finances.

Then they had a change of heart, Brown said.

"We have to watch our pennies and cut our budget like we were cut, [but] we thought it would be an injustice to the people who support us not to have it," he said.

Several members of the community will be recognized during the gala: Deputy Mayor Donna Brown, Buffalo Board of Education member Catherine Collins, Buffalo State College men's basketball coach Fajri Ansari and attorney David L. Edmunds Jr.

"We honor that they are difference-makers in the community, and it's a celebration for black history, especially with our first African-American president," Malcolm said.

Tickets for Black Tie for Black History are $20, and include hors d'oeuvres, a band and a deejay, as well as a fashion show and silent auctions. The event runs from 5 to 11 p.m.

Sponsors include L.P. Ciminelli, Hennessy and the Continental School of Beauty.


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