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Gala set to raise funds for Juneteenth

The Juneteenth Festival in Buffalo has grown from a weekend event in its early stages to a monthlong celebration over the past few years.

That expansion of the festival focused on black history and culture means it takes more and more money to keep it going, said Marcus Brown, president of Juneteenth Buffalo Inc. for the past 18 years.

That's why fundraisers like the annual Black Tie for Black History gala are so critical to cultural organizations like his.

"It's important because we need the money," Brown said.

Black Tie for Black History will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday in the Tralf Music Hall. The gala, marking Black History Month, is a celebration to honor community leaders and a fundraising event for Juneteenth, the annual festival commemorating the end of slavery.

The expanded festival begins the first Saturday in June with a "Get on Da Bus" tour around Buffalo highlighting places of importance to African-Americans, such as the Jefferson Street Heritage Gallery and the 2nd Cup cafe, Brown said.

There's also a 5K, 10K and children's run on the first Sunday that starts and ends at the William-Emslie YMCA.

And the seven days before the festival -- held in Martin Luther King Park on the last weekend in the teens -- are called Sankofa Days.

While raising money for the festival, the Black Tie for Black History gala also is a celebration honoring community leaders. This year's honorees are:

Satoria and Kevin Donovan, founders of Urban Professionals of WNY, which provides scholarships and mentoring for young people. The nonprofit includes professionals from financial services, education, marketing, medical, computer technology and other fields. The Donovans also sponsor a professional networking social event the third Thursday of each month.

Buffalo Criterion columnist and historian Eva Doyle, a retired educator who taught for many years at Campus West School. She's also an author, specializing in African-American history. She recently launched a series of 33 lectures on the subject, hosts movie screenings and discussions around black history, and sponsors essay contests to get students interested in their history.

"She's our treasure," said Marnetta Malcolm, marketing consultant for Entercom Buffalo and one of the gala's organizers.

* George Johnson, president of Buffalo United Front, an umbrella organization focused on reducing youth violence that brings together various neighborhood groups. Johnson helps organize sporting events and field trips to broaden the perspective of youngsters who live in rough neighborhoods. He also sponsors "Enough Is Enough," a citywide, anti-violence prayer campaign held weekly in various churches.

* Terrence Amir McKelvey, a certified financial planner who was recently promoted to manager at KeyBank's new South Campus branch at 3586 Main St. Prior to that, McKelvey was a portfolio adviser with Merrill Lynch.

* The Rev. Darius Pridgen, who wears many hats -- activist, Ellicott District Common Council member and pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church. In 2004, the East Ferry Street church became one of the first in the nation to operate a Subway franchise in part of its facility.

* Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith, who was elected Council majority leader last month. Smith has been a Buffalo lawmaker since 2007, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. Before that he was an Erie County legislator.

* Detra Trueheart, founder of the Young Miss Buffalo Scholarship and Enrichment program. A motivational speaker and mentor to girls, Trueheart founded the Young Miss Buffalo program in 1999. The organization is dedicated to empowering girls ages 13 through 17 in four areas: inner and outer beauty; education through scholarships and academic assistance; community service; and talent development.

Tickets for the gala are $25 and include light fare, a raffle, a DJ and live entertainment. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster, the Tralf box office and Doris Records, 286 E. Ferry St.

The event is sponsored by LP Ciminelli, HSBC African Heritage Committee, Off-Track Betting, Yellow Tail and others.