Smyrna to host Black heritage celebration in February

Smyrna Georgia community center in article about Smyrna Black Heritage CelebrationSmyrna community center (photo by Haisten Willis)

Incoming Smyrna mayor Derek Norton and Ward 7 city council member Lewis Wheaton have announced that a Black Heritage Celebration will be held Feb. 15 at the city’s community center.

Norton, who takes over for the retiring Max Bacon in January, said he believes this will be the first city-sponsored Black Heritage Celebration to ever take place in Smyrna.

The event is also noteworthy due to the controversy over Smyrna’s canceling of a Hispanic heritage event that was scheduled to be held downtown in October. The event was formally scheduled but then vetoed by Bacon, an action the city council refused to override. Former city council member Maryline Blackburn noted at the time that previous attempts to plan black heritage festivals in Smyrna were unsuccessful.

But Norton countered saying the issue was a misunderstanding and touting the upcoming event as a way to champion the city’s diversity.

“I know there was a lot of talk, misinformation and miscommunication about the heritage events that have been suggested for the city to do,” Norton said. “Nobody was ever against having these types of events.”

Wheaton, just the second African American to ever serve on the Smyrna city council, will be the council’s liaison for the event, which will also be organized by an eight- to 10-person citizen committee to be named next week.

While it remains to be seen exactly what will take place, Norton said it will display African American culture, with speakers and other showcase pieces. Wheaton said he’s excited to get to work.

“It’s an exciting time to do something like this, to bring the city together,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have some good educational programming, some cultural programming and some really exciting speakers to welcome in.”

Wheaton said some of the event will be educational in nature, detailing the history of African Americans in Smyrna and “what they bring to the table.”

Planning will get underway following Norton’s official swearing in as Smyrna mayor on Jan. 6.

“This is exactly what the city needs and I’m totally excited that Derek Norton is happy to support this type of event,” said Wheaton. “It’s a really good thing for Smyrna and will be great for the community.”

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4 Comments on "Smyrna to host Black heritage celebration in February"

  1. I’m excited that Smyrna is finally going to celebrate these types of events too. Thank you, Mr. Wheaton! Let us all not forget that Mr. Norton is on record stating that he will support One Multicultural Event a year. I’m glad to see that he’s finally coming around. Hopefully we can continue to move Smyrna forward.

  2. Patricia Burns | December 31, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Reply

    Stunning news after pervious comments and votes by Derek Norton as a city council member and candidate for mayor to not support cultural events…..Apparently he has had a Christmas conversion?
    Many thanks to Council member Wheaton for taking the lead to recognize the make of 2020 Smyrna and activate the Smyrna Vision Plan.

    The first city sponsored Black Heritage Celebration should be in honor of outgoing council member Maryline Blackburn for being the first Af/Am on Smyrna’s City Council.

  3. I agree that Smyrna should always celebrate its continued and growing diversity. The thought that it’s being suggested that we name the event after the former councilwoman is unbelievable. She went out on her own and her “non profit” supported the first diversity event. I dint care that she rented the space with an “employee discount”. The fact where did the proceeds go? It was touted as a success but then was recorded a loss. There was never any transparency on this issue. The fact her opponent won the election. This idea must not be allowed to advance. It appears Ms. Burns is playing party politics (which is her choice) and not willing to allow time to see how the newly elected mayor conducts himself or the business of our city. In her own words, obviously she did not have a “Christmas Conversion”. Her negative attitude does nothing for the city and does not let the newly elected administration do their job. Shane on your Ms. Burns.

  4. Special thanks to Councilman Wheaton for his leadership in promoting the city’s sponsorship of this year’s event. And, Maryline Blackburn should most definitely be recognized and honored at this event for being the first person of color to serve on the Smyrna City Council and for her leadership in sponsoring the first of these celebrations after the city council refused to do so. She will forever be a part of Smyrna’s history and it’s progress toward becoming a more inclusive community that celebrates the diversity that is Smyrna today.

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