A beautiful and eclectic mix of families and friends filled the room at Hope CommUnity Center Monday night to celebrate Black History Month. The event, titled Embrace Hope for Racial Understanding,” hosted in partnership with Farmworker Association of Florida, brought an abundance of thoughtfulness and acceptance within the communities. It was the perfect beginning to building new relationships.

Dr. Kitty Oliver is an oral historian, professional Jazz singer, and university professor, among other distinctions. “Keep holding on…” she sang, serenading the crowd with her encouraging message. She spoke about her encounter with the acclaimed English rock band, The Beatles, and her life growing up during segregation in South Florida. Her narratives were greeted with head nods and affirmations from listeners who encountered similar experiences.

The central theme for the night was an exploration of how to navigate race and ethnic issues in innovative ways. Dr. Kitty Oliver detailed to the crowd her evolving perceptions of ethnicity and race that was born out of growing up in a predominately black community and then meeting people of other races and ethnicities in college and thereafter. Throughout the event, she used podcasts, videos, song, and storytelling to detail her and others’ complex experiences.

“How do we move on without ignoring what is happening?” asked Raidel Moreno Armas, a guest who shared his story about a dear friend experiencing racial adversity. Dr. Oliver responded by suggesting that they have a conversation. Her purpose for the night was to change the way people think and navigate when dealing with each other. “When we try to fix everything, that’s a good way to get worn out,” she reminded the crowd. Instead of trying to fix the problems within different communities, Dr. Oliver recommends opening dialogue to learn from and to truly understand one another.

“We are here to stand for justice. We are here to stand for healing. You are not alone.” The night closed with Dr. Oliver’s elegant voice singing this declaration to a room full of hopeful hearts.

For more information on Dr. Kitty Oliver please visit her website at http://kittyoliveronline.com/