Diversity Banquet set for Saturday

Thomasi McDonald

Thomasi McDonald

The Richmond County Human Relations Council will host its annual Diversity Banquet at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 18 at the Cole Auditorium in Hamlet.

This year’s program will be dedicated to the late Macie McQueen, who died suddenly last November. She was former chairperson and a charter member of the Human Relations Council, and a former member of the Richmond County Board of Education.

McQueen was active with the Human Relations Council and worked hard to advance its ideals.

In her honor, the inaugural Macie McQueen Champion of Diversity Award will be presented at the program. The first recipient will be Dr. Masoud Ahdieh, who recently retired from his medical practice and has been active with the council since its inception.

Gina Gutierrez

Gina Gutierrez

The banquet focuses on celebrating diversity through the performing arts and aims to feature various performers and speakers from different races, ethnicities and cultures.

Tickets are $12 (includes meal) and can be purchased at the door.


Two artists will return this year as the crowd’s favorites: Raven Newton and Gina Gutierrez.

Newton sang last year during dinner and the audience was left wanting more. The 11 year-old is a student at Rockingham Middle School and is performing at venues across the region. Her talent so impressed the president of Bennett College in Greensboro that Newton was offered a college scholarship on the spot.

Gutierrez is a Hispanic opera singer from Union County. She woos audiences with her personal, intimate connections as she performs operatic singing.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Raven Newton, 11, already has been offered a full ride to Bennett College in Greensboro based on her musical abilities.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Raven Newton, 11, already has been offered a full ride to Bennett College in Greensboro based on her musical abilities.

Gutierrez holds a Master of Music degree from the renowned Juilliard School.

Richmond County Clerk of Court Vickie Daniel will embrace her first love – singing – during dinner at the banquet, which will be catered by the Seaboard Station Restaurant.

Sankofa Collective

Saturday’s featured performance is the Sankofa Collective of Durham.

“Sankofa is an Akan word and Adinkra symbol that admonishes us to return to our past or roots in order to be able to map out our future,” said Thomasi McDonald of the group.

The group will incorporate stories, music, dance, interactive games and more to convey the similarities between African and American cultures through music and dance.

Braima Moiwai

Braima Moiwai

The three “Sankofa” artists – drummer and storyteller, Braima Moiwai; dancer Alex Ofosu; and poet, musician and storyteller, McDonald – will share their music and stories that bond African and American cultures

McDonald, a native of Rockingham, is an award-winning journalist, poet, actor, storyteller and musician who has worked across the country and abroad.

McDonald is a former N.C. Poetry Fellow. His poetry volumes “The Secret Lives Of Black Men” and series of essays, “Franklin’s Gift,” are both slated for publication this year.

He is a member of the Actors Equity Association and has performed with the Santa Monica, Ca.-based, Hittite Empire in London and across the United States; the National Theatre Company of Mexico; the UNC-Chapel Hill Playmakers Repertory; and with the North Carolina Central University Department of Theatre, where he studied theatre and journalism.

He is currently a media fellow with the Duke University Media Fellows Program in Durham and with the John Jay College of Juvenile Justice in New York.

Macie McQueen

Macie McQueen

McDonald is the proud father of eight wonderful children and two delightful grandchildren.

Braima Moiwai is a professional freelance artist from Sierra Leone, West Africa, now based in Durham. He’s the sixth of nine children born into a family of rice and coffee farmers in eastern Sierra Leone.

Through working on the farm and the knowledge of his mother, a well-known herbalist, he learned the value of living in harmony with nature.

Moiwai’s diverse creative work as an artist-educator and interactive performer draws on the rich cultural traditions woven throughout everyday village life. He provides hands-on experience (drumming, storytelling, basket-weaving, textile techniques) as well as information on the historical background of these art forms.

He studied history and geography in Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, and taught for five years before immigrating to the U.S. in 1986. His workshops explore the connections between African and African-American culture and history.

Moiwai served as an expert on oral tradition, languages and music that survived among the enslaved Africans of the American Southeast for the civil war movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson, and played a Gullah musician in the film.

He has an established professional career as a performer and teaching-artist. He has served as an “artist in residence” with the Durham Arts Council since 1987 as well as performing Artist through the United Arts Council since 1998.

Braima is an active member of the North Carolina Association of Black Storytellers and founder of the “Gullah Project” in Durham. He serves as tour guide for school field trips to the Gullah Sea Islands. He has received public recognition for his work including being selected as “Tar Heel of the Week” (May 2008) for his work with inner city youths in Durham; the “Star Studded Citizen Award” by the Beta Phi Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. in Durham in November 2008; and was awarded the Key to the City of Brunswick, Ga., for his years of work in schools, libraries and the community center.

Ofosu is a dancer and performer from birth. He has been dancing since childhood at ceremonies and festivals.

His passion for dance led him to enroll in the premier University of Ghana in Legon-Accra.

In 2008, he was selected to be part of the 12 choreographers in Africa to choreograph the opening and closing ceremony for the African cup of nation, of which he was the youngest choreographer.

For more information about the Diversity Banquet, call Dot Fisher Bynum, chairperson, at (910) 582-0848 or Kimberly Harrington, banquet chairperson, at (704) 294-9431.

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  • Kimberly Harrington

    This is going to be a terrific program with great cultural performances. You always leave with a sense of hope for improved unity in the community. It’s one of the best programs this community offers.

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