Educating others is something that is very important in Amber Berry’s family – especially for the women in her family.
“My mother, grandmother and all three of my aunts were educators. Basically all the women in the family are educators,” said Berry, a third-generation Buffalo Public Schools teacher.
And even though the 36-year-old initially had no desire to follow in her relatives’ footsteps, Berry has been teaching fifth grade at Highgate Heights Elementary for the past four years and now can’t see herself doing anything else anywhere else.
“I love it. This is my hometown,” she said.
Berry and five other “difference makers” in the community will be honored Saturday at the Black Tie for Black History gala. The formal affair is Buffalo’s only black-tie event celebrating Black History Month and will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. in The Tralf, 622 Main St.
The sixth annual bash honors community leaders and also serves as a fundraising event for the local Juneteenth celebration, the annual festival that commemorates the end of slavery in the South. The “June” portion of the name is tied to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that slaves were free. Net proceeds from the gala benefit Juneteenth of Buffalo, which sponsors the festival in and around Martin Luther King Park.
This year’s local celebration will be historically significant for two reasons, said Marcus Brown, president of Juneteenth of Buffalo.
For one, 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Also, the grand opening of the long-awaited water feature at the park is scheduled for the opening day of the festival. The state-of-the-art water feature is expected to transform the park and will be used as a splash pad in the summer, a reflecting pool in the spring and fall, and an ice rink in the winter.
Organizers of the black-tie event hope to raise $4,000 to $5,000 to support the festival.
“With the economy the way it is, we’re happy to get close to that ... because things are really tough here in Buffalo,” Brown said.
In addition to Berry, five difference-makers will be honored at Saturday’s gala:
Kevin Carter has been an Erie County Family Court judge since May 2002. Carter presides over cases involving custody and visitation, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, paternity, adoption, persons in need of supervision, and abuse/neglect.
Mary Gresham is the vice provost for educational collaboration and engagement at the University at Buffalo. In addition, for more than a decade she had been dean of UB’s Graduate School of Education.
Leona Harper is president of the Comstock-Hewitt Block Club in the city’s Bailey-Kensington area and committee chairwoman for Boy Scout Troop 139. In 2007, Harper restarted the troop, which is the largest troop in the City of Buffalo with about 60 members.
Bernard A. Tolbert started as a street agent with the FBI and worked his way up through the ranks to retire as a special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI. Tolbert also served as the head of security for the National Basketball Association.
Stephon Wright is a graduate of Emerson High School and was the first student member of the Buffalo Board of Education, serving during the 2011-12 school year. He has hosted a local cable access show as well as a local radio show.
Tickets for the extravaganza are $25 and include light fare, a raffle and live entertainment by the All Star Band, Lyne Westbrook and DJ Papa Trini. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster, the Tralf box office and Doris Records, 286 E. Ferry St.
The show is sponsored by LP Ciminelli, HSBC African Heritage Committee, Camellia Foods, the Oakk Room, AM 1400, Life Coaching Essentials, Pernod Ricard and Off-Track Betting.
An after party will be held at the Oakk Room, 1435 Main St.