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Florida Congressman Darren Soto Named Black History Month Honorees

KISSIMMEE – In honor of Black History Month 2018, U.S. Congressman Darren Soto recognized 16 individuals in Central Florida for their invaluable contributions to the community. The honorees’ biographies were read into the Congressional Record by Rep. Soto and they will receive official Congressional Certificates.

“I am proud to celebrate and honor the leaders in Central Florida that influence and make an impact on our community through their day-to-day lives. The following honorees are an inspirational group that remind us that America is made stronger and greater by the countless contributions of African-Americans,” stated Rep. Soto.

The 16 honorees will also be recognized by Rep. Soto in a ceremony taking place in the Kissimmee District Office today, February 23rd at 5:00pm.

The Austin Family James P. Austin, Jr. served in the U.S. Army as a Staff Sergeant during World War II and as Lake Wales NAACP president for over 33 years, founding the branch, along with his wife, Jeresa Austin and Reverend W.J.H. Black. James sister, Lula Jones said of her family’s service to the community, “we remember how it was back in the day, and always worked to make it better for our children.” Ms. Jones is highly regarded as a pillar of the community. For full video, click here.
Dawn Curtis an active board member within a number of prominent community organizations, including the NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. For full video, click here.
Russell Drake the President of the Orange Democratic Black Caucus, a community advocate and an engineering professional. For full video, click here.
Lawrence Epps worked in the mortuary business while serving as president of the Roosevelt Alumni Association since 1978, an organization that helps raise money for scholarships and school supplies for the students of Lake Wales. For full video, click here.
Mr. Richard Hall one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, the country’s first black military aviators in the U.S. Air Force. For full video click here.


Captain Keva Harris the first black woman in Haines City’s history to hold an administrative position as a police officer in 1993, later becoming Commander of the Community Service Division in 2015. For full video, click here.
Roxanne “Roxsy” Harvey current President of the Democratic Women’s Club of Osceola County (“DWCOC”) and Senior Pastor of the Real Love Christian Center. For full video, click here .
Wanda Faye Howard a Youth Advisor, currently serving as the first African American female president of the Lake Wales Branch of the NAACP. For full video, click here.


Dr. Barbara M. Jenkins the Superintendent for Orange County Public School, dedicated to serving the needs of students for 30 years. For full video, click here.


Elizabeth Jones devoted her life to civic engagement and supporting various initiatives within the community. For full video, click here.


Shawn W. Kinsey held leadership positions in Polk County and the State of Florida through the NAACP and the Democratic and Black Caucuses. For full video, click here.


Desmond Meade a formerly homeless returning citizen who eventually became the Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, and Chair of many important organizations in the community. For full video, click here.


Stewart Moore co-anchors WESH 2 News on CW 18 and has been an important voice for the community covering major stories. For full video, click here.


Rhetta Peoples a small-business owner, community activist and organizer, and long-time journalist. For full video, click here.
Recy Taylor as a 24-year-old African-American Recey Taylor was kidnapped and raped by six white men in Abbeville, Alabama in 1944.  She fought alongside Rosa Parks to investigate this travesty and formed the Committee for Equal Justice. a longtime resident of Winter Haven, she was a catalyst that led to the modern-day civil rights movement. For full video, click here.


Dr. J.A. Wiltshire the first African-American physician in Lake Wales, with 50 year medical career before retiring in 1995. For full video, click here.

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