YBA, 44 Years Old, Celebrates Black History

ORLANDO – Young Blacks in Action (YBA), founded in 1979, is 44 years old and, for the 44th year, celebrated Black History Month. The celebration of African American or Black History was officially recognized in 1976 under President Ford. But the event and the idea of giving Negroes their place in the sun began in Chicago with Carter G. Woodson in 1915. The celebration in 1915 was in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln.

YBA’s Director Howard (Mr. Flute) Gentry has always felt compelled to include his group in such celebrations. The group began in January by participating and winning 1st place in the Orlando Jaycee’s MLK parade.  YBA continued its immersion into celebrating Black History with a second parade in Eatonville on the same day. The history of Eatonville is part of Black History since it was incorporated in 1887 successfully by African American freedmen and is known as the oldest black township in America. The first parade was in Tavares, followed by the next weekend in Eustis and then Mt. Dora.  This past weekend, YBA attended the Sistrunk Festival in Ft. Lauderdale for the sixth straight year, celebrating the first Black doctor in Brevard County as a distinguished participating group.  As in the past years, YBA was recognized with 1st Place honors with best performance, selected by the Sistrunk Parade Committee. No light honor since they were up against several Miami dance squads, who are known for their team’s dance prowess.

Mr. Flute, the Director and Founder, is proud of his group this year. Mr. Flute stated, “His group is smaller than in the past, but they are no less dedicated to performing at their best.” He further stated, “They are very dedicated.  It takes a lot to march each weekend before thousands of people and these children perform. That is why we take a charter bus each trip, so that they may be comfortable as we travel to each venue.  Also, I always try to arrange or pay for their lunch.  Many of my kid’s families can’t afford to pay for uniforms, bus travel, and food expenses each weekend.”

Several supporters helped YBA celebrate Black History. This year’s supporters were the South Street Knights Brotherhood Inc., which purchased YBA Uniforms. Also, YBA is thankful for the financial donations of Commissioner Bakari Burns, Commissioner Regina Hill, and Attorney Greg Francis. Also, YBA was treated by William’s Memorial CME Church in Fort Lauderdale to a scrumptious breakfast before they participated in the Sistrunk Parade.

For the Director and Founder, this year was very special. His Mother, Annie Bell Suluki, accompanied the group to Ft. Lauderdale last year. It was her last YBA parade; she died within six weeks of attending the Sistrunk parade in 2022. So, this year was bittersweet for Mr. Flute. His mother was a supporter of YBA from the beginning. She often prepared lunches and snacks for the kids from the beginning, giving gifts and presents that she collected throughout the year.

YBA continues as a community group with a large following and a true legacy in Central Florida.  Starting in 1979, some 44 years ago, YBA is still going strong by participating in community, state, and national events. Although YBA celebrates Black History, it, too, is part of Black History in the Central Florida Region. Several prominent individuals in the Central Florida area have publicly acknowledged the difference YBA and Mr. Flute had played in their lives growing up.  Mr. Flute himself is someone that the community can celebrate for his commitment, contribution, and care toward Central Florida youth for 44 years.

If you are interested in supporting or joining YBA, please contact Mr. Flute at 407-739-3388 or by email at [email protected]. YBA practices are held Monday through Friday at the Jackson, Grant Street, and Dr. J. R. Smith Centers, in Orlando, from 5:30 to 7 pm weekly.