Byline: Anthony DeFeo
The sounds of blues and traditional black spirituals heralded the start of the Black History Month Festival at Florida State College at Jacksonville North Campus Thursday.
The event, produced by FSCJ students and faculty, honored African-American heritage, history and tradition in the region and around the country. The festival's highlight was a performance by husband-and-wife musicians Sparky and Rhonda Rucker.
Students were also invited to participate in black history trivia, make a video testimonial and fill out a "Who am I?" quiz.
Dozens of students gathered to watch the performance and dozens more stopped to listen as they walked to and from classes. The Ruckers performed a variety of songs, ranging from original material to slavery-era hymns and spirituals.
The couple delivered a rousing 45-minute performance, intertwining each tune with a bit of history and a touch of humor.
"I've been doing this for close to 50 years," Sparky Rucker said.
"I started out doing old-time rhythm and blues. During the civil rights movement I found myself yearning to try to find a way to make this country what it claims to be, and I got involved in the civil rights movement."
He recalled meeting figures such as Rosa Parks and being inspired to delve into the world of folk music and African-American history.
"When we hear these songs, it's like having a message from our ancestors, them telling us what it was like to live in those times," he said. "Instead of reading it in a history book, you hear it from the mouth of the folks that lived the experience. …