October 4, 2013 11:22:50 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
The 31st installment of the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival will honor late Columbus resident Alva N. Temple and highlight his accomplishments in the air and on the ground.
Set to start this afternoon, the two-day, free event on Seventh Avenue North and will also feature musical entertainment as well as food and arts and craft vendors.
Temple, the former Tuskeegee Airman, logged more than 5,000 miles and flew more than 120 missions in World War II as a pilot. The Tuskeegee Airmen were a group of black men who were part of an Army Air Corps segregated training program. He was one of only 996 of his peers to become pilots in the program and one of only less than half that number to fly overseas.
His fighter group won the first ever Air Force weapons meet competition in 1949. Though the group smoked their competition, it wasn't officially named the winner of the competition until 1995.
After his military career ended, he moved to Columbus in the mid-1960s, where he ran a shop and fixed radiators. During that time, festival organizer Kabir Karriem said, Temple became more known around here for his down-to-earth demeanor, efforts to help black high school children get college scholarships and help black potential businessmen succeed in their endeavors.
"He was phenomenal," Karriem said. "He was an advocate for education. He helped a lot of people go to a number of different schools. He helped people get into business. He was a very humble, very quiet man, but he was a giant in the community. I think I met him one or two times and didn't have a clue of what he did. He never bragged or said anything about it."
Part of the tribute to Temple, who died in 2004 at the age of 86, will be a fly-over at 12:15 p.m. Saturday featuring four aircraft, Karriem said.
The headlining music act for this year's edition is Ginuwine. The rhythm and blues artist is known for singles including "Differences" and "Just Because" among several others. He will take the stage Saturday about 9 p.m.
The event is always a celebration of 7th Avenue as one of the only two predominately black, thriving commercial business districts during times when segregation reigned and the landmarks serving as a reminder of that time, such as the Queen Hotel, Karriem said.
"The festival has very humble beginnings. It started out as business owners down this way wanting to have something to celebrate their patrons," he said. "It went dormant for a couple of years and we resurrected it 10 years ago."
He said he looks forward to another well-attended event.
"This has always been a community event. It's always been something everybody looks forward to. It has really taken off and become nationally recognized."
For more information on the festival, contact Kabir Karriem at 662-549-4314.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.