Women come together to celebrate all three at Elegance and DiviniTea – The Virginian-Pilot

VIRGINIA BEACH — When I entered the room at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, I noticed the cheerful sounds of a jazz quartet. They made me shake a white handkerchief in the air to the beat. I opted for a two-stage.

It set my mood for a Saturday afternoon full of fruity tea, finger food and fashion, the Virginia Beach History Museums’ Elegance & DiviniTea.

This was the latest in the museums’ annual tea events. The first, in December, had a Victorian theme, with carols in ankle-length skirts and festive capes. This tea, on May 14, was inspired by a hat and based on African and African American culture.

“It just seems to fit with what we are: the Virginia Beach History Museums and Cultural Affairs,” said the museums director Annmarie Reiley-Kay.

One of the partner organizations for the event was the Princess Anne County Training School-Union Kempsville High School Alumni and Friends Association, the only school for black people in what was then Princess Anne County. Black-and-white images of the graduating classes graced the lobby. In the tea room, women greeted each other with colorful wizards behind their ears and wide-brimmed purple hats with matching bows high on their foreheads.

Some tables feature vintage headdresses, supplied by the Little Theater of Virginia Beach, on top of the floral arrangements. Other greens, baby’s breath and pops of color from carnations also made me smile.

Seven strobe beams formed a runway in the center of the room. As I sat down, I admired the hats in the room, like a yellow satin pleated hat with a diamond circle inside. Another was turquoise with a matching ribbon and another was pink felt with three strings of pearls wrapped around the band.

Gold tablecloths draped each four-seater table. One orange vanilla cream rooibos tea bag sat in flowery china cups, and a watermelon hibiscus tea bag and Ceylon black tea bag waited on the saucers. A silver-plated tea bag holder was included to store the used tea bags. The organizers have thought of every little detail, including the gold plastic utensils wrapped in thick white napkins with a gold paper band to secure them.

The table could not hold any more treats, so twinkling yellow-purple church fans, with the program on one side and the tea menu with their history on the other, waited on the cushioned seats.

I started with my rooibos. It had a subtle flavor profile with delicate vanilla flavors. The menu included a brief history. Rooibos, or “red shrub”, is an herb native to South Africa. It was cultivated by the native bushmen, the Khoisan people, and has been cultivated for over 300 years. Rooibos began to rise in commercial popularity between 1904 and 1968. It could hardly be imported into the United States before 2000 due to sanctions during South Africa’s segregationist apartheid era.

The timing was perfect. Model Mikel Fuller of the è Community – which practices the religion and spirituality of West Africa’s Yoruba – takes the runway with a showstopper. She wore a beautiful long red Nigerian headscarf called a yellow one. Golden hues reflected in the light as she strolled down the runway.

Professor Omiyemi “Artisia” Green of William & Mary, a priestess for the Hampton Roads spiritual community, walked to the podium in her green and yellow. She told about the history of the yellow. In Africa, a yellow symbolizes social status. African Americans now wear the headscarf or hat to connect with their “spiritual crown.”

The program’s host, Bonita Billingsley Harris, reminded the audience of the adage, “The higher the hat, the closer to God.”

The name of the event became clearer and in line with its goal: elegance and divinity.

Models from Teens with a Purpose wore derby and church hats, a few vintage offerings from the Little Theater. Then Stark & ​​Legum, one of the oldest local haberdashery, presented men’s and women’s hats.

They ranged from black or white fedoras with decorative bands to a summer Panama hat with blue-black ribbon and a brown suede cowboy hat. If the leading male model sounds familiar to some, it was longtime area coach Elisha “Cadillac” Harris and the host’s husband.

Zion Smith Designs featured some incredible pieces, giving us a glimpse into the future of headwear. The crowd admired a model who wore the red satin ribbon all year round, accented with Swarovski crystals. I pulled out my camera.

I saw red and drank it. I switched my tea to the watermelon hibiscus with its ruby ​​red liqueur, my favorite of the day. It gave me subtle sweet notes with a juicy sharp finish. The Hibiscus sabdariffa is native to North Africa, Southeast Asia and grows in tropical climates. In some African countries it is used for medicinal purposes. It is popular in West Africa, Central Africa and the Diaspora. Hibiscus plants were on ships carrying enslaved Africans in the 1500s.

At the end of the event, people gathered their dessert boxes: a strawberry-lemon tart with lemon cream, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and a French macaron, perfect appetizers to end an afternoon tea. The slightly sweetened macaron, with its buttery crust, would have complemented the earthy boldness of a cup of black Ceylon tea.

As I pondered the day’s event, I made a schedule of my indulgence for the savory packed lunches, which include traditional tea party favorites. I enjoyed the freshness of the chicken salad on wheat bread. The roast beef on a mini brioche with cranberry chutney tasted like quality beef with a hint of sweetness. I liked the smoked salmon salad with fresh dill on wheat bread so much that I went to the company’s website to see if it was a set menu item. No luck. I loved the fresh, soft, herbaceous bite. The cucumber and cream cheese with fresh chives on white bread didn’t disappoint my taste buds either. It had a thin layer of creaminess with a bit of crunch. Then I tried a moist blueberry scone with its burst of fruity flavor.

Hillary Plate, the cultural program and scholarship coordinator for the Virginia Beach Cultural Affairs Department, wants a tea series with a dash of history that will bring the community together. She did this with Elegance and DiviniTea.

Gibson Engineering, [email protected], 754-295-8809

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