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PBC Museum of Black History? Getting closer

When Ineria Hudnell, 97, died last year, one question hung in the air at her funeral: what about the museum?

The longtime educator had taught at the segregated Roosevelt High School in West Palm Beach (WPB) and, over the years, became a self-taught historian as she gathered news articles, pictures and community-submitted documents in an effort to record the history of African Americans in Palm Beach County (PBC). The 300-plus placards that make up her work are what caused the hanging-in-the-air question at her funeral.

“I remember thinking the same thing,” said state Senator Bobby Powell, who presented a proclamation at the service. “So, I asked the audience when I spoke ‘how are we going to make sure this happens?’ We have to respect our history and Mrs. Hudnell’s.”

Today, the effort is a bit closer. A state appropriations request to support the creation of a museum was signed last week by Gov. Ron DeSantis, thanks in part to the work of our state Senator. That funding would join $10 million in local funds that has been pledged already by the Palm Beach County School District (PBCSD) toward the same effort, but expanded, and with its eye on a particular location.  

That location? Roosevelt High School in WPB, where Mrs. Hudnell taught and for which there’s lots of community support for restoration. The School District pledge is to create a campus that has a history museum, yes, but also has a media center, a high-end academic studies program and a multi-purpose cultural arts center. The estimated price tag for all of that is $23 million, according to school district records, and while the state funding commitment is just $150,000 of the $350,000 requested, still.

 “It’s great news!’ said Dr. Debra Robinson, the PBCSD board member who has pushed this effort for years. “Every little bit helps, every little bit gets us closer to the goal.”

And this just in: local media covered the story, too. Read a Palm Beach Post article about plans for Roosevelt here and watch a video, below, from WPTV Channel 5:

The Senator, and others, talk history.

The recent moves also join other significant community efforts to ensure the history of the African diaspora in PBC is told. Consider:

School Board member Dr. Debra Robinson, left, 15th Judicial Circuit Judge Bradley G. Harper and Vernique Williams, FPL executive, at the Historical Society of PBC board meeting in April. The two ladies were installed, joining Judge Harper on the board.
  • Historical Society of PBC. In April, Dr. Robinson and NextEra Energy/FPL executive Vernique Williams were appointed to the society’s board, joining 15th Judicial Circuit Judge Bradley G. Harper. The society’s president and CEO, Jeremy Johnson, said that the society is on the team, too.
  • AARLCC. Members of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, most of whom attended Roosevelt, were instrumental in preventing the demolition of their high school years ago. Their push now includes converting it to, well, an AARLCC. It recently hosted an event celebrating Mrs. Hudnell and L.A. Kirksey, another longtime educator for whom 15th Street in WPB is named. Read about it here.  
  • Storm of ’28 Coalition. The major hurricane blew across the entire County in 1928, killing thousands. Hundreds of black bodies were dumped in an unmarked grave in WPB but, thanks to the Coalition’s efforts, there’s now recognition at the site. They too seek a museum.
  • The Industrial/Roosevelt High School National Alumni Association and Friends, Inc. The local nonprofit works to ensure the memories, stories and, well, history, of the two schools are saved. Both had been segregated high schools that, despite that official unequal treatment, still ensured achievement for their students. The group discussed their interests Sunday with Dr. Robinson on ‘South Florida Sunday,’ the community news radio show on X102.3 FM. Click below to listen in.

The Industrial/Roosevelt group is also hosting ‘An Evening with the Stars’ on Saturday. Learn more about the event here.

Dr. Robinson is pleased with the forward movement on the museum even though, as she said, tough decisions still have to be made about the path forward. But one thing is clear, she said.

“We all want the same thing: some recognition of our contributions to the growth, development and change in this County,” she said. “We are all on Mrs. Hudnell’s team. We’ll get it done.”

In 1968, with its 27-0 record, the Roosevelt High School basketball team became the first black school in Florida to win the integrated state basketball playoffs.
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Network. Invest. Grow.

An impressive list of local, state, national and global leaders, business owners, award-winning communicators, star athletes, public officials–all will be gathering next week for ‘Elevate Now International Symposium 2019,’ a conference that seeks to connect the African diaspora in fundamental ways. It will be held at the Hilton Palm Beach Airport in West Palm Beach on Tuesday and it has drawn some really big names to participate, from state Senator Bobby Powell (District 30) to Nigerian billionaire businesswoman Folorunso Alakija. And you can go too. Event tickets are $129 per person and include continental breakfast, lunch–and networking with lots of really important, really connected, really smart people. Learn more here.

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The iconic Roosevelt High School

Roosevelt High School in West Palm Beach was segregated until 1970–even though the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school segregation in 1954 with its Brown v. Board of Education decision. This past weekend, the Class of 1959 celebrated its 60th anniversary at Benvenuto Restaurant in Boynton Beach. And they were different. In a good way. They were healthy, lucid, hardworking and respectful. Strong. They told stories about their teachers, those who cussed—not cursed; cussed—at them, or grabbed them by their shirts, or bossed them around with frowns on their faces. But those same teachers also supported them to the extreme, these students said, ensured they understood what to expect as they aged and led them to success. Consider the two men in the picture: Nelson Dozier and Samuel McDonald. Mr. Dozier, a classmate, is founder and owner of Dozier Electric, now in its 55th year of success as a small, family-owned business that provided work for his brothers, his son, his nephews, ex-felons–and college degrees for his three daughters. He was keynote speaker. He and #Team1959 also recognized the 64 classmates who’d passed away of the total 116 who graduated, and one of their teachers, Mr. McDonald. The now-92-year-old Mr. McDonald walked to the microphone on his own. He spoke; they applauded. The respect could be felt in the room. His main point: I sure miss what we had. The response? A standing ovation.

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He impressed us

As we drove in West Palm Beach recently down a certain street in the ‘hood, we saw a young man sitting on a bench outside an apartment building. With gold teeth. And dreadlocks. But as he turned his head, his hair moved. It was beautiful. We slowed. He noticed and walked toward the car. Omg. Is he selling …

‘You need any mattresses? I’ve got all sizes, and they brand new” he said to me, before I could catch my breath. Um, you’re selling mattresses?, I asked. “Honestly, I thought you were…” I began, and he looked at me. He began to nod his head. And roll his eyes. I know, he said; I know. He started talking. Told a couple of stories. Like, one time, he applied for a job. Talked over the phone, got an interview. Then, he showed up. Um, sorry, he was told; the job is no longer available.

“This is who I am,” said Jatory Smith, 30, as his strong, confident hair swung. “If somebody can’t accept that, then they can go on.”

Then, he went back to the pitch. “We have mattresses, pillows…and they’re way lower than what they cost in the store,” he said. “And I deliver for free. Just get my number and call me.”

So, why did he impress us? Because he is not what was assumed. And it held him back not one bit.

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‘Freedom Day’ across south Florida

‘Juneteenth’ refers to that day, June 19, 1865, when slaves in Texas were freed by the Union Army–two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Imagine. Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in 45 states, including Florida. Indeed, there are celebrations of Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, across the Sunshine State. Here’s a few in our area, all free and open to the public:

  •  Spady Cultural Heritage Museum will sponsor a Juneteenth Celebration as part of the Frog Alley Caribbean Festival in Delray Beach on June 8. That celebration will feature the work and hands-on instruction of Mary Graham Grant, below, an artist-in-residence who practices the traditional art form of sewing sweetgrass baskets by the Gullah Geechee people, who were brought to coastal South Carolina from West Africa during the slave trade. Learn more here.
Mary Graham Grant, left, who practices a traditional African art form. She’ll be teaching it in Delray Beach on June 8, thanks to Spady Cultural Heritage Museum.
  • The City of Lauderdale Lakes is hosting its third annual Art of Triumph: Juneteenth Celebration from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at the Multipurpose Auditorium, located at 4340 Northwest 36th Street. The free event includes a traditional dinner showcase and a theatrical performance by Ashanti Cultural Arts. Learn more here.
  • Discussions, networking–and drink specials!–will happen in the name of ‘Emancipation Day’ along with performances in honor of Black Music Month at The Urban in Overtown, 1000 NW 2nd Avenue. The sponsor is the Black Professionals Network. Learn more about the free event here.
  • The daylong, second annual South Broward Juneteenth Festival: Highlighting a Forgotten Holiday will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 15 at the Washington Park Community Center, located at 5199 Pembroke Road in Hollywood. The family-friendly event kicks off with a lively parade led by Junkanoo dancers and stilt walkers, which will then be followed by gospel performances, artists, motivational speakers and a bounce house for children. Learn more here.
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…there’s only five black-owned bookstores in Florida–and one is in PBC?

According to the African-American Literature Book Club, a national compilation of these stores,  there are only four bookstores in the Sunshine State owned by people of African descent and they’re located in Longwood, Tampa, Pensacola and St. Petersburg. There’s a new one, though, which is as-yet unlisted on the book club site, and it is titled Our Third Eye Bookstore and it is in West Palm Beach (WPB). Opened in April, the bookstore is owned by Brother Carl Muhammad, who has been pushing equality in education for decades; just ask the School District of Palm Beach County (PBC), whose meetings he attends monthly. He launched the bookstore as part of that larger push and hosts education-focused events there every month. Next one: newly elected WPB City Commissioner Richard Ryles will discuss public service and community support from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday, June 15. Besides Our Third Eye, Florida is also home to:

  • Dare Books in Longwood, which relocated there from New York
  • Best Books, Rich Treasures, Tampa, which relocated from Virginia
  • The Gathering Awareness and Book Center, Pensacola
  • Cultured Books, St. Petersburg

Until June of last year, there had been another ‘sole’ diaspora-focused bookstore in PBC: Pyramid Books in Boynton Beach, which had been owned by Akhbar James Watson and still sells books online here. Indeed, there’s a couple of other online-only black-owned book retailers based in Florida: Kizzy’s Books & More sells online here and has plans to open a retail location this year in the Orlando area, while The African Bookstore was borne after its bricks-and-mortar shop closed in Plantation. It was founded in 1994 by Horatio Harrison, a Jamaican who died in 2017, and his daughter remains in charge. Visit its site here. “Education is the new civil rights struggle,” Brother Carl said, “and we all have to get in that fight.” Learn more about his work, his goals and the bookstore here. And watch the video, below, of him discussing the bookstore and his plans.

Brother Carl talks books at his new spot, 411 Rosemary Avenue in WPB.

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Another published PBC author–who also cares, responds

Yes, there is another published author in Palm Beach County (PBC) and, this one, for sure, has a story to tell. Stacey Nails had been homeless, on drugs and, while a child, molested by her stepfather—a man she had called Daddy. That’s the title, by the way, of one of her three books: I Called Him Daddy. Her other two books—Corners of My Mind and A Ruined Life: How I Became Who I Am—are also about her very rich story.

Why is it rich? Because, despite what happened to her—decades living on the street as an angry, yet sorrowful crackhead—she has achieved. She has thrived. And she’s helping others. Ms. Nails created Stacey Nails Footwork Project in 2018, which seeks to help people who are where she had been.

The Project is hosting its second Picnic in the Park from 11 am. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, June 1, at Gaines Park in West Palm Beach, which is a benefit for the Footwear Project. The event is free and open to the public and has a simple goal: for families to spend time together. That’s what troubled her life, she’s learned through her growth: her family didn’t talk. They didn’t listen. And she grew up without a voice.

“People who are homeless don’t need clothes and food; they get that all the time and from just about anywhere,” said Ms. Nails, in a very knowing way. “What they need is human interaction. They need to talk and connect and be listened to. That’s what we all need. And, then, as they change, they need support.”

And, she says, they then need to get involved. That’s why, when they start to rise, Ms. Nails ensures they join the team, so they can also help others with the knowledge of those similar experiences. Just as she’s helped them.

Learn more about her here, on her website, and about Saturday’s event and her books. They’re all available on the site; Ruined Life is also available here on Amazon. And listen to her tell her story, below, in her authentic, aware voice on last week’s South Florida Sunday radio show on X102.3 FM. And be inspired.

From left, Lavida Johnson, marketing guru; the author; and Mz. Millionaire, WJFP radio show personality, on the set of ‘South Florida Sunday’ for a talk about ‘A Ruined Life.’

Lastly, if you or someone you know in PBC is a published author, let us know! We’ve got a running list. Check it out here–and in the story above!

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Haitian Heritage Month continues

The United States Census reports that Florida is home to the largest Haitian population in the United States and we are also home to the most counties that celebrate May as Haitian Heritage Month.

Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, Palm Beach County (PBC)’s Haitian community started recognizing the month-long celebration in 2001 and contributed greatly to making it a statewide, and then, national celebration. Even though it started in Boston in 1998.

Our Haitian community is also active on the ground, from Mora Etienne’s historic movie-making to nonprofit Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation, which is crazy busy worldwide working on behalf of its people both here and on the Caribbean island, to Emmanuel Morel, a former longtime federal jobs official who is serious about public service.

There’s a Caribbean Marketplace in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, which hosts events year-round, and the Haitian Heritage Museum in Delray Beach that does the same.

As we reflect, let’s also consider a host of events that celebrate Haitian food, music, culture and people that are happening this month, across south Florida. Here’s a couple of links:

Haitian Mother’s Day concert. Haitians celebrate the big day on May 26 and, in West Palm Beach, there will be an all-day, all-night concert in its celebration on May 31. For more information and the $20 tickets, click here.

The Palm Beach County Library system is hosting a series of events all month at different branches across the county. Here’s the link for a list of the really interesting, informative events.

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Update: Authors in PBC!

We first wrote this story about Local Author Night, which occurred April 25 at the Riviera Beach Public Library, and focused on just that: people in Palm Beach County (PBC) who’ve written and published books. There were five authors on the program, which featured Library Director Cynthia N. Cobb asking questions–such as ‘why did you write this book?’—and the authors reading passages, networking and signing their publications.

But did you know there’s lots of PBC residents who have books on shelves with their names on them?  Yes. So, we gathered a few of them here, including those who were at the municipal library that April night, and included short takes on their books.

We also received calls and emails about other local published authors and, because we just love that, we will be continually updating this story with these new additions. Most of their work is available on Amazon.com and, in some cases, on their or other websites, which we also list if available. Most of their books are about life’s experiences and how to celebrate or overcome them. Interesting! For more on the writers in the April 25 event, see below, and click on the link under the picture.

To learn more about the authors and their books on tonight’s program, click here.

As for the other authors about which we know (in the main picture):

The Rev. I Renai Collins is a longtime, skilled community activist who combines faith and spirituality with uplift and celebration. Her book of poetry, Can’t, Can’t Be is also the name of a signature verse that, in simple language, covers most aspects of daily living. Read more about her here and, about the book, here.

Valerie Grimsley is the very committed director of the Riviera Beach Youth Empowerment Program. Her book, The Repair: Broken But Not Destroyed, is about, as she says, “a life that came untangled.” The book explores why life got off track thanks to, in part, an unavailable father and worldly relationships, but came back together through God’s intervention and “purpose.” Find the book here. Ms. Grimsley also does audience-focused, uplift-inspired talks; contact her at Launchinnovativeinstitute@gmail.com or 561-425-3173.

Jervonte Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Suits for Seniors, which launched in 2016 as an eight-week, life-skills training program for high school men of color but has since expanded to include high school women and children in elementary and middle schools of all races and colors. It’s now about achievement for all. His book, Adventures of the Rich and Famous, is about encouraging all children to follow their dreams and believe in themselves. It’s getting traction: in March, he did a month-long, 10-stop book tour across PBC with Bridges, a program of the Children’s Services Council of PBC.  Learn more about his nonprofit here and, the book, here.

Addie L. Greene. Need we say anything more than that name? A former mayor in Mangonia Park, former state Representative, former County Commissioner and founder of the Palm Beach County Caucus of Black Elected Officials, Madame Greene is well-known for what her book, From the Coal Mines to the Board Room: Reflections on the Rise of Black Politicians in Palm Beach County, is about. But it also speaks to the critical importance of participatory democracy–especially for the young. Indeed, her book has such value that the School District of PBC is buying it for some school libraries. Find the book here.

Betty Turso is a longtime teacher of English who is now at John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres. She self-published her book, John Horse: Florida’s First Freedom Fighter in 2015 and received a silver medal from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. John Horse was a black Seminole leader during the second Seminole War in Florida who grew to become a major force in the Seminoles’ successful battles for freedom. Visit her website here, where you can learn much more about John Horse as well as how to, well, write. The book can be purchased here.

Others we’ve since learned about as well:

Dan Calloway, Linda Rose Williams, Pat Fedina: more PBC-based authors!

Dan Calloway. A Riviera Beach native who spent 25 years with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, is revered in his hometown for the work he has done with children over the last half-century. He founded the Youth Recreation Association in 1965, which has mentored and coached thousands of kids on and off athletic fields, and, recently, also finished his book. Holes in the Tar Paper was featured at a book-signing event on April 26.

Pat Fedina. The founder and CEO of the nonprofit Care Managers of South Florida, published her book, No Time to Grieve: Give Me My Flowers While I Yet Live in 2011, after the deaths of her mother, father, grandmother, sister, brother and four other immediate family members in a small window of time. The book focuses on the intimate pain of the loss of loved ones and the critical importance of faith, spirituality and love in life to deal with it.

Linda Rose Williams. Her book, The People I Have Met, is about, as she says, “short stories of real people that I have met, and the spiritual connection between us.” It can be purchased here.

Do you know about other local authors? Send us an email to news@cocowire.net so we can keep this list going–and growing!

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‘Stamp Out Hunger’ kicks off in PBC Saturday

On May 11, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will launch its 27th annual ‘Stamp Out Hunger’ Food Drive, when letter carriers across the country will pick up millions of pounds of non-perishable food items from one house at a time. It is the nation’s largest one-day food drive.

And on May 4, the drive will kick off in Palm Beach County (PBC).

The NALC and Farm Share, its Florida distribution partner, will launch the drive from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Judge Edward Rodgers Center for Community Development in Riviera Beach. Community leaders, government and elected officials from across the county have been invited.

PBC Mayor Mack Bernard will bring County greetings and Riviera Beach Mayor Ronnie Felder and Councilwoman Julie Botel will say hello from the host city.

Directly after the kickoff, there will be a Farm Share food giveaway onsite to needy families. Volunteers can register onsite or by sending an email to tshed@prodigy.net. Refreshments will be provided and community service hours will be available. Those seeking to receive the fresh fruits, vegetables and other staples just need to arrive, register and receive. The giveaway ends at 2 p.m.

But for the NALC, May 11 is the big day. The national event was borne in 1992, thanks to the experiences of letter carriers who see life every day.

We all do,” said Veronica Flores-Osborne, president of NALC’s PBC Branch 1690, one of 1,400 in the U.S. alone (there are also branches in U.S. territories like Guam and Puerto Rico). “We go to every single house in every single neighborhood every single day of the week except Sunday. We see a lot. When you see something, you do something.”

The Rodgers Center hosted its first Farm Share food giveaway in October last year and nearly 500 families rolled through. The Center is operated by the Alpha Educational Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the PBC chapter of the national Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Judge Rodgers had been an Alpha Man for nearly 70 years. He died last year.

The first Farm Share event at the Judge Rodgers Center in October.

“But his legacy lives on every day, especially with the food giveaway next week,” said Alfred Fields, the Foundation’s president. “This Center is about the community. That’s what Judge Rodgers was about. We appreciate that and work on it every single day.”

To learn more about the Stamp Out Hunger drive, click here. About Homestead-based Farm Share, which works to end food deserts statewide, here, and the Alpha Men, here.

And to hear a discussion of all this, click here to listen to the April 28, 2019, episode of ‘South Florida Sunday’ on X102.3 FM with Ms. Flores-Osborne and John Delgado, Farm Share’s assistant operations manager.

Besides this event, the Alpha Men also host a monthly Community Commerce and Flea Market, which provides a platform for small local businesses to sell and promote what they do. Click here to learn more.