Juneteenth – Celebrating with Personal Pledges

Juneteenth – Celebrating with Personal Pledges

Juneteenth - Celebrating with Personal Pledges

Valada Flewellyn and Charley Williams / June 19, 2020

 

 

Skin on the Rope

by Valada Flewellyn

 

We all have skin on the rope

Whether a neck on the rope

Or a hand on the rope

We all have skin on the rope

The pain of that connection

Grips us, entangles us

 

Compels us to examine

Our history, then construct

Tomorrow to manifest the

Wounds that need

More than a band-aid

 

Wounds that warrant more

Than a cursory examination

We must dissect the

Fibers of our history

Inspect our suspect

Moral Consciousness

 

Which allows sin to fester

As we turn our heads

Away from the atrocities

That grab our children

Drowning them in the muck

Of our making

 

Leaving them unprepared

Unprotected but infected

Generation after generation

From our refusal to acknowledge

 

How we have Failed

Our children . . . All

 

We ALL have skin on the rope.

January 28, 2020   

 

Crafting Our Pledges

Ending systemic racism starts with taking responsibility. Each of us must craft his or her own pledge, beginning with the word “I.” Valada and I encourage WP Voice readers to craft their own pledges. We will begin the conversation by giving you ours.

Charley Williams’ Pledge:

I commit to learning more about the root causes of racism, how it spreads, how I enable it and how it is incorporated into life-damaging policies on things like voting, education, access to health care and mass incarceration. I will listen. I will call out racial bias when I see it. It starts with me.

Charley Williams, Voting  Advocate

Valada Flewellyn’s Pledge:

I pledge to support my white neighbors, colleagues, friends and family who are courageous enough to pledge themselves to ending racism in this country.  I pledge to listen to, to pray, not to hold either the white race or my own race harmless for how long we have allowed this evil to exist in our society to the detriment of our children.

Valada Flewellyn, Poet

Addressing Our Past

First, It is imperative that we address past atrocities, which have for too long been swept beneath the rug of history — Wilmington, NC (1898), Ocoee, FL (1920), Tulsa/Greenwood, OK (1921), Rosewood, FL (1923), Groveland, FL (1951). The Equal Justice Institute’s (EJI) research shows that over a 73-year period, from 1877 to 1950, more than 4,000 racial lynchings were conducted in the South. That’s the equivalent of one lynching per day for 11 years. Enough.

We Need to Know Our Own History

The outrage is real and deep. Up until 1950, only whites could vote in a City of Orlando primary election, which was controlled by a Florida Democratic Party organization called the ‘White Voters Executive Committee.’

Our single biggest challenge is that we don’t know our own history. It’s time to face it.
This history belongs to every one of us. No one can escape. The horrific legacy of lynching and racial terror continues to haunt and plague us. White people have constructed and maintained this centuries-old institutionalized racism; therefore, it only makes sense that, with the help and cooperation of our black friends and neighbors, the whites must shoulder the brunt of the burden of dismantling it. But no one community can do this alone. We all need help from one another.

We must face our shadow stories, state our personal pledges, encourage and engage in the “courageous conversations.” Please join us now as we learn to listen, strive to learn and learn to act. Together, we can create a future that is our gift to our children and our grandchildren.

 

Valada Flewellyn is a poet and the author of “For the Children: The History of Jack and Jill of America, Incoporated.”

Charley William is past President of the Orange County League of Women Voters.

Flewellyn and Williams are Founding members of Alliance for Truth and Justice, a volunteer group started in 2015 to research the Ocoee Voting Day Massacre of 1920, in cooperation with the Equal Justice Initiative, headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama. More at www.ocoeemassacre.com

 

 

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Black Lives Matter in Winter Park

Black Lives Matter in Winter Park

Black Lives Matter in Winter Park

Peaceful Demonstration in Central Park

by Anne Mooney / June 11, 2020

It’s been nearly a week since demonstrators gathered peacefully on June 5 in Central Park to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to mourn the deaths of George Floyd and others at the hands of law enforcement officers.

A crowd of roughly 300 baked in Florida humidity and 90-degree heat. Young and old, black, brown and white, they took a knee to stand for the future they want to see.

Watchful Winter Park police officers kept a respectful distance.

After listening to speakers, several of whom were from Winter Park’s African American community, the group joined in prayer. The youthful organizer of the gathering, Adrian Bouchout, asked the crowd to remain peaceful as they turned to march out of Central Park and down Park Avenue.

The crowd marched down to Fairbanks and back up through the Hannibal Square neighborhood, finally ending up at the Public Safety Building, where protesters and police thanked one another for a peaceful and successful event.

Present at the rally were Commissioners Marty Sullivan, Sheila DeCiccio and Todd Weaver. Later in the week, Sullivan and DeCiccio sent messages to constituents.

DeCiccio Calls for Support for Police

“I believe it’s essential for our Police Department to have the support it needs,” wrote DeCiccio. She spoke with Police Chief Michael Deal, who confirmed that the Police Department adheres strictly to the following policies.

  • No chokeholds or strangleholds.
  • De-escalation is required, and officers have received special training.
  • Officers must issue a warning before firing a weapon.
  • Officers must exhaust all other means before shooting.
  • Officers have a duty to intervene when they see a breach of procedure, especially one involving excessive force.
  • Shooting at moving vehicles is prohibited.
  • All officers are required to employ the “use of force continuum.”
  • Comprehensive reporting of all incidents is required.

Chief Deal stated the WPPD has zero tolerance toward police brutality.

The body cameras that were approved last year by the city commission arrived just as the COVID19 crisis hit, so the department is still in the process of training officers on their use. Deal said, “Everyone is looking forward to wearing their cameras.”

Sullivan Calls on Winter Park to Support All of Its Citizens

In his message to constituents, Commissioner Marty Sullivan wrote, “We have outlawed government mistreatment of minorities, but we have yet to exterminate racism.”

He called on the city to hold a referendum on single-member districts, to provide participation from all neighborhoods in city government, to reflect citizen desires with Advisory Board appointments and Commission decisions and to provide infrastructure support for all neighborhoods.

“Peaceful gatherings across the country show that we still care,” wrote Sullivan, “we still love our fellow citizens, and we ask, rather demand, that entrenched racism be defeated. Most Americans desire this, and I believe that continuing nonviolent action will bring about this needed change.”

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WP Masker Aid

WP Masker Aid

WP Masker Aid

Winter Park Masks Strong Unmasks WP Generosity

by Anne Mooney / May 22, 2020

In a feel-good story all its own, two former arch-rivals, Kim Allen and Sandy Womble, have joined forces to lead a loosely organized, organically grown group of local volunteers to sew and distribute cotton masks. It’s called Winter Park Masks Strong. According to the mask makers, together Kim and Sandy form “the glue” that holds the effort together and keeps it moving. They even have a Facebook page – Winter Park FL Masks Strong. Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/228128931582495/

Two Hundred Masks?

Ruth Heine

It began for Ruth Heine on March 22nd, when she received a call from Father John Bluett of St. Stephens. He knew Ruth was an accomplished seamstress and he asked if she would sew some cotton masks — 200 of them – for Seminole County Health Department healthcare workers.

Ruth said, at first, she couldn’t conceive of making so many masks. She consulted YouTube, found the information she needed and whipped out those 200 masks in two or three days. Gaining momentum, Ruth called her friends and began taking requests for masks. She then sent an email blast to the Orlando Garden Club to offer masks.

Almost 1,000 Masks Later . . .

Initially, the masks were made from materials Ruth had on hand. Soon, however, she found materials, especially quarter-inch flat elastic, difficult to find. Word of the shortage reached Pat Estes, who had retreated to Kentucky to be near family during the pandemic. Pat went to her local sewing supply store, found 28 yards of elastic and sent it to Ruth. In a gesture of gratitude, Ruth sent 35 masks to Pat’s daughter-in-law’s veterinary practice in upstate New York. As of this writing, Ruth had made just over 900 masks.

“I will probably hit 1,000 masks if the demand continues and the need is still there,” she said. “I can make about 25 a day. The most I’ve done is around 40.” Recently Winter Park Masks Strong delivered 130 of Ruth’s masks to workers at Vitas Hospice.

Winter Park Masks Strong

Kim Allen and Sandy Womble brought Ruth into their Winter Park Masks Strong group of 15 or 16 men and women who are making masks for people and organizations all over the city. The group describes itself as a band of Winter Park residents who care deeply for our community. A letter included with each bag of masks delivered states, “These masks are for you from our tribe.”

Members of the Tribe Come and Go

Usually, says Kim Allen, when one steps out another steps in to take his or her place. Pannullo’s and Armando’s restaurants got masks made by Melody Cortez from the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts. A la Scarlet O’Hara, Melody made over 200 masks out of black curtains she had on hand. Patty Pope made 52 masks for the Winter Park Day Nursery, which stayed open to care for children of essential workers. Christine Girand started making masks, and soon enlisted the help of Jan Hommel and other neighbors.

Ad Hoc Group of Volunteers

Peter Gottfried Gets Some Help from Sponge Bob

People who don’t sew also help. Kim Burst Wood donated designer fabric. Melanie Love and Missy Cassell-Hamby donated bolts of fabric. Kim Allen and Peter Gottfried have cut over 30 yards of fabric. Some volunteers cut, some sew and some deliver.

At first, everyone was doing their own thing, depending upon which YouTube video they consulted. People raided their own supplies of fabric, elastic and thread. The materials acquisition part of the effort sent volunteers on nation-wide searches for supplies. Materials came from friends as far away as Oklahoma and Kentucky. Masculine-looking fabric was in high demand, especially after Melody Cortez ran out of black curtains.

 

Mask Design Becomes Standardized

Now volunteers are making one pattern with pleats. The pattern comes from the Sewing Studio in Maitland. The fabric, elastic and nose pieces come in kits to be assembled by sewers. Fabric is washed and pre-shrunk and put into cellophane envelopes along with elastic. Two different fabric patterns ensure the wearer knows which side should go toward the face.

City Hall Workers Get Peacock Masks

Kim Allen and Sandy Womble provided masks made of peacock fabric to Winter Park City Hall workers. Retired Advent Health nurse Trudy Mitchell delivered masks to workers from ANGCO Highway Stripping who were working on the I-4 Ultimate.

Ruth Heine, who will quantify anything, says, “You can get two masks out of one yard of elastic. Two yards of 44-inch-wide fabric will yield 24 masks. All of this is by word of mouth,” she went on. “People I don’t even know have contacted me. I even did a mask for a four-year-old.”

“You’d have thought I was handing out $50 bills!”

Kim Allen recalls walking along Park Avenue, offering masks to restaurant workers who were filling to-go orders. “You’d have thought I was handing out fifty-dollar bills,” she said. “Those people were just thrilled to get masks.” Kim ended up handing out masks to workers at places including Prato, Luma, Umi, Panera, Carrie’s Café and Go Gelato.

Pandemic Politics

When she was asked about the controversy that has arisen about wearing masks, Kim replied simply, “You wear your seatbelt when you drive, don’t you?”

“I feel this is one thing we have in common – to keep each other safe – regardless of our other beliefs,” said Ruth Heine.

3,000 Masks Later

Since March, this group of volunteers has made and distributed nearly 3,000 masks. It has all been by word of mouth. WP Masks Strong is not incorporated, but they will accept donations, as materials are surprisingly expensive. A single spool of thread, for instance, can cost as much as $5.00. To donate, contact kimberleallen@gmail.com

Or go to their Facebook page, Winter Park FL Masks Strong, and say thanks.

 

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

City Hosts Special Mother’s Day Weekend

by Anne Mooney / May 6, 2020

May 8 – 10, the City is hosting a special Mother’s Day weekend of socially-distanced restaurant dining and limited retail therapy.

Streets Closed for Distance Dining and Shopping-Withdrawal Relief

To facilitate safe outdoor dining, portions of Park Ave., Morse Blvd. and New England Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic from 4:00 pm Friday, May 8, to 11:00 pm Sunday, May 10.

Park Ave. from Swoope to Fairbanks

New England Ave. between Pennsylvania and Virginia Ave.

Morse Blvd. between Center St. and New York Ave.

 

All Shops & Restaurants May Participate

Outdoor shopping and dining is not limited to Park Ave. and Hannibal Square, however. Any retail store or restaurant within the City limits may apply for a permit from the City to extend their business outside. The permit is good only through the weekend.

Restaurants and shops must maintain the 6-foot required distance between patrons outside and limit inside occupancy to 25 percent of capacity.

Mini-Sidewalk Sales

Retail shops must also adhere to the 25-percent-capacity rule, but they may also have a single merchandise rack or table on the sidewalk outside the shop.

Each business will bear the responsibility of ensuring its customers meet social distancing requirements at all times. “As we continue to take methodical steps to reopen the City following the State guidelines, we are hosting this special weekend to help our business community and to give the public a chance to support our local businesses and celebrate Mother’s Day,” said Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner.

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Library Runs Amuck

Library Runs Amuck

While COVID-19 Still Looms

by Anne Mooney / May 1, 2020

Cautious Re-opening Plans

At its April 27 meeting, the Commission led off discussion with a tentative plan to lift restrictions on public facilities. Effective May 1, the golf course opens with social distancing and other restrictions. For complete information, go to cityofwinterpark.org/golf

Some retail shops and restaurants will also open on a limited basis. The Tennis Center, Boat Ramps, Dog Park and Farmer’s Market remain closed for the time being. Sadly, hair salons did not make the cut, either.

Plea for Patience and Protecting Medical Workers

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper pointed out that we are nowhere near having a full understanding of the novel coronavirus, citing reports in the Washington Post and elsewhere describing young infected victims, who were asymptomatic but whose vital organs were being attacked by the virus and who had suffered blood clots and strokes, leaving some permanently disabled or deceased.

In a passionate plea for the safety of doctors and other medical personnel, Cooper urged citizens to have patience and to observe protective protocols. “Masks,” she said, “are less to protect the wearer than they are to protect others from infection by asymptomatic people who are carrying the virus but who don’t know they are. We need adequate testing,” she stated, “before it is safe for us to go back to our normal lives.

”Consider the health and safety of those we turn to for help when we are least able to help ourselves,” she urged.

Site Prep at Library-Events Center Runs Amuck

After several months of distraction – like city elections, coronavirus, chickens — the Library-Events Center project once again floated to the surface – but the discussion was about what lies beneath the surface. Demucking and soil remediation of the site is underway. Brasfield & Gorrie is doing the work.

Go Back a Year to the GMP

Last year, at a May 2019 Commission Meeting, the contractor, the architects, the engineering firm and the owner’s representative for the library-events center project presented a project budget that included the long-awaited Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP). In that budget, there was an allowance for soil remediation. During the meeting the estimated price, which was first at zero, climbed to $100,000, then to $150,000 and finally settled at $180,000. It was an ‘allowance’ instead of a line item cost, because at the time the contractor, Brasfield & Gorrie, and the geotechnical engineer, Ardaman, were not sure what they would find when they began to dig.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper stated that she had consulted several architects not involved in the project who indicated the amount was insufficient. When Cooper brought this up at the May 2019 meeting, city staff present at the meeting dismissed her concerns as unfounded. “We’re dealing with professionals,” they said, “and they know what they’re doing.”

A Year Passes – Demucking Costs More than Double

At the April 27, 2020 virtual Commission meeting, City Manager Randy Knight reported that demucking costs have climbed to between $400,000 and $500,000. This could eat up close to half the City’s contingency fund, which Knight said was between $850,000 and $900,000 — a large hit this early in the construction process.

“Good News – Bad News”

In a communique with Commissioners and Senior Staff dated April 24, 2020, Knight wrote: “The good news/bad news. As you may recall, the commission chose to have the contractor do the demucking instead of city staff. The good news is the city can’t be blamed for delays in it taking three to four weeks longer than projected. The bad news is we are paying contractor costs instead of city costs for the labor and overhead. The allowance for this work . . . based on Ardaman’s projections of unsuitable soil was $180,000. We asked [Brasfield & Gorrie] to give us a best and worst case scenario for the remaining 5 sections . . . . In the worst case scenario this will hit the contingency for $318K. In the best case scenario it will be over by $227K.”

According to the memo, Brasfield & Gorrie had just completed week three of demucking and was projecting an additional five weeks to finish the job. They have found more unsuitable soil than Ardaman projected and have had to dig four to five feet deeper in some places. They will also have to demuck further to the west than originally projected.

Who Should Pay?

Acknowledging that the City will likely have to bear the burden of these costs, Commissioner Cooper urged Monday night that, in light of the assurances offered in the May 2019 meeting, “the City should have some opportunity for cost sharing – meaning, those representing the City’s interests should remind [Brasfield & Gorrie] of that.”

Rewind to 1958 – Muck Makes News

The Winter Park Sun reported in 1958 that the 21-acre site now known as MLK Park, recently acquired by the City by purchase and by condemnation, was in bad shape. “One-third is covered by muck which at some places goes 40 feet deep,” the Sun reported. “Heavy structures cannot be erected because of the swampy and soft condition of the land.” Then City Manager Clark Maxwell told the Sun, “The entire area has to be investigated and the ground tested before it is possible to determine how to develop it.”

The Sun went on the report, “Mr. Maxwell thinks that it would be a good idea to pump out the lake [Mendsen] and enlarge it considerably and use the residue to fill and elevate the surrounding land. It seems, however, probable that soil has to be brought in to a large part of the area to give it a firm surface. Under such a plan, the swampy Mendsen Lake would become a beautiful attraction and asset.”

Delays Are Nothing New

In a later article, the Sun reported the opening of the West New England recreation area – now MLK Park – had been delayed “because of the need to fill in much of the ground.” To supplement the soil residue they were using as landfill, Mayor Raymond W. Greene had requested contractors working on major jobs in the city to bring their construction debris to the site for use as landfill. Mayor Greene assured residents the landfill had been provided and trucked in at “no cost to the City.”

Does any of this sound familiar?

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