September 25 - October 1, 2014

IS THE CITY OF SARASOTA AND NEWTOWN TWO SEPARATE CITIES?

BY STAFF WRITER...Newtown is celebrating its one hundred year history this 2014year. It is no secret that Newtown was founded in large to keep African-American citizens separate from the “white sections” of the City of Sarasota.

Over the past one hundred years it seems the separation of Newtown from the “City of Sarasota” has remained intact despite the fact that the signs of segregation have long since been taken down. Even though segregation is no longer legal and the signs have been taken down, there remains a lingering separation between “Newtown” and “the City of Sarasota and its politics”.

A community meeting titled “New Beginnings for Newtown” was held at the Robert L. Taylor Community Center on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. This purpose of this forum was to serve as an initiative to improve relationships between citizens from the Newtown area and the Sarasota Police Department.

“New Beginnings for Newtown” was created by the City of Sarasota City Commissioners. The meeting was well attended from individuals from of all walks of life including the mayor and the chief of police.

The meeting opened with Chief DiPino speaking to the crowd. Chief DiPino asked, “Why is there not a better relationship with the citizens of Newtown and the police department?” The prevailing response from the Newtown Citizens was a resounding “Lack of Trust and fear of being arrested by the Police Department for speaking up.” Chief DiPino encouraged the citizens to be honest with their responses and not to be afraid of retaliation because of their responses.

A woman who identified herself as a long-time resident of Newtown and Grandmother who was raising a grandson addressed Chief DiPino strongly. She asked if the Sarasota Police Officers were given anger management classes based on her unpleasant experience with Sarasota Police Officers.

She told a story of Sarasota Police Officers coming to her home to question her grandson. She described her encounter with the SPD officers as abrasive and disrespectful. She said she asked why they (SPD officers) were at her door and the officers responded, “Get back and keep quiet”. There were others attending the meeting who spoke of feeling intimidated by the responses they received from their interactions with Sarasota Police Officers as well.

Chief DiPino addressed the woman’s question of “Anger Management Classes” with this reply; Chief DiPino told the crowd to try to understand that being a Police Officer was a very stressful job, and officers faced stress and danger every day and Officers weren’t perfect but they want to go home to their families at the end of every day. The response from the crowd in an loud collective sentence was, “But isn’t that the job of the Police? Don’t they (Officers) know that before they take the job?”

Several residents of Newtown felt the Sarasota Police Department had not progressed in the fair treatment of Black residents of Newtown. The Newtown residents still feel that they were at risk of being bullied and arrested the SPD.

Another issue addressed by business owners asked DiPino why there were often seven to eight Police Officers lingering outside their businesses during operation hours? The Business owners stated the unnecessary presence of a group of officers deterred customers from coming into their business. Other residents of Newtown spoke of several police officers being parked in front of their homes and blocking their ability to move out of their driveway. DiPino answered the concerns with promising to address the issues with officers and assured residents of Newtown that the SPD only focus is to protect the residents of Newtown. DiPino also spoke of the recent curfew issue of closing businesses on the corridor of MLK (Martin Luther King) at 2:30 A.M. was a collective effort between the Sarasota Police Department and Business owners. DiPino said the closing of businesses at 2:30 (as compared to the previous 4 A.M. close time) had significantly reduced crime in the MLK corridor. DiPino said, “We don’t need seven or eight officers in the MLK area now because the crowds of several hundred people congregating after the bars close at 4 A.M. aren’t there. Where there were crowds of that size, there are drugs, crime, weapons and trouble. Now the officers can be out patrolling your neighborhoods, protecting your homes from being burglarized.”

Newtown residents were also concerned about Ringling College buying up land in Newtown. Mayor Shaw rose and took the microphone and said he was, “sick and tired of all the complaining by people who are giving back Newtown by selling off property for a little bit of money instead of developing it (the land).

There are four exits into Sarasota and two of those exits cross Newtown. We are giving it (Newtown) away. We are giving away the one hundred by one hundred fifty square feet of the homes grandmamma got, and then you don’t want to keep it. We have a legacy, a history to tell. Put your money where your mouth is. We don’t need to rebuild the wheel; we just need to all be a working spoke in the wheel. A police officer’s salary is about forty thousand dollars a year to start. Why aren’t you (crowd) on the police force? You can’t stop progress. If you try to stop it, you will be a bump in the road.” The openness of residents seemed to be squashed after Mayor Shaw finished his seemingly admonition to those assembled in the room.

Chief DiPino stated the objectives of her department are to keep the city safe and clean, to lead by example, to have residents have her cell phone number as well as the numbers of the officers with department cell phones so they can notify them with any concerns or to report instances of misuse of power within the department. DiPino asked for residents of Newtown to join the Volunteer Blue plus You program. Volunteers work with the department to walk the streets of Newtown and help to reduce crime by working with the department, as a way of being an extra set of eyes and ears within the community. Valerie Buchand, Commissioner for the Sarasota housing Authority and long-time resident in the Newtown community asked for Chief DiPino to tell those present who would and would not be accepted to participate in the Citizen Police Academy program.

Ms. Buchand asked if those people who have a felony arrest record would be excluded from the program as the have been in the past. Another person spoke up and said that by excluding anyone with a felony, even those who may have made a mistake in their past, but are now a productive, positive part of Newtown would reduce the number of applicants by maybe fifty percent. Chief DiPino replied, “We can look into perhaps changing that part of the requirements. Nobody is perfect; I’m not even perfect. We all make mistakes.

The reason we have had the exclusion if you have had a felony is that we don’t want those elements who will take what they learn about how law enforcements works and use it against us (Police Department) and may bring harm to our Officers. But we can look into changing that part of the requirement for this program.”

There are several components of the “New Beginning for Newtown” initiative.

There is a Store improvement program, future projects, new coalition of neighborhood leaders, marketing of youth groups, Teen forums, Teen Summit (Ringling College), YELDA and. Man-Up programs. The initiative is based on the premise of Newtown is “A Village” and there must be a cooperative and strategic plan to bring economic growth to the Newtown area and to implement youth and inter-generational activities that will improve communication between youth and Elders.

In the “New Beginning for Newtown” initiative, Community solution 9 is listed as having officers who are more sensitive to the area and improve relationships with residents. Solution 6 is to create Law Enforcement-Mentorship opportunities and to promote ride-along or walk-along and encourage youth participation. The question was posed to Chief DiPino was that, “Sarasota and Newtown have been segregated for many decades and Newtown and the City of Sarasota seem to be two separate cities. What is being done to combine the two into one city so that all the citizens are proud of all neighborhoods and the neighborhood of Newtown is a proud part of the whole city of Sarasota? Chief DiPino replied that when she speaks of North Sarasota and Newtown it is all the city of Sarasota and there is no separation. “

There are many on-going initiatives concerning the Newtown area. Residents of Newtown and the citizens outside of Newtown boundary lines would and could benefit from attending the Community meetings, Newtown Front Porch Neighborhood Revitalization Council, Inc. These are on-going monthly meetings with focus on improving all of Newtown.

Chief DiPino concluded the meeting with thanking all those who attended and asked that all the residents of Newtown become an “US” viewpoint between Sarasota Police Department and Newtown residents not “Us against THEM” as it has been in the past. DiPino asked for residents to call when they see something going on in the community and to call her when there are incidences that need to be addressed possible misconduct by a Sarasota Police Officer.

PRIDE OF BRADENTON MASONIC LODGE HOLDS SCHOLARSHIP BANQUET

BY C.S. HOWARD...The Pride of Bradenton Masonic Lodge #490 held its 2014Inaugural Scholarship and Recognition Banquet last month, presenting the first “District Deputy Emeritus Lonnie J. Dixon, Jr. Masonic Brother of the Year Award” and recognizing two Manatee County citizens with community service awards.

The Lonnie Dixon Brother of the Year award will be presented each year to a brother for his outstanding service and dedication to the Lodge. The award was named in Bro. Dixon’s honor last year after he was recognized for 55 years of continuous service to the Lodge. The first recipients of the award were Rev. Eddie L. Starling and Dr. Miguel Torres Albino. Rev. Starling has been employed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office since 1984 and is currently assigned to the Selective Enforcement Division, Community Oriented Policing Section at the Police Athletic League. He is the Director of Football and Cheerleading Operations and supervises 420 football players, 82 cheerleaders and 144 volunteer coaches. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Manatee County Branch, NAACP, Democratic Black Caucus and second vice president of the Woods and Wanted Chapter of the 9th and 10th Horse Calvary of the Buffalo Soldiers. He is the pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Palmetto.

Dr. Albino has over 20 years of experience in education, teaching grades ranging from kindergarten through college, and was most recently the director of an Anthem Campus in St. Petersburg, America’s largest online high school. He works with troubled youth, helping them further their education and reach their academic goals through community outreach projects. In addition to Pride of Bradenton Lodge #490, Dr. Albino is also a member of Abraham Chapter #147 and Zabud Council #26, Royal and Select Masters, and aspires to become a Knight Templar. He is also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Bro. Dixon joined Lodge #490 in 1959; he was subsequently elected to Junior Deacon in 1959 and was elected as Junior Deacon, Junior Warden and Senior Warden. In December 1964, he was elected as the Worshipful Master where he served for 22 years. He also served as Commander and Chief of Horace Gibson Consistory #300 and Scribe of Abraham Chapter #147. Bro. Dixon went on to become an Assistant District Deputy Grand Master for District #5 and served on the Grievance and Appeals Committee for the Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge. He served as a treasurer of the Tampa Bay Area Council of Blue Lodges as well as assisted the Grand Lodge instructors with the New Ritual for the State of Florida. He was drafted into the United States Army where he served eight years, including service in Korea during the Korean conflict. Discharged in 1960, he joined the Florida National Guard, becoming one of the first blacks to retire from the Florida Guard after 20 years of service. Bro. Dixon remains active at St. Stephens A.M.E. Church.

Community service awards went to Fredi Brown and Eddie M. Shannon, Jr. Mrs. Brown is co-founder of the Family Heritage House Museum located on the campus of State College of Florida. Family Heritage House is an African American gallery and resource center for the study of black achievements, whose mission is to inspire children to have a respect for their ancestors, a love for learning, and a passion for service. The doors of Family Heritage House officially opened on September 2000 and Mrs. Brown continues her work with the collection.

Coach Shannon, as he is known, was the legendary coach at Lincoln Memorial High School where he began working in 1955. In 1964, he was appointed head football coach and began an illustrious and storied career, leading the Trojans to five undefeated seasons. He also coached basketball, baseball and track, developing a reputation as a caring but no-nonsense man. During integration of Manatee County schools in the 1970s, Coach Shannon was instrumental in bringing black and white students together and went on to enjoy a coaching career there.

Pride of Bradenton was chartered in 1949 and Worshipful Master is Bro. Justin P. Burney. Other officers include Senior Warden is Bro. Eddie L. Starling, Junior Warden, Bro. Reuben E. Watson, Secretary, Bro. Dana Kelly and Treasurer, Bro. Howard Brooks. Special guest at the awards banquet was Right Worshipful Walter Gulley, Jr., 33°, KYCH Deputy Grand Master.

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