Fredd “Glossie” Atkins is perhaps best known for serving as the first Black mayor of Sarasota (an office he held three times) and as the first Black City Commissioner for 18 years. But his service to the community began long before he was inaugurated. Born in Sarasota in 1952, Atkins became an activist at a young age. He participated in “wade-ins” that strove to integrate the area’s public beaches. He served on the NAACP’s youth council where his work included registering Black residents to vote. And he was an active participant in the desegregation of Sarasota’s schools.
Sarasota schools began the integration process in 1967. The historically Black Booker High School was closed, and students—including Atkins--were bused across town to the previously all-white Sarasota High School. Integration was tough, and students struggled to acclimate to the new environment with its racist atmosphere. These were high school students who would soon be out in the world, though, and everyone knew there would a price to pay to achieve equality. But when a proposal was made to relocate the Amaryllis Park Elementary from the Black neighborhood of Newtown to an all-white neighborhood south of downtown, the community mobilized in opposition. Why was it always the Black children who had to be uprooted?
Newtown residents decided to voices their opinion to the proposal by taking their children out of school. Of the 2800 Black students, only 500 showed up in classes on May 5, 1969. “85% of Black Students Walk Out” screamed a headline in the May 6, 1969 edition of The Herald-Tribune. The event became known as the Booker School Boycott.
Rather than have the kids stay at home, local churches established “freedom schools.” Atkins was a strong proponent of this approach and, although still a high school student, he taught the younger kids at the temporary school at the Greater Hurst Chapel A.M.E Church. The strike lasted only five days, but it was successful in stopping the relocation of Amaryllis Park Elementary. And it was a lesson in leadership for young Atkins, who has continued to work to make Sarasota a better place to live ever since.
On a lighter note, in case you’re wondering about Atkins’ nickname, it comes from his mother’s and grandmother’s names – Glossy Nettie and Nettie Glossy, respectively. When he was in 8th grade, the students played a game in which girls were called by their fathers’ first names and boys by their mothers’ first names. Although the tradition passed, Fred “Glossie” Atkins’ nickname stuck.
Luther was born and raised in Michigan, but has been in Florida since 1989. He never went to art school. He learning how to draw by looking, and asking. "I've loved to draw since I was a kid, couldn't afford paints, but always had a pencil, a #2 and a sheet of paper, later color. Color pencils taught me about color blending, now, painting, it all has just transformed. I have to add, Denise Kowal, the Chalk Festival, I love, I've been helped and inspired, to step out of the box. A person, an organization that are truly special to me, and one day we will all prosper because of it. No borders, no boundaries. Lastly, Sarasota, my home for decades, I didn't realize the length and breath of the trials and tribulations for people like me, having grown up in the North. But things are a changing, with folks like Denise, and myself. Lets make the change for the best! The story of black folks in Sarasota, their hard work to build this city, with no recognition, but I felt I would do my part. My part to bring history to the present and the future. Because it took all of us to do so, so lets give credit to where credit is do."
Nanette Crist is a retired lawyer who began blogging when she moved to Florida. It was an online diary of sorts, a way to keep track of her new life. It was also a good way to share her discoveries with friends and family outside the area. Over time, Nanette realized her writing makes her experience the world differently. She keeps an eye out for interesting things to write about and then delves more deeply into them as she crafts her words. It's all about telling the story. Nanette's blog can be found at http://nanettesnewlife.blogspot.com.