Miss Sarasota DenTise Pearcey
DenTise Pearcey recalls watching the Miss America pageant as a child and asking her mother why there weren’t any Black girls in the contest. Little did she know that she would break that barrier herself locally by being the first Black woman to enter the Miss Sarasota pageant in 1971. She went home that night wearing the crown.
Pearcey (now Pearcey-Copeland) grew up in the early days of integration. While Pearcey has said she didn’t experience much prejudice herself, she knew other Black students did. And she knew her own family had suffered in the past due to the color of their skin. Her maternal grandmother is thought to have a victim of the Ku Klux Klan.
When she took the stage that night in 1971, Pearcey expected at most to win the Miss Congeniality Award. This seemed to be the “title” reserved for Black contestants in other pageants. But at the end of the night, she was the last woman standing. It was a victory both for Pearcey and for the Newtown community.
In case you’re wondering, Pearcey wore a peach and white evening gown with a full skirt beneath a sating empire waistline and a turquoise bathing in the competition. (The bathing suit was one piece, of course!) Her talent was singing “Somewhere” from West Side Story.
In this picture, Pearcey is posed in front of an image of Jack Cartlidge’s “Nobody’s Listening” from Sarasota Scene magazine. The sculpture then, as now, can be found at City Hall. The backdrop doesn’t seem coincidental. Cartlidge’s views with respect to racial injustice and the Viet Nam War were reflected in his work. In “Nobody’s Listening,” a lone figure bravely breaks off from his peers. The work is said to reflect the difficulty of rejecting the status quo and standing by what might be unpopular views. Its placement at City Hall is intended as a reminder to government officials to listen to all the people.
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.
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