Every Day is Black History Day in Newtown

Voice & Visibility Guests Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, Dr. Rachel Shelley,  Featured Speaker Vickie Oldham, Janet Miles

He had us swaying, singing and certainly set a tone of warmth and connection. Music unifies. Vickie knows this well. Troy Harris always begins the Newtown Alive Trolley tours with a song. “It sets the tone and the right energy for our journey with folks” Says Vickie before her featured talk last week.

Troy opened up our 5th Voice and Visibility Salon event in Burns Court with a phenomenal rendition of the James Taylor Classic, “You’ve Got a Friend” https://youtu.be/yV9AyrD5V3U

“The Trolley Tours –I love engaging with the public, I love when our pioneers step on board the trolley and share their stories. See I’m a journalist, this is a visible way for me to tell stories, interview the pioneers on the trolley tours-or a coach bus. It’s a fun experience with a singer on board as well.“

Vickie shared that as a young child, her parents shielded her 10 year old eyes from the struggle and the horrors of the racial discrimination they experienced. She revealed that she has learned so much from the research and interviews she conducted, highlighting the plight from the caravan that persisted and ultimately de-segregated Lido Beach as one of countless examples of triumph through pain and struggle . It’s clear this work is beyond personal-it’s a calling.

“My childhood is deeply rooted in the memories I have from Newtown” Vickie shared. She remembers playing with the neighborhood kids until the sun went down. She remembers the smell of warm home cooking, and so much more. So many experiences inspired her, the church, “my church”, Bethel CME and it’s youth programs, Sunday school,  the smells of hot dogs and hamburgers as they grilled on Saturday am after chores were finished, her grandmother would have grilled food ready for them, she would be out pruning roses,  and Vickie could smell freshly cut grass, as kids we would raid the neighbor’s orange trees …”I loved growing up in Newtown.”

Vickie’s ascent as a journalist, newscaster, historian and now the leader of the Newtown Alive initiative epitomizes the type of bold, courageous leadership we celebrate at SRP, LLC. After years pursuing her career in journalism, and her graduate work, she shared how she received her first  start up grant of $50,000, and pulled a team together to get started honoring the stories of the African American Community she calls home.

Newtown Alive is a historic preservation project that documents the 100 year history of one of Sarasota’s oldest neighborhoods. When asked why Newtown, she shares that Newtown history had never been documented before. The history of Sarasota is pretty well documented, but not the history of Newtown, and Overtown; this history was found in fragments, here and there, but nothing comprehensively collected based on primary and secondary source documents. This work has never been done before, not like this. Our book is well researched from 45 oral history interviews.  I’m a proud Sarasota Native, born and reared in Newtown, on N. Orange Ave.” When learning about Newtown through Vickies eyes, you won’t just hear about the poverty or the challenges this part of the city has encountered, you will learn about the Courage,  Dignity,  and Determination of it’s residents…and the smell of rose bushes and barbecue.

Just recently she received a significant grant which will serve as part of the initial seed funding she needs to begin her next big project. Vickie and her team aspire to build a standing, living, dynamic Newtown Cultural Center that will ensure the African American community, and it’s history stay at the heart of Newtown, especially given the rapid growth in the area.

Vickie is a gentle but very powerful soul. She stands her ground and makes sure her voice is heard. She’s deeply inspired by each corner of Newtown and it’s completely understandable that her heart belongs there. She constantly credits Newtown for shaping her into the woman she is today. From the strong moms to the community’s business owners, she remembers each detail and inspired our guests to purchase her book, and sign up for Trolley tours!  Voice and Visibility guests also enjoyed some Billie Holiday Jazz, discussed art, education and the collective belief that Vickie is on her way to building something quite magical, and necessary.

Vickie is an African American leader, from Newtown, working through barriers that many folks of privilege could never comprehend. She is working tirelessly, with grace, and optimism to actualize the vision of preserving the African American heritage and legacies of her beloved hometown. Investing in Vickie and her project is Diversity In ACTION.
Vickie, thank you on behalf of the Voice and Visibility Network… You’ve got a friend.

To purchase tickets for the Newtown Alive Trolley tour, click HERE

Enjoy these images from Vickie’s Voice & Visibility Salon: View HERE

Thank you to our Voice & Visibility Event Sponsors

Thank you Daniel Perales and FAMA Productions for our Event Photography and Film work!
Updates from SRP, LLC:

Our next Voice & Visibility Speaker, Vanessa Opstal will present: “Mi Historia, I’m Proud of Where I am Today” on Wednesday, 3/20.  Space is limited with only 15 remaining tickets available for purchase here:

The SRP, LLC Online Boutique is now open! Enjoy shopping in our Multicultural Art Gallery and invest in local artists https://voiceandvisibilitywomenssummit.com/boutique/

Title: Cardi B
Artist: Clifford McDonald

Title: Miyuki African Beauty
Artist: Karen Arango

The Burns Court Chalk Festival is returning this year 4/5-4/7! SRP, LLC will host “Visible” A Unique Multicultural Art Exhibit featuring local artists-please stay tuned for Gallery Hours on our SRP, LLC Facebook Page

*To inquire about event and media production sponsorship opportunities, please contact ashley@shannonrohrerphillips.com

Here’s to Progress!


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