Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — On Saturday, September 19, Sistrunk Boulevard celebrated its “From Past to Present -Collection Day Party,” in hopes of bringing the community together to further efforts in rebranding and revitalizing the historic North West community.
The city of Fort Lauderdale Community Redevelopment Agency along with Northwest Progresso Flagler Community and the Fort Lauderdale Negro Chamber of Commerce, plan to restore the once-thriving business district by engaging investors, entrepreneurs and homebuyers in envisioning the street’s economic potential, as it once thrived in its heyday.
Ann Marie Sorrell, president and CEO of the Mosaic group, the marketing firm representing the North West Progesso – Flagler CRA, said the purpose of the event was to give the community an opportunity to share memorabilia that will inspire and contribute to the content being developed as a part of the CRA’s rebranding effort.
“We are in the process of developing a new brand, message and website for the Historic North West community and wanted to engage the broader community in the process by allowing them to come out and share photos, memorabilia, family history and stories of why they love Sistrunk.” Sorell said.
The street named after Dr. James F. Sistrunk, Broward’s first black doctor, who, along with Dr. Von D. Mizell, established Broward’s first black hospital, Provident Hospital, created a bustling avenue with businesses, restaurants and clubs, built around an infrastructure of a tightly knit community.
Lorriane Mizell, owner of 6th street’s Ivory restaurant, daughter of Ivory Mizell, and niece of Dr. Von Mizell, attests to the community’s stronghold as she recalls her formative years being raised within the area.
“During the 40’s and 50’s there were a lot of black businesses along the corridor – 90 percent of them were black owned, viable businesses.”
Mizell said the riots of the 70’s, economic downfalls and urban development, attributed to the changes that have left the downtown area somewhat blighted. Mizell hopes to now see the corridor restored.
“I would love to see businesses here. I think eventually we will have viable businesses along the corridor and I would hope that it would be some African American new business ventures coming in.” said Mizell.
Born and raised a Sistrunk resident, Dennis Wright, Chapter President of 100 Black Men of Greater Fort Lauderdale, has fond memories of him and his brothers growing up in the area, as their family became well known throughout the community for their devoted service to educating youth.
Wright, whose grandmother, Helen Morris started Helen’s Nursery, one of the area’s prominent nursery schools, said in order for Sistrunk to return to its former glory, entrepreneurship must be promoted and supported.
“Entrepreneurial spirit was the theme of this community. I think that is what’s so important as far as its history, the history of entrepreneurship. That is something we want to continue to promote and if we continue to bring the ideas of the historic aspects of this community and keep them revitalized, we will see that type of atmosphere come back as we continue to revitalize the community, Wright said. ”
Sonya Burrows, President of the Fort Lauderdale Negro Chamber of Commerce, and Sistrunk business owner of Burrows Electric Company said the entrepreneurial history of Sistrunk runs deep, starting with her father, the only surviving Chamber founder and business pioneer, George L. Burrows Sr.
“The Fort Lauderdale Negro Chamber of commerce was started in 1949 and served different from most chambers, comprised of business owners (who) used their platforms to uplift the community, as opposed to traditional chambers who basically organize to further their own interests. They understood that as business owners they had a broader platform than most of the residents in our community and they used those platforms to bring change and improvement. The new generation of Negro Chamber of Commerce is looking to do the same thing. We understand that if we can help uplift this community then our business will benefit from that upliftment.” Burrows said.
The launch of the brand and historic exhibition will be accessible via the upcoming website. www.historicsistrunk.com