Moving Forward by Looking Back

Categories: CEO Message,

I had the honor of attending the Historical Marker Dedication hosted by Manasota Remembers recently. Set on Fruitville Road at the Unitarian Universalist Church, the memorial commemorates the lives of six lynching victims in Sarasota and Manatee counties and breathes new life into a history that has remained largely in the shadows of local memories.

Along with about 300 other guests and those attending virtually, through streaming, as I learned about the lives lost through those tragic lynchings, I had the opportunity to consider Black history, not through the lens of some of its most widely known and revered leaders, but through the lens of people whose names are often unknown.

March 1 technically signals the end of Black History Month, but I don’t think of it this way. Black History as a concept and a practice is more important now than ever, and not just during the month of February. As we reflect on the Black lives of the past—those both notable and those never noted—it is critical that we remember.

These lives were brutally cut short, often for minor alleged offenses, or even hearsay. Equally tragic to their deaths, and the deaths of more than 4,700 others between 1882 and 1968, was the threat that loomed during the decades lynching was used to punish and frighten Black people and the chilling effect it had on so many lives.

While the dedication reflected on a somber part of our American History, it offered a celebration as well. It gave those in attendance, as well as those who visit the memorial in years to come, the chance to learn the names, reflect on our local and national history, and to consider how far we’ve come.

As I observed the new memorial and considered its very presence, which is the result of a vision that has already unified a lot of people, I saw it not only as a tribute to the past, but also as the physical symbol of our collective goal of pushing the past into our present, a place it cannot be ignored. A place where these people cannot be forgotten.

The efforts of the Boxser Diversity Initiative, Manasota ASALH, Newtown Alive, and the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition—organizations making up the Sarasota and Manatee Remembrance Project—show that a common vision can turn the lives of common people into something extraordinary.

It is the collection of common goals and everyday commitments that define us as a nation united in our aspirations for a better life for ourselves, and those who follow. It’s the promise of a brighter future, the journey that happens one day at a time, that ultimately builds hope, connection, and forward momentum.

I’m curious: when you envision our future, what would you like to see?


About Author

Roxie Jerde

President and CEO