An Exploration of Home:

A personal reflection by the curator, one of family, celebrations, and public housing in florida (Part i)

September 2016

 



 

constructing segregation

 

Photograph by Howard Liberman (1942) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Howard Liberman (1942) Courtesy of the Library of Congress


"Like many metaphors, “the other side of the tracks” was originally a literal epithet. Blacks were often historically restricted to neighborhoods separated from whites by railroads, turning the tracks into iron barriers of race and class. A century after many of those railroads were built, the pattern was repeated in a modern form: through the construction of even more imposing highways.

Look at racial maps of many American cities, and stark boundaries between neighboring black and white communities frequently denote an impassable railroad or highway, or a historically uncrossable avenue. Infrastructure has long played this role: reinforcing unspoken divides, walling off communities, containing their expansion, physically isolating them from schools or parks or neighbors nearby."

Excerpt from The Washington Post: How railroads, highways and other man-made lines racially divide America’s cities by Emily Badger and Darla Cameron (2015)


 
Photograph by Howard Liberman (1942) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Howard Liberman (1942) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

"Segregation, in effect, has been built into the physical environment of many American cities"


 

"Research, in fact, suggests that American cities that were subdivided by railroads in the 19th century into physically discrete neighborhoods became much more segregated decades later following the Great Migration of blacks out of the rural South."

Excerpt from The Washington Post: How railroads, highways and other man-made lines racially divide America’s cities by Emily Badger and Darla Cameron (2015)

 
Photograph by Howard Liberman (1942) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Howard Liberman (1942) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Howard Liberman (1942) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Howard Liberman (1942) Courtesy of the Library of Congress


 

IMPOSING the VEIL OF COLOR


"The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face."

Excerpt from The Souls of Black Folks: Of Our Spiritual Strivings by W.E.B. Du Bois


 
Photograph by Constantine Manos via Magnum Photos

Photograph by Constantine Manos via Magnum Photos


 

IN DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

 

Photograph of the Halifax River Yacht Club and palms, Daytona Beach, Florida by Detroit Publishing Co (1900). Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph of the Halifax River Yacht Club and palms, Daytona Beach, Florida by Detroit Publishing Co (1900). Courtesy of the Library of Congress


"Blacks lived on the mainland, west of the railroad tracks that run parallel to U.S. Highway 1; whites lived in the beachside neighborhoods across the Halifax River. The evidence of that segregation remains today. Blacks accounted for nearly one-third of Daytona Beach's population of 62,000, according to 1990 census data. Yet on the peninsula, blacks accounted for less than 1 percent of the beachside's 17,000 residents.There's no record of a city law barring blacks from the beach, but there was no need for one."

Excerpt from Orlando Sentinel: Blacks Recall Segregation in Daytona by Derek Catron (1998)


rc12411.jpg

Photographs of Butler Beach, Anastasia Island, Florida (1950s) Courtesy of Florida Memory

 

"If you were black, you didn't go to the (DAYTONA) beach,'' You were asking for trouble if you did.''

Excerpt from Orlando Sentinel: Blacks Recall Segregation in Daytona by Derek Catron (1998) 



Photograph of Butler Beach, Anastasia Island, Florida (1950s) Courtesy of Florida Memory

Photograph of Butler Beach, Anastasia Island, Florida (1950s) Courtesy of Florida Memory

 

On the west side of the tracks


"Gordon Parks’ 1943 photographs of Daytona Beach reveal a poor but proud and cohesive African-American community at a crossroads – still largely excluded from White America, yet in the midst of the momentous changes being wrought by a world war that initiated fundamental changes in American race relations and the status of African-Americans. However, in 1943, most of those changes lay in the future, and racial segregation remained firmly in place.

Daytona had not always been so rigidly segregated. During the late 19th century, several of Daytona's more prominent African Americans owned homes and shops in the center of town, along with Whites. The presence of Mary McLeod Bethune and her school also had a positive effect on relations between the races in Daytona. In 1923, the school merged with Cookman Institute of Jacksonville to form the co-educational Bethune-Cookman College. At first, the college offered only high school and two-year college diplomas. It awarded its first baccalaureate degrees in 1943. 

Using her friendship with Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, Bethune managed to secure $500,000 in 1939 for the construction of the Pine Haven housing project. This all-Black development (the city charter mandated segregated housing) consisted of more than 225 dwellings. These new homes represented a marked improvement over the rickety abodes that most Black Daytonans occupied."

Excerpt from the Daytona Times: Black Daytona Beach in the 1940s by DT Author (2015)


Photograph by Gordon Parks (1943) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Gordon Parks (1943) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Gordon Parks (1943) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Gordon Parks (1943) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Gordon Parks (1943) Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Photograph by Gordon Parks (1943) Courtesy of the Library of Congress


"Over the years, Mrs. Bethune took on the issue of equal housing as the president of the National Council of Negro Women by leading a postwar campaign under the slogan "Don't Rest Until Every Home Unfit for Human Habitation is Stamped Out of Your City!" She also took on the issue of housing on a national scale when she made a statement before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee in 1945 expressing her discontentment with the Federal Housing Administration for its lack of assistance toward African Americans. Throughout her career, she always spoke out for accessibility to proper housing and the need for more of it. In Daytona Beach, she was able to see her vision come to fruition."

Excerpt from Mary McLeod Bethune in Florida: Bringing Social Justice to the Sunshine State by Ashley N. Robertson

 


Photograph of my mother (left) and aunt (right) in their Daytona Beach home. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Photograph of my mother (left) and aunt (right) in their Daytona Beach home. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise


[In 1966, Raymond and Cora Hodge purchased their first home together on Cedar Park Drive in Daytona Beach, Florida. Two years later, my grandmother gave birth to my uncle Gilbert. But differences eventually created a rift between the two and my grandmother headed north for a fresh start. Her three children were nearby -- Brenda at 19, Patricia, just 16, and Gilbert who was 8 years old at the time.]


Photograph of 621 Cedar Park Drive in Daytona Beach, Florida. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Photograph of 621 Cedar Park Drive in Daytona Beach, Florida. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Photograph of my grandmother, Cora (right) and her best friend, Mrs. Penny (left) From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Photograph of my grandmother, Cora (right) and her best friend, Mrs. Penny (left) From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Friends of the family and my grandfather, Raymond (right corner). From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Friends of the family and my grandfather, Raymond (right corner). From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise



[Approximately 90 miles north, my grandmother transitioned from a working class neighborhood into one of the city's most DANGEROUS public housing developments.]

 

 

"They'll never forget the lessons learned at Blodgett Homes.

At one time Jacksonville's largest public-housing complex, the sprawling cluster of apartments at State and Davis streets was the place where people like Joseph Henry, Sheriff's Office operations director, and Alvin White, chief operating officer for the School Board, learned about things like community and inspiration.''I was living here with my grandmother, at 623 Court E, when she told me she wanted me to be a doctor,'' White said last night at a ceremony at the complex for himself and 15 otherformer Blodgett residents who have succeeded in life.

''I didn't become the kind of doctor she wanted me to be,'' said White, who has earned his doctorate since living at the complex from 1948 to 1956. But he still associates the inspiration with Blodgett, a place he said he ''never really left.''

Excerpt from Jacksonville.com: Former Blodgett Residents Honored by City by Beau Halton (1997)

 

RF00467.jpg

Photographs of the Blodgett Homes by Robert E. Fisher (1953) Courtesy of Florida Memory


 

"Blodgett Homes was a place of immediate salvation for Gertrude Peele, another former resident who was honored last night. She was a recently divorced mother of two who needed affordable housing quickly when she moved into 633 Court E in 1955. She was getting by on her salary at the Gate City Mattress and Carpet Works. But Blodgett was the only home she could afford.'Home ownership was a top priority on that list,'' Peele said. ''Three years later, I was in my own home.''

Like many of those who lived at Blodgett Homes when it was in top condition, she's left somewhat bitter about the fact the complex deteriorated in recent decades into a rundown area known more for its crime than its sense of community."

Excerpt from Jacksonville.com: Former Blodgett Residents Honored by City by Beau Halton (1997)

 

Photographs of the Blodgett Homes by Robert E. Fisher (1953) Courtesy of Florida Memory


 

''City policy changes brought those changes to Blodgett Homes,'' Peele said. ''It was left by the city to end up in ruin."

Excerpt from Jacksonville.com: Former Blodgett Residents Honored by City by Beau Halton (1997)


 

Photograph of my pregnant mother in the Blodgett Homes, December 1981. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise


 

[By the 1980's, my mother graduated high school and served several years in the us army. after experiencing complications during her pregnancy, she left germany for jacksonville and brought a healthy baby girl to 621 court d, my grandmother's apartment in the blodgett homes.]

 

Photograph of my mother and I in the Blodgett Homes, April 1983. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Photograph of my mother and I in the Blodgett Homes, April 1983. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Photograph of my cousins and I in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Photograph of myself in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise. 

 

"Only four years ago, Jacksonville's public housing system was one of the worst in the country. Lead-based paint covered the walls of old, dilapidated apartments. Vandals tore through vacant units. And a congressional panel heard testimony about the desperate condition of the city's public housing."

Excerpt from Florida Times Union: Public Housing Improvements Continue City's Oldest Complex Soon to be Replaced by Jim Saunders (1996)


 
Renata's 1st birthday, February 1983 in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Renata's 1st birthday, February 1983 in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

 
 
 
Photograph of my uncle and I in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Photograph of my uncle and I in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise


 
 

I was the first girl born into a family of four boys, three cousins and my uncle (right). From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise.

 

 

HUD agreed to help tear down Blodgett Homes if the city would rebuild half the units in white neighborhoods.

The city said yes, but again failed to carry out its promise. First, City Council members agreed to a "scattered site" plan in which each member would approve zoning so some replacement units could be built in each member's district.

The plan never moved forward, said former Councilman Warren Jones, who from 1979 to 1999 represented the district where Blodgett is located. Jones said it was mostly because no council member wanted to approve zoning in his district before other council members did.

Excerpt from The Florida Times Union: When 'The Projects' Meet the Suburbs by P. Douglas Filaroski (2001)


 

[ALTHOUGH LIVING WITH MY GRANDMOTHER WAS SHORT-TERM, HER home WAS ALWAYS at THE CENTER OF OUR FAMILY. IT WAS ONLY THE STARTING POINT FOR MANY OF OUR LIVES AND BECAME the GLUE that held us all together.]


 
My cousin, sister, grandmother, and I in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

My cousin, sister, grandmother, and I in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

 

party for a childhood friend who would die one week after celebrating her 7th birthday.


A neighborhood birthday party for Daisy Larecia Wise (middle photo: 1988 - 1995) From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise


 
 

"BLODGETT HOMES, BUILT IN 1942 AS HOMES FOR PEOPLE RETURNING FROM MILITARY SERVICE, USED TO HAVE AS MANY AS 742 UNITS AND 2,500 RESIDENTS. NOW, AFTER YEARS OF DECAY AND A MAJOR REFURBISHING, THERE ARE 158 UNITS AND 554 RESIDENTS."

Excerpt from Jacksonville.com: Former Blodgett Residents Honored by City by Beau Halton (1997)


 
 

Google Maps 2016 and my cousin and grandmother at the corner store in the Blodgett neighborhood. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Google Maps 2016 and my uncle at the Jefferson Street Park in the Blodgett Neighborhood. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Google Maps 2016 and family friends in the Blodgett Homes. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise

Google Maps 2016 and family, including my aunt (center) in the new Blodgett Villas. From the personal archive of Renata Cherlise


 

THE Blodgett Villas 


 

This 1999 home video features the birthday celebration of Renata Cherlise in the new Blodgett Villas. This footage was taken by my father at my grandmother's house a year before she passed away. Since this video was taken, several other relatives featured have also transitioned, including my father. I am thankful for the memories of my family, even in a "crime ridden" neighborhood. There was always a reason to celebrate life with those around us.


 
 

[When it seems as if the city forgot to document the lives of our community, we remembered the importance of documenting and celebrating ourselves.]


Photographs from my grandmother's album - the family archive of Renata Cherlise. 

 

16th Annual Blodgett Homes Reunion 

An exploration of Home (Part II) in collaboration with Johannne Rahaman (Founder of Black Florida) Through vignettes and photographs from my personal archive, Part I offers a reflection of the time my family and I spent in the Blodgett Homes. Part II explores a bigger narrative, the community's reflection through an annual celebration near the site of the old public housing development demolished over 20-years ago. Photos and footage by Johanne Rahaman.