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Discussion about center honoring local African Americans sparked by possible grant

William “Jack” Jackson has a vision for the three-room community building at Oviedo’s Round Lake Park. He sees a place filled with African American cultural artifacts and tributes to the Black citizens of the past and present who have had a major impact on Oviedo.

Jackson, treasurer of Johnson Hill-Washington Heights Community Outreach which provides programs, events and services to those communities, said naming Adeline B. Tinsley Way after the local leader who spent her 86 years helping people register to vote, organizing food drives and leading the youth at her church is not enough to educate Oviedoans on her profound contributions.

The same goes, he said, for Prince Butler Boston, for whom Boston Hill Cemetery was named after he saved the Oviedo economy in the 1890s by developing a heartier orange that could better withstand a freeze, and Harry Homer Boston Sr., for whom Boston Hill Park was named after he created space for Black youth athletics by building a baseball diamond after he settled here in the 1940s.

“This would provide more context and information,” Jackson said of his vision for the exhibition. “We can do better.”

The Oviedo City Council gave the OK on Monday night to submit an application for a $500,000 state African American Cultural and Historical grant.

According to city documents, the grant’s purpose is “to provide funding for construction projects at facilities in Florida that highlight the contributions, culture, or history of African-Americans”.

Oviedo City Manager Bryan Cobb said if the funds are received, the city plans to renovate the Round Lake Park building, which he said is currently a “basic meeting space” for Oviedo Citizens in Action, whose mission is to serve low-income families in Central Florida.

Jackson said he’s meeting with city officials this week to discuss the possibility of a back-up plan in case the city is not awarded the grant.

“We want to know what the next step is, just in case,” he said.

Danny McKinney, OCIA treasurer, said their group has been meeting in that building for more than 15 years and normally uses it for meetings several times a month as well as for after-school tutoring for elementary, middle and high school students on weekdays.

With OCIA’s membership having grown to 25, McKinney said they’re starting to outgrow the small building.

Jackson said that with the growth in Oviedo, the contributions the African American community has made could be forgotten.

“Oh my goodness, something like this would mean a whole lot to the community,” he said. “If we don’t use our history, we lose our history.”

Jackson said he’d also like a space dedicated to living local leaders who have contributed to the community. As an example, he offered Ophelia Moore, a retired educator who worked at Jackson Heights Middle School and served as the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church clerk. Jackson said she provided comfort to those who lost loved ones by writing meaningful funeral resolutions, which is a formal declaration of the relationship between the deceased and their church or organization that’s typically read aloud at a funeral.

“That’s a big contribution to the family going through a hard time. They need it,” Jackson said. “Why do you have to wait until they die to give them flowers? Let’s recognize people while they’re still living.”

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