Looking back at clivil rights in sarasota

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Posted: Monday, January 20, 2014 6:20 pm | Updated: 6:38 pm, Mon Jan 20, 2014.

SARASOTA, FL--- Throughout the nation people are remembering and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.  But the day of events also brought back memories of a darker time in the country and on Suncoast.

"Here in Sarasota I remember the black and colored only water fountains in downtown Main Street," said Glenda Williams.  She is among the many Sarasota residents who remembers the struggle for equality for everyone. And she says it went a lot further than water fountains.

"When Sarasota was ordered by the courts to integrate the schools what they did was closed Booker because they did not want the white students going to Booker high," added Williams.

In honor of Rev. Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. hundreds in the community got together to celebrate the progress made over the years. Progress many say was especially slow in Southwest Florida.

"A lot of this community was segregated and a lot of Jim Crow was very evident in the Sarasota community. Even integrating the movie theatres, restaurants, and the beaches, I experienced all of that," said long time Sarasota resident Jetson Grimes.

And while the Suncoast and the country has been transformed over the years many say there is still a lot of work to be done.

"We've come to a threshold that we need to move to the next level," former Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkins.

For many that next level means a lot of different things.

"The rest of the struggle is equal education, redevelopment, and continuing to move into the future based on all types of dreams and opportunities," added Atkins.

During the MLK tributes many also spoke about voter suppression and various laws that have now been dubbed the new Jim Crow because some say they unfair impact minorities.  And as the discussion of how to combat the latest civil rights struggle continues those in the community like Vice Mayor Willie Shaw says the work will require everyone coming together.

"Without one of us working together we all fail and working together we will come to a place of greater harmony, greater unity, and surely a greater place to live," added Shaw.

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