Reviving History New Park Brings Vibrancy Back to Jacksonville's 'Harlem of the South'
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Reviving History: New Park Brings Vibrancy Back to Jacksonville’s ‘Harlem of the South’

In commemoration of the hymn known as the Black National Anthem, which was penned by two Jacksonville brothers, LaVilla’s new Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park is bridging generations and igniting hope for the future. In Jacksonville’s downtown, it’s situated between Houston Street and West Adams Street.

The president of the Durkeeville Historical Society, Lloyd Washington, stated that he has spent the last 17 years trying to see the park come to pass.

“This is a personal project,” he stated.

LaVilla, formerly known as Harlem of the South, was compared by Washington to Memphis’ Beale Street.

“It was just unbelievable,” Washington stated. “The sounds, the smells.”

Washington talked about the various theaters he would visit and the locations that Ray Charles and James Brown would often hang out.

“Next door we’d go to Roosevelt Grill and get some fried chicken or French fries,” he stated. “So it was it was a colorful place.”

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A start toward revitalization for the future generation is thought to be the new park. The statements of number of ladies who contributed to the historical interpretation of the park are:

“My children can say my mom was a part of something that was historical,” Ashanta Williamson stated. 

“I just… it’s deep,” Carla Jones stated. “That’s all I can say!”

Jones has a long history in Jacksonville. She claimed that her parents were born in LaVilla and that she is descended from Joseph Blodgett, one of the first Black architects and billionaires in Jacksonville.

The park is being considered a start in rehabilitating the historic LaVilla, with new townhomes being built, the LaVilla Heritage Trail, programming that individuals present at the park’s opening said they’re expecting around the park, and, according to Washington, commercial development in the works.

However, the real start for Washington dates back 17 years.

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With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.