Impact, Inspiration, Influence - Celebrating Black History Month

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Harry Sayer. Headshot courtesy Michael Price.

Black History Month is a time to reflect, honor and celebrate the achievements, contributions, rich culture and history of Black people in the United States. Gulf Coast Community Foundation is actively investing in the Black history makers of tomorrow. 

The theme of this year’s Black History Month is African Americans and the Arts, exploring the major influence Black people have had in the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, film, music and more. 

This inspired me to share with you about a work of art on loan to Gulf Coast called Faces of Valor. The painting was commissioned by Gulf Coast Board member Frank Martucci and his wife Katherine. The Martuccis were in search of a piece that celebrates the contributions African Americans have made to the creation and preservation of our country. The painting, completed in 2023 by artist Bob Crofut, features a Black Union soldier on the battlefield. We are thrilled to display this painting at our Philanthropy Center until it can be permanently hung in the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition’s Arts, Culture & History Center. Phase 1 of the center, the Leonard Reid Family Home, will open to the public soon. We thank Vickie Oldham, SAACC president and CEO, for all the wonderful work she and her team are doing to educate our community about the incredible contributions made by Sarasota’s earliest Black leaders. 

As part of the Overtown Mural Initiative, Gulf Coast sponsored a mural featuring Reverend Lewis and Irene Colson. Rev. Lewis Colson came to Sarasota in 1885 and drove the stake at Five Points and helped in platting the city of Sarasota, according to Newtown Alive’s history of the community. The mural is centrally located on the Planned Parenthood building, in what we now know as the Rosemary District, and adjacent to the Rosemary Cemetery where Lewis and Irene were laid to rest. Notably, they are the only two Black community members buried in the cemetery. This made the building an ideal location to carry on their legacy.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe receives annual support through Gulf Coast’s Arts Appreciation Grants which offer unrestricted funding to cornerstone arts organizations. WBTT plays a vital and dynamic role in our arts community, debuting moving world premieres and incredible musical experiences, plus world-class education and mentoring programs for future stars. 

Art Center Sarasota will be presenting an exhibition by local photographer Michael Kinsey from the Listening to Black Voices series. The photographs portray local, national, and international leaders in Sarasota and Manatee’s Black community. These powerful portraits have highlighted a civil rights leader, legendary journalist, educators, artists, and more who share their resilient experiences, obstacles, and triumphs. The exhibit will be on display at Art Center Sarasota, a free art gallery open to the public, March 14 – April 20. We are honored to support this series and Kinsey’s work since its inception in 2020.

The impactful contributions of these people and organizations create the vibrant community we all value and appreciate today.  

Phillip P. Lanham is President and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Photo courtesy Harry Sayer. Headshot courtesy Michael Price.

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