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What’s in a name?

Sonya Burrows

Sonya Burrows

What’s in a name?

As a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla and after living in over five cities during my adult life and then returning home, I am inspired by the Wizard of Oz to say “there is no place like home”. I love my community and indeed I love the City of Fort Lauderdale. As I reflect back in time I consider how home was, how it is now, and more importantly how it is to be-come.  Being born into the social environment of 1950’s and 60’s, I was a Provident Hospital baby. I thank God for the visionary leadership in addition to His calling to heal as a practicing physician for Dr. James Sistrunk. I am the youngest of my parents 4 children, and although my parents were property owners, residents, and business owners of the City of Fort Lauderdale when I was born, had it not been for Dr. Sistrunk I would not have had the opportunity to be born in a medically equipped facility such as Provident Hospital.  Not for all but for many residents of Broward County necessary goods and services for survival were available in only 1 area -the NW quadrant of Fort Lauderdale. Although some domestic workers as far east as the beach area that also lived on the property of their employer and who therefore were not residents of the NW quadrant were able to receive proper medical care only at Provident Hospital. Provident Hospital was literally a lifesaver to many residents of the entire city. Dr James Sistrunk was the visionary who founded Provident Hospital.

When I consider what is in a name, and in particular the name Sistrunk, I am reminded of the monumental contribution this man has made to our city.  I am reminded of how Sistrunk Blvd was in the 1950’s and 60’s when the corridor was a vibrant economic center filled with a variety of retail goods and services. In fact when my father began his business Burrows Electric Company in 1948, his first and only office building was eventually built on Sistrunk Blvd in the early 1950’s. If you owned and operated a business back then, Sistrunk Blvd was the place to be. At that time it was still named Northwest Sixth Street, and because as children we were taught about the great contribution Dr. Sistrunk made to our city and indeed to Broward County, it was my sister Avis who wrote about Dr. Sistrunk in the local WRBD radio station contest. Avis’ winning essay led to the renaming of the street in the early 1970’s.

As I consider how the Sistrunk Corridor through neglect deteriorated be-ginning in the mid 1970’s and lasting through the turn of the Century, I am not dismayed. The neglect came from sources outside of the community but the effects were felt and evidenced within. I know what Sistrunk Blvd was in the past and I am confident of what it will once again come to be. The name alone inspires me as it reminds me of a man of greatness and vision. As I consider the corridor, I am reflecting over nearly six decades of history and not just focusing on the past 2 or 3 decades.

After many years of oversight and neglect, the northwest quadrant of our city has recently been given overdue attention and capital infusion. The infrastructure improvements and initiatives directed towards reducing crime have positioned this historic Black neighborhood to once again be a vibrant and thriving community within our city. If we want our city to be truly a great city, then all four quadrants must be great, for a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a city is only as great as its most neglected community. The city through the CRA has made commendable strides in the redevelopment which have indeed been good for enriching the soil for growth in the northwest quadrant. However, we should not and must not settle for good when better is required. To better this redevelopment effort, we now need to bring additional commerce to the area. Economic development is essential to the Sistrunk Blvd area in order for it to thrive and for the city in its entirety to indeed be great. Extending Sistrunk Blvd eastward to Federal Highway will create a much needed entry point to the Sistrunk corridor to spur economic development. It cannot be overlooked that when I-95 came through our city with no exit ramp onto Sistrunk Blvd the economic development was negatively impacted. We cannot continue to isolate the area and expect it to thrive. It is necessary to employ every tool available to create economic development along the corridor if we really want the CRA’s investment to take root and grow. If we do anything shy of everything possible we allow the financial investment to wash away by the winds and obstacles of the present time. Not only is it good for business development to extend Sistrunk Blvd east to Federal highway, it is good for the city. It is good for the city because it connects a once isolated community to the city in which it is a part of, and it is a tool we have available and it is one we should be proud to use in our redevelopment effort.

Thoughtfully Submitted,

Sonya  Burrows


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