By Reggie Connell, Managing Editor
From the beginning, The Apopka Voice has been a local, independent, online news site that tells the story of Apopka every day. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and engage the community. And in the past few years, we have added another important element to our reason to exist; it's called Solutions Journalism. Rather than simply point out what's wrong in the community, we strive to take the extra step and look for solutions to those issues.
Never has that been more apparent than in our coverage of South Apopka.
Recently, we started a recurring series entitled "Make South Apopka your North Star". The series is a call to action for the leaders of this community. It has included steps we believe should be considered for the advancement of South Apopka, and coming soon will be our thoughts and analysis for annexing South Apopka into the City.
What the series is not intended to be is a platform to blame any specific elected official who currently holds office. This is a generational problem that dates back to the earliest roots of Apopka.
In his book "The History of Apopka and Northwest Orange County, Florida" Jerrell H. Shofner writes:
"When Apopka was first settled [in the mid-1880s], there was no racial separation. Even as a distinct black section began developing south of the TO&A tracks and east of the Midland line in the late 1880s, several blacks continued living where they had first settled in the main part of town. As the Consumers Lumber and Veneer Company grew, it had the customary "quarters" where black employees lived.
As the Jim Crow system became more rigid in the early 20th century, blacks and whites became more and more segregated except where blacks were employed by whites.
In July of 1937, the council enacted an ordinance "to segregate the places of Residence and Business of White and Negro persons."
This is also not an issue The Apopka Voice just parachuted into. We have covered the communities south of City Hall, be it good, bad, or tragic, since our beginnings.
Sixteen days after our December 12th launch in 2015, we told the story of a light industrial business that wanted to locate on a South Apopka property in a three-part series outlining the pros and cons, while also uncovering a dumpsite on the Cleveland Street tract owned by the City.
In 2016, we wrote about light coming to the community in the form of an Adult Learning Center proposed for South Apopka after the purchase of property across the street from Phillis Wheatley Elementary.
We wrote about a Black Lives Matter march in Apopka from the Alonzo Williams Center to the Apopka Police Department in the summer of 2016.
In 2017, we wrote about new beginnings when Habitat for Humanity began a project to bring 58 homes to South Apopka.
We wrote an article urging the CRA Board to take action in 2018.
Denise Connell, the Publisher of The Apopka Voice, had a dream and called for action in South Apopka in 2019.
We've covered the MLK parades there, and walked with the community all the way down Marvin C. Zanders Avenue south to 13th Street and west to the John Bridges Center.
In 2021, The Apopka Voice made the decision to donate 25% of our ad revenues to four Apopka charities that do a lot of great work in South Apopka - the Florida Farmworkers Association, Habitat for Humanity, Hope CommUnity Center, and Loaves and Fishes.
We have also, unfortunately, written far too many articles about South Apopka that ended in shootings, arrests, and fatalities. We have driven the 26 miles of roads, of which over 15 are rated as sub-standard by Orange County. We have seen poverty, lack of prosperity, and economic development. Yes, without a doubt the County and City have taken efforts to make improvements to South and Southern Apopka. But in all candor, exceedingly far more is needed.
Now is the time to stand in the light together and take action. Now is the time for a collaborative effort where all are welcome. Now is the time for Apopka and Orange County to turn its attention to the residents of South Apopka so that they too may live in peace, raise healthy, well-educated children, have stable employment, and opportunities to flourish.
Editor’s Note: The Apopka Voice is publishing a series of articles under the heading “Make South Apopka your North Star”. The series will include steps we believe leaders should consider for the advancement of this historic Apopka community. Look for the next installment entitled “What would it take to Annex South Apopka?”.
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