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  • Writer's pictureTorrell

Historic Sistrunk - Fort Lauderdale, FL

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

According to the Historic Sistrunk page on the Fort Lauderdale CRA website, Sistrunk is Fort Lauderdale's oldest black community and has been around for over 100 years. Sistrunk sounded interesting, so I wanted to visit this black community while my wife and I were on vacation in Fort Lauderdale. After doing some research, our first destination was to the African American Research Library & Cultural Center. The Cultural Center has exhibit areas inside the building, but unfortunately, the exhibit areas were closed when we visited.

From Google, I learned that the Sistrunk community was named after Dr. James Franklin Sistrunk, who was Broward County's first black doctor. In 1938, Dr. Sistrunk, together with fellow doctor, Dr. Von D. Mizell, founded Broward County's first black hospital, Provident Hospital. Provident Hospital was created in the Sistrunk community out of necessity because of Jim Crow segregation. During this time, black people were not allowed in any of Fort Lauderdale's white hospitals.

Also from my Google research, I found Destination Sistrunk, which looks like the webpage for Sistrunk's Welcome Center. But I couldn't find a physical address on the website and it looks like no new content has been posted for some years now. We asked an employee at the Cultural Center if Sistrunk has a welcome center. She told us, "Yes kind of, it's now located inside the YMCA down the street". So we drove down to the YMCA and asked the front desk if there was a welcome center for Sistrunk here. The staff didn't know what we were talking about and said there was no welcome center here. That pretty much concluded our Sistrunk black history tour.

I must say that I was disappointed because I feel like Sistrunk has some rich black history that really isn't being displayed at its fullest potential. I envisioned a vibrant black community that had an active welcome center with tours that showed all of the historical sites of the community. Instead, what I saw as we drove down Sistrunk blvd (which is also named after Dr. Sistrunk) was a community that looked a little impoverished. An article on the National Civic League website state's that, "After desegregation, Sistrunk Boulevard steadily declined from the once-vibrant "Main Street” of the city's black community to a blighted area plagued by crime".

Broward County's first black hospital, Provident Hospital, closed in 1965 after desegregation and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The downturns that occurred in Sistrunk, reminds me of the teachings from Dr. Claud Anderson's Powernomics. We abandoned all of our black-owned businesses, institutions, and communities to go work in businesses and live in communities that weren't black-owned, leaving black communities like Sistrunk to fall into despair.

One positive fact that I learned is the YMCA located on Sistrunk Blvd. is not just a YMCA. The official name is the L.A. Lee YMCA / Mizell Community Center. The vision of this building is to be a Community Center that includes a YMCA, and that's a great thing. The building was built on the same ground where Provident Hospital once stood, and it was also named after Dr. Mizell. I hope that Sistrunk can become a vibrant community once again because they have a very inspirational past that could inspire black people all over the county today.

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