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Of History and Hope

Of History and Hope

Artwork commissioned for UCF Downtown pays homage to Parramore’s rich heritage.

Fall 2020 | By Jenna Marina Lee | Video by Thomas Bell ’08 and Carly McCarthy Hollowell ’14 ’20MA

UCF student Sasha Mills has lived her entire life in Parramore.

When she finally got to see the finished 16 1/2 -by-11-foot art glass window that was made specifically for the UCF Downtown campus located in the heart of her neighborhood, a big smile spread across her face.

“Parramore has shaped me into who I am,” says Mills, who is studying human communication at the downtown campus. “To know that we come from such a rich history — and that it’s displayed for everyone to see — makes me proud.”

Mills was one of several community members who offered stories, neighborhood tours and input for artist Nancy Gutkin O’Neil to craft the mural that was installed in June.

“There were so many stories, and I sensed a real resilience from the people who grew up in Parramore,” says O’Neil. “It was an honor to try to do a piece of art that in some way told part of that story.”

Here a few highlights featured in the artwork:

Collective Memories

O’Neil titled the artwork, If We Can Truly Remember, They Will Not Forget, a line selected from Miller Williams’ poem Of History and Hope. “I knew I wanted the title to be about memory, hope and people’s dreams,” says O’Neil. “This is about remembering from the heart, not just the mind, and passing things on to another generation.”

Local Businesses

While researching Parramore, O’Neil found the 1960 business directory of the Orlando Negro Chamber of Commerce, which she says demonstrates the residents’ fortitude to build a thriving community despite the tremendous obstacles they faced in a racist society. “Every beauty salon, taxicab stand, restaurant, insurance company, social organization, drug store, day care — everything you could think of that made up a world — and it’s almost all gone,” she says.
Stained glass collage listing the names and address of businesses in Parramore.

Life in Parramore

In 2008, members of the Parramore Kidz Zone, a youth development program, wrote a spoken word poem titled, I Come from Parramore, which was turned into a video. Excerpts from the poem are highlighted in the artwork, including a line that Mills wrote while in high school: “I come from a place called the bottom, so I have no other destination but the top.”

Racial Strife

Established in 1948 by Ed and Eileen Goff, Goff’s Drive In is one of Orlando’s oldest businesses. The small ice cream stand known for its banana splits and cones is located near Camping World Stadium on South Orange Blossom Trail. According to a 2003 Orlando Sentinel article, the stand was bombed on November 2, 1951, after the Goffs served Black and white customers at the same counter.
Stained glass showing a picture of Goffs Ice Cream stand.

Past and Future

You can’t talk about Parramore without mentioning Jones High School. Archival photos of the 1931 graduating class, students greeting Martin Luther King Jr. in Orlando, and the band’s trip to the 1964 New York World’s Fair are all prominently featured. “I wish I could take a time machine to go back and experience what it was like,” says Mills, a Jones graduate. “I’m excited for the day when I can take kids from the neighborhood to go see the window and hear them ask, ‘What is this?’ and tell them, ‘This is our history.’ ”
Stained glass showing picture of Jones High School and the marching band at the 1964 World's Fair.

This installation was commissioned as part of Florida’s Art in State Buildings Program, which acquires artwork for new public facilities built with state funds. The program requires that up to .5% of the construction appropriation be set aside to acquire artwork for permanent display in, on or around the facility. Since the program began in 1979, more than 1,000 works of art have been purchased or commissioned for Florida public spaces.