Thirty years ago Dana Miller was involved in an alarming problem on Jacksonville’s Eastside.
He was a drug dealer who helped build the community’s reputation for crime. Ultimately, Miller’s bad deeds caught up with him. He was arrested in 1991, found guilty and sentenced to a mandatory 10 year prison term.
But that wasn’t the end of his story.
After his release from prison in 2002, Miller turned his life around. He has been the owner of the Man Cave hair salon on A. Phillip Randolph Boulevard since 2013.
In addition to running his business, which includes a mobile hair salon, he works as President of the Eastside Business Council to revitalize the community.
“I wanted to change something to do better,” Miller said. ″ When the opportunity arises, people can change because I am a product of that change. All the young people come into the store and say they love me. I know where you are I’ve been where they are. And they just need someone to talk to. This made me realize how important it is to be in this community again. ”
With 40 percent of families in the community living below the federal poverty line and no new commercial, industrial or retail buildings built in over four decades, revitalizing the East Side is far too big a task for any person or even an organization.
With the goal of ending poverty in Jacksonville, the nonprofit LIFT JAX is directing efforts on the Eastside with the Historic Eastside Community Development Corp. under the direction of the President of the Organization, Suzanne Pickett.
Shad Khan, Jaguars are investing in the Eastside region
With the aim of being action-based, LIFT JAX found a significant partner on Friday. Jaguar owner Shad Khan, whose team has been an Eastside neighbor for 25 years with their team facility at TIAA Bank Field, is donating $ 1 million to the group’s efforts to revitalize the Eastside community.
“I love what LIFT JAX is, so it is my privilege to make this donation and help set a course that I hope will have immediate and lasting effects,” said Khan. “It’s not about writing a check, however. The point is that we all use our time and resources continuously and uninterruptedly to empower our neighbors and break the cycle of poverty. It takes work and accountability, and the Jaguars Foundation is more than willing to do its part. “
With the Jaguars in collaboration with LIFT JAX and the CDC, they plan to achieve five key shared priorities:
Food Insecurity: Provide year-round access to healthy food and nutrition education, and create a permanent neighborhood market.
Parks, Playgrounds, and Green Spaces: Reimagine outdoor spaces to promote healthy lifestyles and improve population wellbeing for all ages.
Local Culture and Business: Celebrate the rich history and culture of the historic Eastside neighborhood by supporting local businesses and events like the quarterly melanin market and other placement activities.
National Register of Historic Places: Support the application of the Historic Eastside neighborhood to the State Historic Preservation Office for entry on the National Register of Historic Places.
Organizational and Community Support: Build the capacity of LIFT JAX and HECDC to ensure operational support continues to make a positive impact on the Out East community.
“I think the easiest thing in the world is to get someone to write a check,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping, “if you’re lucky enough to have the ability.” The hardest part is that this review really has an impact on the community and that that impact is defined by the resident rather than someone outside. “
Lamping recalled the only introduction he had to the Eastside neighborhood was two or three years ago when he ventured out of TIAA Bank Field in his golf cart.
“I’ve never really spent time on this side of the bridge,” said Lamping. “We actually had a night game and I jumped in a golf cart and drove around the neighborhood you know and one (Jaguar official) said you are crazy to go there.” And you can see that you know the soul of the community is so pure, but the resources and opportunities just haven’t been provided. When we sat down, we wanted to know what happens next. “
Jaguar trainer Urban Meyer recently took Pickett on a golf cart tour of the East Side to get an idea of the area.
Historic parish of Eastside
Founded in the mid-19th century, Eastside’s neighborhoods consisted of East Jacksonville, Fairfield, Oakland, Campbells’ Addition, and Phoenix, according to the CDC. The Eastside is the birthplace of civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, businesswoman Eartha White, and sprinter Olympic gold medalist and NFL Hall of Fame recipient Bob Hayes, who was a star athlete with Matthew Gilbert before excelling at Florida A&M.
Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston lived on the East Side with her brother John and wife Blanche in 1914.
″ People try to understand the Eastside, but you can’t understand until you see it. I say you have to see it, that’s why we give the tours, ”said Pickett. ″ There is no perfect answer, but there is so much sensitivity in the neighborhood.
“I grew up here on Pippin Street and walked up and down with my sister. I also lived on Harrison Street. then we moved away and I actually moved back and met my husband here. I love the community. Eastside and I have a soft spot for the way people are treated. When I went to Flossie Brunson’s Park, there was so much cut glass – broken glass – in the sand. It reminded me of my childhood. It could have been the same piece of glass that probably fell there when I was 9 years old. So that and look around and notice and neglect all the others. If you neglect streets and houses, you are also neglecting people. “
Priorities for revitalization
Via LIFT JAX and the CDC, one of the Eastside’s priorities is to stimulate the economy and increase income and employment opportunities through the provision of human resource development services in one central location. Another goal is to support the growth of the basic melanin market. The street fair was founded in 2017 by Dawn Curling and Angie Nixon, now a state representative. It shows black-owned companies, art and culture, offers healthy food and connects residents with resources and services.
It is planned to revitalize the area with mixed income apartments.
They transform row houses, which were built in 1904, into transition houses, in which women can be in transition with their children after their imprisonment. A community center has been set up at Word International Center on Spearing Street to distribute free groceries to families in need and the elderly. The Word International Center is one of 49 churches in the Eastside Congregation.
Much like downtown Jacksonville’s New Town and other underserved areas in Jacksonville, the Eastside is a food wasteland with the closest grocery store at Harvey’s Supermarket on North Market Street near downtown.
“I would love to see more programs for the kids in the parks here,” said Lifelong Eastside resident Antonio McCray, 42. “Some of the apartments are badly in need of repair. We need help here. to help yourself. ”
Longtime Eastside resident Marvin Curtis said he thinks it’s great that the jaguars are finally investing in the community.
“I see some good things out here in the east,” said Curtis. ″ The lady (Pickett) has trash cans everywhere and we fill them up to keep things clean. You know, if you are not helping yourself, who else is going to help you? But I like that the jaguars care.
“There’s a lot of real estate that needs improvement and we could use a fresh market here so people don’t have to drive 20 miles here or there. The East Side has to come back as it was. ”