‘Neighborkids’ to lead annual celebration of Sarasota Beach Caravan, marking 1955 community effort to open county beaches to all races

Event planned on Saturday, Sept. 26

Image courtesy of organizers of the 2020 Beach Caravan

Ten years ago, youngsters living in the Central-Cocoanut area of Sarasota and their neighbors in the greater Newtown community started leading an annual celebration of the 1955 Beach Caravan, “a powerful example of the forward-thinking, anti-racist leadership of Newtown neighbors,” organizers of a 2020 commemoration have pointed out.

Those youngsters, who have grown into teenagers, are planning to lead the Caravan again this year, a news release says. “All members of the broader Sarasota community” are invited to join them, the release adds.

On Saturday, Sept. 26, beginning at 3 p.m., “neighborkids will lead a caravan to Lido Beach and share the story of the 1955 Beach Caravan as a way of celebrating and honoring the community’s significant civil rights history, and as a way of inspiring forward-thinking leadership and an end to racism today,” the release continues.

“Sixty-five years ago, Newtown neighbors made civil rights history,” the release explains, “when they introduced and championed the idea of fully integrated beaches in Sarasota County” and organized weekly car trips to Lido Beach. That was their means of demonstrating “that it was high time for all beaches in Sarasota County to be open to all people. This happened before Rosa Parks’ actions led to the Montgomery bus boycott and before many people in the United States had heard of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” the release adds.

Their actions “established the community of Newtown in Sarasota as one of the earliest hot spots of civil rights activism, both in the state of Florida and in the broader region of the American South,” the release notes.

“Neighborkids appreciate this history as one of their important discoveries about the special place that they have called home,” the release continues; they draw upon this history as inspiration for efforts that neighborkids are leading today.

“It brings everyone together!” Raniyah Valdes said in the release.

Holly Schwartz created artwork in support of this year’s event, noting that the beach caravan “‘shows that people can get along and shake hands as equals,’” the release adds.

The caravan will begin as cars line up at the intersection of 20th Street and Central Avenue in Sarasota and travel together to Lido Beach, located at 400 Ben Franklin Drive, the release says.

“Anyone interested in joining the caravan is welcome,” the release adds.

“Once at the beach, everyone will play, swim, and celebrate together in COVID-compliant ways,” the release points out. “Kids need to bring a parent or other adult with them. Organizers will bring some food to share, and you are also encouraged to bring along your own picnic or money for the snack bar at Lido,” the release notes.

“There is no cost to participate,” the release continues, “but plan to share stories about people in Newtown and the broader Sarasota community who are fighting against racism, championing civil and human rights, and making a difference like the leaders of the first Beach Caravan did back in 1955.”

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