If you’ve ever hopped off of I-4 and taken Fairbanks to Winter Park or traveled from Maitland to Altamonte, chances are you passed by Eatonville. Located just ten miles north of Orlando, Eatonville is the hometown of literary icon Zora Neale Hurston, who has made the community known around the world as “the first incorporated African-American town in the United States.”
Today, Eatonville remains a self-governing municipality, facing all the challenges of COVID-19. Now more than ever, we need your help to keep programs alive that not only help meet the daily needs of the town’s residents but also aim to preserve the community for generations to come (#Eatonvilleforever).
Here are 4 reasons why you should donate today:
1.) Help Preserve the Legacy
Eatonville is one of few Black towns still standing. According to the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA), more than 1200 Black towns and settlements were established in the U.S. between the late 19th and early 20th centuries but only 50-60 were legally incorporated. Only 13 historical All-Black towns survive today (Oklahoma Historical Society) and Eatonville, Florida, is among them.
Today, Eatonville is a community of around 2500 people with a determination to not only survive but to thrive. In December 1987, the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community (P.E.C.) was formed and in March 1988, the organization was incorporated by the State of Florida. After a decade of vigorous advocacy, P.E.C. was successful in having an Eatonville Historic District listed on the National Register of Places, with special recognition for “National Significance” based on the Town’s being recognized as “the first incorporated African-American municipality in the United States” and for its being the hometown of the literary icon, anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston.” Over the past 30 years, P.E.C. has led the effort to preserve Eatonville’s place in history, including successfully preventing a 5-lane road project and ensuring that adult entertainment was not allowed in the Town. Although P.E.C. has been an effective advocate, the organization needs YOUR help to ensure Eatonville’s ability to survive and thrive.
2.) Help Celebrate the Culture
Eatonville, Florida is home to many cultural experiences including the Zora Neale Hurston® National Museum of Fine Arts (The Hurston®) and the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities (ZORA!® Festival).
The Hurston® was established in 1990 with a mission to provide a place “in the heart of the community” where the public can view the work of artists of African ancestry, who live in the United States or throughout the Diaspora.” For over three decades, The Hurston has been privileged to present the work of distinguished visual artists, such as Willie Birch, Lonnie Graham, Bennie Andrews, Betye Saar, Carrie Mae Weems, and Deborah Willis.
First presented in 1990, the ZORA!® Festival is a multi-day, multi-disciplinary, intergenerational event composed of public talks, museum exhibitions, theatrical productions, and arts education programming which has brought international recognition to this small community. Prior to the pandemic, the festival had historically hosted a 3-day Outdoor Festival of the Arts. However, in 2021 the festival became a hybrid event, expanding to a month-long celebration, with limited in-person activities and an in-depth virtual program.
3.) Help Support Youth Programs
In 1992, P.E.C. organized the Summer Performing Arts Workshop (SPAW) so that students would be able to build their self-esteem, build their self-confidence as they “presented themselves to the world,” and to experience the personal satisfaction of seeing the direct connection between hard work and success. For over two decades, this 5-day-a-week, 6-week program provided a curriculum of reading, performing arts, and recital preparation with instruction by certified teachers and professional artists.
In 1997, P.E.C. established the Excellence Without Excuse (E-WE) Community Computer Arts Lab and Learning Center to meet the needs of Eatonville children and families, where personal computers were, and continue to be, in short supply. E-WE’s mission is to help students be successful in school and in life. Since its founding in February 1997, experienced, professionally trained staff has rendered approximately 80,000 hours in identifying and addressing the learning needs of more than 3,500 students in grades pre-K – 12.
P.E.C.’s ultimate goal is to implement the ZORA!® STEM Initiative for the Very, Very Young, an effort to begin a family-based program for toddlers, age 18 months and above.
4.) Help End the Food Health Disparity
The mission of the Yards & Gardens Club of Historic Eatonville is to develop a sustainable system to provide locally grown organic produce, thereby decreasing the nutrition-based health disparities which currently exist within the community.
A truly authentic “grassroots effort,” the members of the Yards & Gardens Club of Historic Eatonville commit to growing organic vegetables and fruits so that Eatonville residents have the access to good food “just down the street” from where they live.
The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community (P.E.C.), founded in 1987 and incorporated by the State of Florida in 1988, was organized to protect this historic community from a community-busting highway project and to advance the process needed to preserve the town for posterity. Perhaps best known for its development of the annual, award-winning Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities (ZORA! Festival), which was first presented in 1990, P.E.C. has been able to identify two significant paths to ensure the community’s future: the excellent preparation of its children for academic success, thus ensuring their ability to secure 21 st century well-paying jobs and cultural heritage tourism, an economic catalyst for Eatonville’s future.
Please visit preserveeatonville.org to learn about this grassroots organization which has established a track record of excellence based upon heritage, education, and the cultural arts.
The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.) is a tax-exempt, 501 © (3) organization (FEIN: 59-2952662). Contributions to P.E.C. are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.