black history mural
DIVERSITY ON DISPLAY — From left, artists Jeremy Canova, Oscar Williams, Bianca Braga and Anthony Sukhu work at night June 15 on a Black history mural being painted on a retail building at the northwest corner of South Florida and West Voorhis avenues. The image depicts notable Black figures of DeLand’s history, including Dr. Lancaster Starke, the city’s first Black doctor, and local nurse Carrie Smokes. The artists are assisting Courtney Canova, who has painted most of Downtown DeLand’s murals. BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

We’re seeing progress in the effort to expand diversity and inclusion in our local communities, and that’s something to celebrate.

The new Black history mural being painted on West Voorhis Avenue in DeLand is just one example, but it’s a prominent visual reminder of everything going on to celebrate all the segments of our community, and to weave this historic Black business district more seamlessly into the already-so-popular Downtown DeLand.

Ongoing restoration of the Wright Building in the same block of West Voorhis Avenue, as well as the planned streetscape, are other signals of DeLand’s overdue, but welcome, commitment to share more widely the benefits of the Downtown DeLand Community Redevelopment Agency.

We’re seeing a greater diversity among candidates for local office, too, and we’re celebrating the departure of the oftentimes lone one candidate of color among a field of mostly white (and often mostly male) people.

Pierson, for example, finally has a Hispanic member on its Town Council. Again, long overdue, but certainly welcome, in a town whose population is at least 50 percent Hispanic.

We’re happy to see that in Pierson, and other West Volusia cities, a diverse electorate has growing chances to be reflected among those elected to represent them in local government.

And, we see the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, based in Orange City, growing in involvement and prominence.

The interest in, and robust attendance at, the series of learning sessions on diversity and inclusion being hosted by the MainStreet DeLand Association are also heartening.

We know this series has opened eyes and hearts, and inspired practical change, too; for example, some local businesses and organizations are now committed to greater diversity on their boards of directors and in their hiring practices and leadership.

Many of our points of progress are things a lot of people might not notice, like the partnership between the West Volusia NAACP and DeLand Pride that created a directory of Black-owned businesses. Or a new emphasis in tourism advertising that features tourists who have physical disabilities.

Speaking of positive partnerships, the collaboration between the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and Felicia Benzo’s mentoring organization, Catalyst, sets an example for law enforcement across Volusia County.

No one would say that we’re finished, that we have no more work to do. But every step of progress brings us closer to the time when not only is everyone welcome in our communities, but they are represented and celebrated.

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