BY JAMES HARPER
At the entrance of the Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Cultural and Educational Center, a portrait of Daytona Beach’s first Black mayor greets all who enter. The new center is a dream come true for many of her family members and friends.
At the grand opening last Saturday, a jazz band played in the courtyard. Paintings from a local artist welcomed each visitor who stepped inside the center. Nearly 100 children, along with their parents were in the gym, preparing a cheer for visitors to the opening.
At least 200 more people were seated in folding chairs in the front of the center listening as one dignitary after another paid tribute to Scarlett-Golden, who in 1994 was first elected to the Daytona Beach City commission.
She went on to be elected mayor in 2003, re-elected again in 2005. She unexpectedly died in the middle of her second term.
“She would be happy to see family and friends here today. I see her with her legs crossed looking down on us listening to cool jazz,” said Betty Goodman, Assistant City Manager of Daytona Beach.
Leisure Services Director Percy Williamson, the master of ceremonies for the program, called the community center a centerpiece for the Derbyshire neighborhood.
“The center was budgeted at $2.5 million, but its value is much more,” said Williamson, who helped shepherd the project from the beginning to the June 8 grand opening.
Family members of Scarlett-Golden came from as far away as California for the occasion.
Two of her brothers still reside in Daytona Beach where she was born and raised before moving to California with her late husband. It also was where she made a name for herself.
Donald Scarlett remembers growing up with his sister in what he called the “ghetto” of Daytona Beach.
“When we were reared up on South Street she had something about her then shaping up. She had to be in control. She was in control on South Street – in the heart of the ghetto. We saw something in her. We couldn’t describe it. (It was something) not in all people,” he said.
Fond family memories
Brother Carlton Scarlett also recalled fond times with his sister.
“I wonder sometimes how we made it. I was the youngest. They never would believe anything I said. This I had to live with. I’m glad I am able to be here to witness this for my sister. She always worked hard. She wasn’t concerned about recognition. She cared about ordinary people,” he noted.
Carlton Scarlett Jr. lived near Scarlett-Golden while she was an educator and civil rights activist in California.
“She would tell us, ‘it’s time to go, the struggle continues,’ ” Scarlett Jr. said with a smile.
Horace Golden Jr. also grew up with her in San Francisco.
“She was the strongest human being I knew in my life,” he said to the hundreds attending the ceremony.
From seed to fruition
Wanda Only, granddaughter of Scarlett-Golden, was named the executor of her estate and gave an official statement on behalf of the family.
“She wore many hats – teacher, administrator, community activists, civil rights activist and servant to the people. She was passionate about life and helping others,” Only stated.
“The center will serve as a reminder of the life she led and people she served.’’
Florida State Rep. Dwayne Taylor, before being elected to his current post, succeeded Scarlett-Golden in her Zone 5 city commission seat. He initially came up with the idea of the center and naming it after her.
“This is a moment of celebration. It was 10 years ago she was campaigning for mayor. She did wonderful things for this community. I wanted to do something to solidify her legacy’’ Taylor remarked.
“I was able to plant the seed to help to bring the center to fruition. I carried the torch, handed it off to Derrick. He handed it off to Patrick who brought it in for the win. Y’all have done a great thing. We have something that did not have to be rebuilt or handed down,” added Taylor, referring to current Mayor Derrick Henry and his brother, Patrick Henry, who each succeeded him to be representatives of Zone 5 where the center is located.
Paved way for others
Mayor Henry said he remembered Scarlett-Golden had a “towering personality.”
“I’m following in the footsteps of Madam Mayor, meaning I’m going to do things my way,” said Henry, the second Black elected to the post. He succeeded car dealership owner Glenn Ritchey, who had been asked by Scarlett-Golden to finish out her term. He did, and was mayor until he decided not to seek re-election last year.
“Glenn Ritchey made a promise. He committed to honoring his friend, our hero. His steady hand guided us through the process, seeds planted by others,” said Henry.
“The building honors her spirit. An advocate for civil and human rights. She returned home to serve us with valor and dignity looking after young and elderly. Her commitment will never be forgotten,” concluded Mayor Henry.
Open six days
Commissioner Patrick Henry was the final speaker on the program.
“How can I not be excited? They couldn’t kill this dream. She was a trailblazer, ahead of her time.
We stand on the shoulders of a giant of a woman who paved the road before I got here,” he stated.
The one-story building includes a courtyard in the center showcasing an open-air amphitheater.
It includes a library, gym, small theater, reaching center photography studios, and rooms for dance classes and after-school programs. Included is a permanent historic exhibit featuring memorabilia celebrating Scarlett-Golden and the neighborhood.
The new facility, at 1000 Vine St., is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.