Daytona sports field will be named after late civil rights activist

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BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

A new sports field that will mostly serve local youth will be named after Norma J. Poole Bland, a longtime community activist who died last year.

The city of Daytona Beach has named the new football and soccer field on the southwest corner of Derbyshire Park – at times referred to as Derbyshire Sports Complex – after Bland. It’s located at 849 Derbyshire Road in Daytona Beach.

It will officially be named the Norma J. Bland Football & Soccer Field. Bland passed away on July 31, 2020.

The city commission unanimously approved (7-0) the measure during a meeting on Feb. 3. A naming ceremony will be announced at a later time.

‘Very fitting’ tribute

“It was a no-brainer for us. Norma is an icon. She clearly was beloved throughout the city, especially in the Derbyshire community. If there has ever been a warrior for improving her neighborhood or community, it was Norma Bland,” said Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.

The initiative was started by Bland’s family and Daytona Beach Zone 5 City Commissioner Dannette Henry. The field is located in Zone 5.

“Norma and I had talked about doing a community garden at the park. The city was still working on the park,” Mayor Henry told the Daytona Times.

“The family thought that it would be better to name something more permanent after her. So, we went with the field.”

Bland’s family is appreciative of the honor.

Her nephew Mark Lewis told the Times, “I can’t think of a person more deserving of such an honor. Norma J.’s never ceasing commitment to her community and love for her city is its basis. It’s very fitting.”

“Her loss can’t be replaced but her legacy is wrapped in the naming of the facility. Her memory will live on as long as the children of Daytona Beach compete there.”

There were numerous ways considered to honor Bland, including naming a street after her.

“A street would be fine, but the field is what the family came up with,” Henry shared.

Park improvements

The field is part of improvements to Derbyshire Park, which will include a new paved parking lot and resurfaced tennis courts.

“We’ve been working to improve our facilities. It has been quite a bit work done out there,” the mayor said.

Derbyshire Park hosts football and soccer fields, softball/baseball fields, a lighted outdoor basketball court and tennis courts. Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP President Cynthia Slater is a longtime friend and colleague of Bland.

Slater expressed, “Norma served her community unconditionally. Her work spoke for itself. The honor of her name being placed on a city facility is well-deserved. She truly loved her
community. I am so proud of her.”

Advocated for youth

Bland was a member of the Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP. She served on its Executive Committee and Chaired its Legal Regress Committee.

City leaders say it’s just the thing to do.

“It is appropriate to name something after her involving young people. She encouraged them, fought for them, advocated for them, dragged them to success,” Mayor Henry said.

“If they were not doing what they were supposed to, she didn’t let up.”

Bland also was the founder and president of the Citizen’s Coalition to Improve Race Relations in Daytona Beach, which fueled her activism and community outreach.

The organization often sponsored holiday food donations and giveaways, including Christmas gifts and turkey giveaways during the holidays.

B-CU teacher, student

Bland was born and raised in Daytona Beach. She graduated from Campbell Sr. High in 1967.

After high school, she moved up north and lived in Philadelphia.

During her lifetime, she traveled the country and worked with several civil rights organizations.

In 2001, she returned to Daytona Beach.

Her professional career entailed teaching and mental health counseling at Stewart-Marchman Act and Bethune-Cookman.

Bland earned her master’s degree in criminal justice administration from B-CU. She was bestowed a second master’s from the university after her passing.

She also had earned a bachelor’s degree in supervision and management from Daytona State College and an associate of arts degree from Daytona State.

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