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'The future is bright:' City officials burn 3 recently repealed segregationist ordinances

City leaders join residents at Sara Sims Park for ceremonial burning
Posted at 2:52 PM, Feb 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-24 20:05:55-05

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — To commemorate a recent decision by Boynton Beach, dozens of people Saturday gathered to burn three segregationist ordinances removed from the city's books.

The people marched about a mile from City Hall and reached Sara Sims Park to burn three repealed ordinances, a symbolic end that was part of the city's history.

"The removal, the death, the end of over 100 years of segregationist city laws that've been in our books," Mayor Ty Penserga said.

On the 100th year since being put in place, commissioners repealed ordinances 37, 47 and 136 at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.

Mayor Ty Penserga leads Unity march in Boynton Beach, Feb. 24, 2024.jpg
Mayor Ty Penserga leads a unity march to Sara Sims Park, Feb. 24, 2024, in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Lynn Leverett, like many others at Saturday's march, was just a young girl when those ordinances were in full effect.

"It's a historical moment," she told WPTV.

She said she remembers dealing with having to walk across the highway just to get to school because Blacks were not allowed on Ocean Avenue.

She remembers it wasn't just schooling that was impacted by the ordinances.

"Even as a young girl, I remember, we weren't even allowed to go to the beach — Boynton Beach — at all," she said. "We had to go to a section called Briny Breezes, where all the African-Americans had to attend the beach and actually have fun and play. Parks and recreation were the same way. They were segregated."

However, she said it was confusing because she realized she was growing up in a city where classrooms were integrated, but the rest of the city was not.

"I was angry because I didn't understand because our classes were integrated, and I didn't understand that I couldn't go into a particular area to go play with my friends at all," she said.

Victor Norfus said he had a similar experience growing up in Boynton Beach.

"I used to go to Boynton Beach Elementary," he said. "We could not walk down Ocean Avenue without getting jumped."

He said moments like these allow city officials and those who put them there to reflect.

"The past is the struggles that we've have to overcome. OK, so we have to respect it, even though they were bad," Norfus said. "The future is bright."