Midway-The Orlando Times
Midway In Need Of A Change
BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
SANFORD - Residents of historic Black community Midway are meeting with elected officials and government agencies this Thursday in an effort to bridge concerns with action and problems with solutions.
Among the issues residents will address are rising water levels, higher elevated new commercial and residential developments surrounding the Midway Basin and decades of waste water leaching from resident septic systems and drain fields into the ground.
According to a Seminole County Government authored study entitled the Midway Basin Report, it was discovered the “flooding of major roadways precludes the use of outer lane and travel in inner lanes is possible but difficult.”
The report was released in September 1997.
The Midway Canaan Community Water Authority was established in 1967 to answer the reports of sulfur-water and faulty sewage lines discovered by longtime residents. In recent years, the Midway Coalition of concerned citizens has been formed to voice and combat the issues which plague this unincorporated area of Seminole County.
Midway, situated in a box-like structure, surrounded by Brisson Ave., State Road 46, Beardall and Celery Ave., has battled County plans for airport expansion around their community, sports complex venue proposals and in the past rectified a greater water accountability system.
“We’ve had years and years of septic tank systems that are naturally flowing into our grounds and because we don’t have a sufficient storm water system to channel the water out of the community, the natural flow and process of filtration is interrupted.” Said Emory Green Jr., a Midway resident.
President of the Midway Coalition of Concerned Citizens, Green is a lifelong Midway resident and has witnessed the ups and downs of the community.
“We have brought these issues before to Seminole County Government, who in turn, said something would be done about it, yet nothing has yet materialized.” Green said.
“When you look at the progress that is surrounding us, our community lacks in that very same progress.”
Green also identified that newer properties were and are being built at a higher elevation and many of the homes which house the communities’ longtime senior citizen homeowners were built below the traditional code.
In September, Green and twenty members of the Midway Coalition of Concerned Citizens met with Seminole County District 5 Commissioner Brenda Carey, whose District envelops Midway.
“Based upon the last conversation, Midway has always been a concern of hers.” Green said of the previous meeting.
Green says implementing a plan of action is the basis for Thursday’s meeting.
Pastor Leonard Wilson, of St. Matthew’s Missionary Baptist Church, is attuned to the situations in Midway, but contends that times are changing, but changing in some sense, for the better. “We’ve had improvements.” Wilson said. “The Midway Safe Harbor is a place for our youth to meet. There were once unpaved, dirt roads, but these roads are now driveable.”
Wilson, a Sanford native, has pastored in Midway for twenty-six years. Main Street, where the historic church sits, is adjacent to Washington St and around the corner from Lincoln Street. His remembers regularly attending meetings regarding the status of Midway, which are held every first Thursday of every month.
“If we don’t stay on top of it, it gets washed away.” Wilson said.
“This meeting is about receiving answers and creating an accountability system.” Said Rev. Emory Blake, who Pastors Progress Missionary Baptist Church in Midway.
The Seminole County Branch NAACP, established seventy-seven years ago, now convenes their meetings at their office located off Beardall Avenue in Midway and will be in attendance at Thursday’s meeting at the Midway Safe Harbor.
“These issues, which have compounded over the years are the example of taxation without representation.” Said Marvin Carroll, Seminole County Branch NAACP President.
Prior, the settlement was termed, “The Midway Point”, for two wells on Sipes Avenue which were used to water livestock were transported from Cameron City to the Sanford Freight Yards, forming the midway point. The name of the area was shortened to Midway. With a Black population of ninety-five percent, the majority of the areas’ residents are seniors.
Midway grew in the 1940s and 1950s amid farmland that produced one-third of America's celery. The club scene was alive. Ray Charles often included Midway in his tour itineraries when he performed.
Midway reared the likes of Drew Bundini Brown, who became one of the principal trainers of Muhammad Ali. Brown was the trainer which convinced Ali to develop a personality outside of the ring, as was evidenced in Ali’s later interviews during and after his career.
Herman L. Refoe Jr. was another titan. Born in Sanford, Refoe and his wife Sally taught at Midway Elementary School in the 1940s, later becoming a member of the Seminole Board of Education.
By the early 1960s, Joseph Jackson and ten Midway citizens organized the Midway-Canaan Volunteer Fire Department. Jackson also served as the first Black fire chief in Seminole County, from 1962-1972.
Attorney Willie George Allen, another Midway native, was instrumental in integrating the University of Florida, College of Law. Allen was the first Black graduate of the University of Florida in 1962.
Charlie Lester succeeded Jackson in 1974. NFL greats Tony Collins, Jeff Blake and Reginald Branch also had origins in the area. Collins played for the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins and played in Superbowl XX. Branch played for the Washington Redskins (1985-1989) and Blake played for the New York Jets, the Cincinnati Bengals and, the Baltimore Ravens, the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears.
Sanford houses many historic areas such as Goldsboro and Georgetown. The Midway community, which has grappled with issues, yet produced greatness.
Thursday’s townhall will be hosted at the Midway Safe Harbor on Rightway Street and will feature the Seminole County Health Department, Seminole County Government, Seminole County Public Schools, The Seminole County Fire Department and the Midway-Canaan Water Association.
“Attendees can expect a one on one opportunity to hear from Commissioner Brenda Carey, an opportunity to hear directly from the Seminole County Health Department and to give some recommendations on what they can do moving forward.” Green said.
“The Midway Coalition is very pleased to present and be transparent in presenting our set of circumstances and to have panelists from those organizations. We look forward to helping move Sanford forward as the great city that it is and that we know it can continue to be.”