Former NFL Player Patrick Carter Reflects On Newtown Of His Childhood And How It's Changed
Patrick Carter spent most of his childhood in Newtown, one of the first African American communities in Sarasota. He left to play college football at Florida State University before moving on to the NFL. While he still remains involved in the Newtown community, particularly through sports mentorship, he chose to live in Bradenton instead.
As part of our Telling Tampa Bay Stories series on Newtown, Carter shares some of his fond memories growing up in the community and explains why he decided not to return.
Our community is beautiful, growing up here was beautiful. I’ll give a perfect example. My grandparents, if they had to go out of town, they would leave their car keys and house keys to the next-door neighbors while they were away just in case maybe the house caught on fire or something came up. You know, I don't know anybody that does that today. But that's how tight-knit the community was back then.
There used to be a grocery store right here on Osprey (Ave.) called Solomon's Grocery. Well, funny thing was Old Man Solomon, his name was Henry Solomon, he was my grandmother's uncle. His wife ran the store after he died. I called her affectionately Aunt Birdie. Aunt Birdie was my babysitter. So Grandma would drop me off with Aunt Birdie. Well, here I am two, three years old and I'm with Aunt Birdie at the store all day. I got to meet all the older – I know a lot of people knew me, as well as I knew them at an early age just because of the simple fact that I was in that store all day as a child. Which was kind of cool, you know, I knew a lot of people growing up.
Newtown is a place, but the people is what made Newtown for me growing up. Like I said we had my Aunt Birdie, Mr. Humphrey, we had the Jenkins Grocery, Miss Curry – she’s still alive but she was a neighbor across the street. You know, she looked out for the community and if somebody was doing wrong, you know, she going step to you and tell you that you were doing wrong. And you needed people like that, you know, it takes a village to raise a child. And I would definitely say the village of Newtown is what made me the man that I am today.
The people that I say that made the Newtown that I grew up in, died. The people that came to replace them are not the same people, which in turn leads us to a different community. Now it's not the same community in which I grew up where everybody was tight knit.
We used to have an Easter Parade growing up. Oh my God, that was the pinnacle for Newtown. It was every Easter, we'd have a parade and it started over by, I want to say, Orange Ave. And it’d come all the way in and finish here (near the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex). And that was our annual thing, and you’d just get to see people you hadn't seen in a year, or maybe years. I mean, I was in college trying to come back home just to get to the Easter Parade because it was just that meaningful to all of us that that grew up here.
The Easter Parade no longer exists now. The people are changed now, you know the kids are a little more violent, you know, you’ve got to hire more police security. From my understanding, some of the people that I’ve talked to said that there's a lot of hurdles to jump now in order to get it done, it’s not as easy as it once was.
I love Newtown but I don’t want to live there anymore. You also have to remember, one of my goals was to get out of Newtown so why would I get out and then come and move back, that would defeat its purpose for me.
I’ll say it this way, the best way I can put it. I don’t see no $400,000 houses in Newtown. I’ll say it this way: I can afford to live in Bradenton, some people can’t afford that. And I hope that’s not arrogant, that’s just the blessing that God has bestowed upon me. So I’m not puffing my chest out, I say that from a humble standpoint.
For me, there’s no other place I would have rather grown up, this was a great place to grow up. I made some great friends and they’re still my friends. All I can say is, I’ll hold Newtown very dear in my heart and that’s forever.
Telling Tampa Bay Stories is an annual series WUSF has produced for the past four years that highlights different communities around the region people may not always hear about. We tell these stories with help from the people who call these places home. This year focuses on Newtown, one of the first African American communities in Sarasota.
The series is produced in partnership with University of South Florida journalism students. WUSF reporter Stephanie Colombini and USF student journalist Jakob Kelly contributed to this story. Conversations were recorded at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex in Newtown.