JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It's official! The ribbon is cut and Freedom Park in Arlington is now home to the first marker commemorating a Gullah Geechee community in Jacksonville.
The park is at the intersection of McCormick and Fort Caroline Roads and includes a part of history that is often overlooked.
The Gullah Geechee are direct descendants of slaves who settled there and Jacksonville is said to have the largest concentration of their descendants in the country. After Emancipation they established self-sufficient communities like Cosmo, the historic Gullah Geechee community in East Arlington.
In the center of Freedom Park is a monument to honor and commemorate the history and the descendants of these people who live there and to honor veterans experiencing PTSD.
First Coast News spoke with Wendy Truitt Smith who says after her dear friend Reverend Ethel Demps passed away, her father took up the mission of preserving this history.
She says the park opening is bittersweet because her father doesn't get to see it. First Coast News asked what her father would say to her if he could see the park now.
"He would say, 'This is only the start!'" she said. "If we can do this we can do everything that Reverend Demps envisioned. So we look forward to re-creating the cabin, getting the museum, having the nature trail."
There is a Cosmo cultural celebration starting at 11:00 a.m. at the park Saturday.