The upcoming George Zimmerman Trial, and everything that has led up to it, has changed the city of Sanford forever.
With the trial just days away, a panel of six Sanford residents from several different backgrounds talked about how they’ve been affected by it.
“We have more to offer than almost any town can and the sad thing is that’s overshadowed by one person’s decision, one night, and a moment, and the world’s focused on that, not what Sanford truly is,” said Sanford business owner Steve Flowers.
Tracie Flowers lives in Sanford with Steve Flowers, her husband, but works in tourism and marketing in Kissimmee. She shared that her coworkers are hesitant to visit her.
“My co-workers are like ‘I don’t feel comfortable going over there. I’m not going to your house after dark’ and it’s like it’s fine, I’ve never had any issues,” she explained.
We asked our panel about how the shooting of Trayvon Martin has thrust Sanford into the center of the national conversation about race.
“There is a sense of unease when somebody of my particular complexion and age is in Sanford, that’s a reality,” explained Parris Baker, a Seminole County teacher. Baker lives in Seminole County and was in Sanford during many of the rallies following Martin's death.
“I’m sorry you felt that way. I’m very sorry. Speaking for my town, I’m sorry,” Steve responded.
“One stayed one side, the other on the other side. So now we were becoming more like a community, and coming together, and when this happened, it put a damper on a lot of things,” said Historic Goldsboro Museum Executive Director Assistant Cindy Philemon. Philemon grew up in Sanford, and has lived there for decades.
Some Sanford residents blame frequent violence on the mistrust of Sanford police stemming from the Trayvon Martin shooting.
“I don’t think anyone is realizing that the kids are in an uproar in Sanford,” said Sanford Chaplain Joe Morales. Morales runs Straight Up Ministry in Sanford.
“There really needs to be an effort to engage young people,” Baker said on the topic.
“The idea of engaging young people, ideally it begins at home because those are the feelings of those parents coming through the children,” added Tracie Flowers.
Despite negative effects on the city, some of the panelists said it has forced Sanford to talk about problems that have been under the surface for far too long.
“I’ve seen what was a stalemate. This has dislodged that stalemate, and I see a movement where before we would just go our separate ways,” said Sanford Pastor Jeff Krall.
In a second installment Wednesday, the panel will further discuss what are they bracing for in the upcoming George Zimmerman Trial and why they say the ongoing legal process may actually end up being good for the city of Sanford.