Local organization prepares to launch Black Cultural Center in Dunbar community

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Changes are coming to Roberto Clemente Park and the Lee County Black History Society (LCBHS), in part to a donation from a local partner as the organization continues its efforts to bring a Black Cultural Center to the Dunbar community in Fort Myers.

On Wednesday, Fort Myers Attorney Joe North announced he would give LCBHS $100,000 as its initial investment into partnering with the group.

“This is personal to me because I literally grew up less than 100 yards from where we are standing right now,” North told NBC2 after making the announcement. “And my home, my community has given far more to me than I’ve ever been able to give back.”

North said his contributions don’t end here.

“We want to show how we grow into that facility and how we sustain it also,” said LCBHS Chairman Charles Barnes. He explained the project has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic followed by Hurricane Ian.

Barnes told NBC2 the society is in the planning stages to hire a full-time Executive Director and other staff.

In the coming months into 2024, residents will start seeing a new ADA-compliant playground, amphitheater and basketball courts.

There is not a set timeline yet for when the $22 million Cultural Center will start construction.

“This just pushes it forward,” said LCBHS board member and Fort Myers Ward 1 Councilwoman Teresa Watkins-Brown. “Gives us the enthusiasm that all of this is going to be a reality soon.”

Watkins-Brown told NBC2 that $11 million is already set aside by the city of Fort Myers for the center. North’s donation now puts LCBHS over the halfway mark, and closer to better teaching Fort Myers history.

“Black history is our history,” said Joe North. “And without knowing our history, we don’t know the whole history, so we gotta know it.”

Barnes and Watkins-Brown said they hope to see more people and businesses partner with them to get started on the construction of the cultural center.

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