SARASOTA - Dozens attended the first ever Newtown Alive panel discussion at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Guest speakers brought to light stories of growing up as African American children in the Selby and Payne residences while their parents worked. ‘Newtown Alive’ author Vickie Oldham says despite the kids growing up during the Civil Rights movement and a time of turmoil, they enjoyed an idyllic upbringing on both properties.

“The intent is to let people know about black presence here. A lot of times the institutions that are here forget, or didn’t know the stories of African American history at their particular institution so we are here to share," says Oldham.

She says the message of the gardens being a safe space of love and warmth is still relevant today. The project is funded by the City of Sarasota and Oldham’s book is an adaptation of her research report based off 400 primary and secondary source documents rich in Sarasota’s history.