The People's Republic of Area A

A group of neighborhood leaders prepares to declare independence and start Broward's first black-majority city

But there's really no mystery, she says. What her opponents don't realize is that even with all its difficulties and challenges, the city of Eatonville -- a town founded by former slaves that struggles yet still survives -- touches something deeper in her spirit than talk of taxes and services.

Andrews knows what she means. "Of course it's a challenge," he says. "There are upsides and there are downsides. Of course. But we've managed to get along for about a hundred years now. And I think we'll continue to get along for another hundred years."

Two years ago Eugene Franklin signed onto the Broward County Civic Coalition as a representative of one of the poorest neighborhoods, Washington Park. Last year he nearly dropped out after quarreling with Major over strategy. At the time, he told friends that he didn't think the coalition would ever manage to stay together with Major in charge. Last week Franklin sat down with Joe Major and about a dozen other leaders in the sanctuary of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church on NW 27th Avenue and started planning strategy.

They talked about getting out the vote. They talked about canvassing. They talked about hinging their support for single-member districts for county commissioners (a pet issue for black elected officials) to a reciprocal support for incorporation.

Franklin, once a pessimist, has changed his mind. "If I had to wager my bets right now, I'd say we'll end up doing it," he predicts. "We have the land, we have the population, all we need to do is work out the economics. But if we collectively take our neighborhoods and say, 'This is what we want,' I don't see how anyone could stop us."

Contact Paul Belden at his e-mail address:

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