Swimming Against the Tide

Hallandale Beach's black community, ignored for years, loses another round

Although the black Dixie Pool has been closed for ten years, its memory remains a prime symbol of the racial discontent simmering below the surface of this placid community. After closing the facility for repairs in 1992, the city hired a consultant to prepare a study of the condition of both the Dixie and the city pools. Both were in deplorable shape. Each required about $300,000 in repairs. Glass says the city had neglected the black pool for years. She suspects it was allowed to fall into disrepair because the city wanted to close it. When the city made the inevitable decision to repair only the white pool, a group of black residents, including Glass, tried to raise money to save their facility. But they failed to collect enough.

In 1997, after a survey, the city spent a more economical $143,000 to build a 141-foot-long, 85-foot-wide outdoor skating rink and a quarter-mile fitness trail on the site. "At the time, the city went to residents [to ask what should replace the pool]," recreation director Jeffrey Maftal explains. "There was no consensus on anything, so the city decided a skating area would be good."

The rink opened with a lot of hoopla, and ten pairs of skates were raffled off to area youngsters. Since then, though, the rink has not been popular. On a recent Monday afternoon, it was padlocked. It's now open only two days a week. In September 2000, Maftal again asked residents what they would like at the site. Although it wasn't an option, 166 of the 262 who responded wrote "swimming pool" onto the survey as their number one choice.

The white pool
Michael McElroy
The white pool

Part of the problem, says the Rev. Joe Johnson of Ebenezer Baptist Church, is that, in residents' minds, the skating rink was done for the northwest; the idea didn't arise there. That's what happens, he believes, when you have a city commission that doesn't live in your community or share your history. "I don't argue with the pool being closed down. It may have been the right thing," Johnson says. "But the problem is, like with the skating rink, [city commissioners] make decisions about what they think people want rather than what people actually want." Community meetings to solicit ideas, he says, aren't enough. "You can't just drive through or come to a meeting and know what a community wants, know what's best for it. You have to live with people, know the people, and be in fellowship with them."

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