Monday, October 21, 2019

Black Bottom House of Prayer Historic Preservation Dinner

Pastor Dana "Action" Jackson has a dream. The Black Bottom House of Prayer (921 Bentley St Orlando Fl) has been abandoned for years, falling into disrepair to the point that the the red-tiled roof leaks and needs to be replaced. Once the roof is replaced then renovation can begin inside.

In 1916 a few black families settled in an area of Orlando called Black Bottom. The name came from the fact that when it rained, water settled and remained for so long that residents had to use canoes for transportation. Before the church was built families worshiped in neighborhood homes.

Construction of the church began in 1925 and was financed through a stock purchase from the Orange County Building and Loan Association. Thirty shares were purchased at $100 per share, for a total of $3,000. It was designed in the popular Spanish Mission Style with exterior stucco finish, arched doorways, and casement windows. The thick brick and stucco walls were thought to have a cooling effect in the Florida sun in the days before air conditioning. The building, now 92 years old, is possibly the oldest church building in Orlando's black community.

Action Jackson fought hard and won to approve the building for historic preservation. Once that designation is established, guidelines prohibit the property from being destroyed. She is now praying for the community’s support in restoring the church. Normal wear and tear over the past 92 years have taken their toll, but Jackson’s most immediate focus is on securing help in replacing the roof over the sanctuary. “Estimates to complete the renovation come in at around $250,000,” Jackson said. “It’s a large, but not impossible amount to raise. We welcome angelic underwriting and favor.”

Pam Schwartz was invited to speak at a fundraiser for the renovations and I joined her to sketch the occasion. Evangelist Patricia A. Akshabazz presided. There was an invocation and then commissioner Regina Hill of District 5 welcomed everyone. In the midst of one dignitary's praise for the project Dana and the crowd burst into dance and song. Joy and exuberance rushed through the crowd as they celebrated to raise the roof!

Takeriya and Queen, who are action Jackson's grand daughters, bravely gave a dance routine involving twirling batons called Miracle Worker, by Youthful Praise and JJ Harston. They faltered a bit but members of the congregation got up to dance with them and coach them to the finale. Pam spoke about the importance of preserving history and how the Orange Regional County History Center is working to preserve everyone's story. After a blessing of the food, each table got up in turn to load their plates with a chicken, macaroni, collared greens, and corn bread dinner. 

A basket appeared on the stage and everyone was encouraged to donate towards the $250,000 goal for the roof repair. Checks can be made at Chase Bank to the following account, ASPAP Law PLLC IOLTA Account - 3883990897. The memo section of the check should mention Black Bottom House of Prayer. Donations may be sent to The Black Bottom House of Prayer, PO Box 547882, Orlando, FL 32854. If any information is needed call 407-285-0415. Considering a billion dollars was raised to help rebuild Notre Dame after its fire, it seems reasonable to hope that enough can be raised to help put a new roof on this Orlando historic gem. Action Jackson hopes to restore the the building as a place of healing, help, and hope for Orlando's Parramore community.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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