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Charlotte G. Durante. 1986 Charlotte Gilmore Durante (Charlotte G. Durante) (aka Mama Charlotte)(born April 19, 1944 in Forkland, Alabama) was elected in 1978 the first African American woman City Commissioner in Delray Beach, Florida. The City of Delray Beach is located in the southern part of the east coast of the State of Florida in Palm Beach County. Contents 1 Early Life 2 Education 3 Professional Career & Community Involvement 4 "Mama Charlotte" Moniker 5 Controversy-Arrest-News Media's Role 6 References 7 External links Early Life Charlotte Gilmore Durante was born and raised on a cotton farm in Forkland, Alabama in Greene County. Her mother was Claretter Bryant Gilmore. In Alabama, they were members of the Old Green Oak Baptist Church in Forkland. She is the youngest daughter of 8 siblings born to their devout Christian mother Claretter Gilmore. Charlotte Gilmore Durante was named after her grandmother. Durante comes from a Civil Rights Family in Alabama. Her nephew is Dr. Rev. Thomas Gilmore who was the first African American Sheriff in Greene County, Alabama during racial strife of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Gilmore served as one of the aides to Dr. Martin Luther King and King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. A film starring Lou Gossett, Jr. was produced in the 1970s about Dr. Thomas Gilmore's feats. The movie was released under two different titles: The Sheriff Without a Gun; and The Man Who Stands Alone. Dr. Gilmore and Durante were both raised on the same cotton farm by Claretter Gilmore. Education Charlotte Gilmore Durante excelled in school and attended the historically black college Tuskegee Institute where she earned a Bachelor's degree in nutrition. While at Tuskegee, Durante participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches which protested the harsh Jim Crow laws that plagued Alabama. She pledged the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority at Tuskegee Institute. Following her graduation from Tuskegee, Durante earned a Master's Degree in Nutrition from Penn State University. Professional Career & Community Involvement In 1967, Charlotte Gilmore Durante married Kenneth Durante and they made Delray Beach, Florida their permanent home where they raised their two children named Tony and Lori. Charlotte's husband was formerly a traveling waiter during the era of legal segregation where he waited tables at Whites-only resorts in the Northeast and exclusive White's only restaurants in Delray Beach and Boca Raton, Florida. The "traveling-waiter-circuit" consisted of African American men who traveled from coast to coast each season working as waiters at upscale restaurants during segregation. Once settled in Delray Beach, the Durante's were the second African American family to join a historic white church in the area that was established by German settlers of the town. Following the principles of the Civil Rights Movement about racial harmony, the Durante family were integrationist in Delray Beach, Florida. She and her husband became successful business owners. In 1970, they owned the first racially integrated child care center named Kenland College for Tots that included racial integration among the staff and also racial integration among the children who attended the school in Delray Beach and Palm Beach County, Florida. The school was awarded oustanding by SCORE because of its campus design, operation and curriculum. The success of the school led Charlotte and her husband to open a children's clothing store name for their children Tony & Lori. It was the first African American owned business to open in the former Delray Beach Mall in Delray Beach, Florida. In 1974, Charlotte Gilmore Durante opened the first black-owned real estate company, Durante Realty, in Delray Beach and southern Palm Beach County, Florida. In 1985, she owned the first black-owned State Farm Insurance Agency in Delray Beach and southern Palm Beach County which was also the first State Farm Insurance Agency owned by an African American woman in all of Palm Beach County. She was honored by State Farm with the "New Agent of the Year" Award. By the 1990s, she and her husband were the largest African American business owners in Palm Beach County, operating numerous businesses. The Durante's were among the American Black Upper Class in South Florida. A racially integrated staff was prevalent in their businesses. Her community involvement included being the first African American in Delray Beach and/or Palm Beach County and/or the State of Florida to join the Delray Beach Kiwanis; the first African American to serve on the boards of the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Delray Beach Community Hospital, the South Palm Beach County Mental Health Center; the Delray Beach Sister Cities International and the first African American on the board of the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. In 1993, Durante founded the Palm Beach County Chapter of Jack and Jill (organization) which is a national cultural and civic organization for children of The black elite. In the 1990, Charlotte Gilmore Durante also became instrumental in leading efforts to revitalize the historic black business district in Delray Beach known as West Atlantic Avenue. She helped to found the now-defunct Peach Umbrella Plaza Association.[5] In Durante's consistent belief that African Americans can best build their wealth and yield political power through real estate ownership, in early 2000, she organized the first African American investment club in Palm Beach County, the Phoenix Group, which made history when they purchased an entire front-block on West Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Charlotte Durante is also the founding editor of The Village Beat which is the second African American newspaper in Palm Beach County and the first African American newspaper to cover news county-wide. Because of Durante's community activism, in the September/October 1993 issue of Boca Raton Magazine, she was selected as Six Women Who Make A Difference. In 1993, the Junior League of Boca Raton selected her as one of the finalist for the 1994 Woman Volunteer of the Year Award. She was the first African American to be nominated for that award although she did not win. The Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens submitted Durante for the Junior League honor. In 2007, Charlotte G. Durante and her daughter Lori became the second and third African Americans to join the historic Boynton Woman's Club in Boynton Beach, Florida, a civic woman's group, famous for its historic pink building, established more than 100 years ago. Their membership in the exclusive predominantly white group also marked the first time a mother and daughter joined the club together. "Mama Charlotte" Moniker In the 1980s, Haitians from the Island of Haiti began immigrating to South Florida and often arrived by boat on the shores of Delray Beach, Florida. All came to South Florida to escape the crushing poverty in their black Island home. They were viewed as low-class black foreigners from a poor black country therefore they were greeted with harsh discriminiation and racism in America. In Delray Beach, Charlotte Durante provided endearing support for these Haitian immigrants with housing and jobs. Haitians were even allowed to enroll their children in Durante's child care center Kenland Academy (formerly Kenland College for Tots). And, Durante hired them in various job positions in the businesses she owned with her husband including hiring them in front desk and managerial jobs. These Haitian immigrants named her "Mama Charlotte" because of the unwavering support she gave to them. Durante explained that she helped these Haitian immigrants because she observed the discrimination they were experiencing that reminded her of the painful discrimination during her youth in segregated Alabama. Controversy-Arrest-News Media's Role On May 26, 2010, the Police Department of the City of Delray Beach arrested Charlotte Gilmore Durante regarding charges that have not been proven true in court. The charges from the Attorney General's Office of the State of Florida pertain to investments with her real estate company. Durante is facing 59 counts and there are an alleged 83 investors as witnesses regarding $1.89 million. She is among a few African Americans in the history of State of Florida to be charged with these many counts for an alleged financial crime. The bail was set at $503,000. Charlotte Gilmore Durante is a community servant with no prior arrest record thus her bail is among the highest in the State of Florida and the nation. Pleas have been made to the court that the bond is excessive. According to court documents, Charlotte Gilmore Durante has proclaimed her innocence in the court of law and stated that she does not know 83 investors. If convicted of the alleged crime, she could face 140 years in prison.[1][2] [3][4] At the time of her arrest at the Delray Beach Police Department, the police and the Florida Attorney's office sent a press release to the Associated Press that gained international traction. The press releases were emailed to the news media before Durante had been booked in the Palm Beach County jail and before she appeared in court to enter her plea. No one in the news media has ever interviewed Charlotte Durante about the charges and allegations prior to publishing news reports that implied wrongdoing by Durante. No trial has been held yet. As a result of the high bond that requires a Nebbia hearing, Charlotte Gilmore Durante still remains in the Palm Beach County Jail. The presiding Judge is John Kastrenakes, a former U.S. Attorney. Famously, as a U.S. Attorney, Kastrenakes prosecuted then-Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty (Florida politician). Shortly afterwards, then-Florida Governor Charlie Crist appointed him Judge in the Palm Beach County Judicial Circuit. To remain a Judge, they have to be re-elected by registered voters of Palm Beach County. Nearly 50 letters have been sent to Judge from family and friends of Charlotte Durante about her life, Civil Rights activities, her character and her Christian beliefs. Likewise, Durante also has written letters to the court and Judge Kastrenakes and about how she helped Haitian immigrants when they were discriminated against all while also recounting in those letters her innocence stating "…I am innocent of the charges and I don’t plea bargain with Satan, I don’t plea bargain my innocence and I am willing to, committed to, prepared to and, if necessary, will die for the sake of the truth and to defend my innocence." According to court records, Durante has proclaimed that the police detective falsified evidence against her for political reasons and not based on proven criminal activity. Because of Durante's steadfast plea of innocence against overwhelming criminal charges, she has been viewed as a martyr. Judge Kastrenakes has refused all requests for a reasonable bail thereby ensuring beliefs in both the African American and White communities that Durante's arrest and excessive bail are politically-inspired, racially-motivated and a high-tech lynching. In reaction, nearly $10,000 was raised with donations from the community for Durante's legal defense. Durante's track record as a community leader and her political activism has been described as a "fighter for the little guy" often making her an agitator of popular political positions especially pertaining to her help of poor immigrants and African Americans with increasing their landownership in neighborhoods or districts in Delray Beach, Florida that the local government wanted to gentrify. Thus, some have considered her a political prisoner in Palm Beach County, Florida because of the arrest with an excessive bail especially when she had no prior criminal record. Much suspicion has developed about a December 6, 2008 news story that aired on WPBF Ch. 25. The reporter was Terri Parker who has never interviewed Charlotte G. Durante but orchestrated an ambush-style news story against Durante about alleged criminal activity. Reportedly, Parker acted on a false information from the police detective and office of Florida's State of Attorney in Palm Beach County. At the time of the airing of the news story, Durante was unaware of a criminal investigation. References This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. Please improve this article by introducing more precise citations where appropriate. (June 2011) 1. May 26, 2010 - Sun Sentinel Newspaper 2. May 26, 2010 - The Palm Beach Post 3. May 27, 2010 - The Sun-Sentinel 4. May 27, 2010 - The Palm Beach Post 5. September/October 1993 - Boca Raton Magazine 6. May 26–27, 2010 - The Associated Press 7. December 6, 2008 - MSNBC 8. Clerk of the Court - Palm Beach County, Florida External links