It is good to see that the Southeast Denton Neighborhood Association continues to thrive with a new leader — we commend Colette Johnson for her willingness to take the helm.
Johnson took over for Caroline Phillips, a longtime advocate for Southeast Denton, who died last September. Phillips helped start SEDNA back in the 1990s to give neighborhood residents a way to voice their opinions and keep track of what was going on in and out of the community.
Phillips cared deeply for the neighborhood and its people, and she had to be a tough act to follow, but Johnson appears to have what it takes to keep the community pulled together.
As she took the reins at SEDNA, Johnson vowed to honor Phillips’ wishes and plans for the organization while crafting her own ideas and plans to help keep the neighborhood relevant, informed and vibrant as Denton continues to grow and change.
“I wasn’t there straight in the beginning of it back in the 1990s, but I did start coming and getting involved,” Johnson recalled. “I became secretary, so I was like Caroline’s right-hand person.”
It was important work. The Southeast Denton neighborhood had fought to reclaim its residents’ identity after city leaders ordered African-Americans to move from the Quakertown neighborhood to create a city park.
Quakertown had been a thriving black community beginning in the 1880s, with Denton’s first black physician, a grocery store, restaurants, a tailor’s shop, churches and a school. By 1923, Civic Center Park had displaced the heart of the neighborhood.
In 2006 the park was renamed Quakertown Park, but officials still fought to clean up old property liens and other problems in the area. The park received a state historical marker last year.
Phillips led many of the efforts to restore the area. But by 2012, she had begun putting out feelers to find someone who could learn the job and take over when she was gone.
“She started grooming me to take it over,” Johnson said. “When I did in 2012, she would still come to the meetings and help me out and try to guide me.”
In December 2012, Phillips became ill. It was not for another month that neighborhood residents learned just how sick she was.
Johnson recalled talking with Phillips about goals and ideas she had in mind for the neighborhood group to work toward.
Johnson said she is pursuing grants for the neighborhood and continues to work with the city and the Denton County Transportation Authority on residents’ concerns.
“I have a very good group of 20 to 25 seniors who support me 100 percent. I am trying to take it to the next level,” she said.
We look forward to seeing what Johnson and SEDNA members can accomplish as they point the organization into the future.
It is gratifying to see neighbors work together for the good of all, and SEDNA continues to set a worthy example for other community groups to follow.