Commission Chair Carolyn J. Mason has been selected to receive the 2015 Lifetime Freedom Award from the NAACP’s Sarasota County Branch

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Commission Chair Mason to receive
local NAACP’s Lifetime Freedom Award


SARASOTA COUNTY – Commission Chair Carolyn J. Mason has been selected to receive the 2015 Lifetime Freedom Award from the NAACP’s Sarasota County Branch, it was announced this week.


The award is presented annually to “an individual with a verifiable history of community service and civic activism focused on the preservation and protection of civil and human rights,” according to the organization.


Mason is a Sarasota native who grew up in the Rosemary District, historically an African-American community. She said she has seen tremendous progress in racial issues and civil rights in the county in her lifetime, and she has played a large role by serving on both the Sarasota City Commission and Sarasota County Commission.


“I’m happy I’ve been able to play a part, to give back to a community that’s given me a whole lot,” Mason said.


Her first involvement in civic activism came in the 1980s as a columnist for the minority-focused Tempo News, where she tried to introduce Sarasota’s arts and cultural scene to black residents who until then had been largely excluded.

Later, during her time on the city commission, she spearheaded Sarasota Openly Addresses Racism (SOAR), an annual panel discussion on race that brought together representatives from many different segments of the community.

“I like to think I provided a bridge to connect people,” Mason said. “Once you build that bridge, it doesn’t end. We still have some work to do. But we know better how to deal with issues today. Continual dialogue is key.”


Mason served on the city commission from 1999-2003, including a stint as mayor from 2001-03. In 2008, she became the first African-American elected to the Sarasota County Commission. Now in her second term, she serves as the chair.


Mason has been the commission’s representative with various organizations, including the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, the Community Action Agency, the Enterprise Zone Development Agency, the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council and the CareerSource Suncoast Board of Directors. She has also previously worked for Habitat for Humanity Sarasota and the Salvation Army.
She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Human the Human Development Award for Community Service by the Westcoast Center for Human Services, the Woman of Color Award, the NAACP Freedom Award, the “She Knows Where She’s Going Award” from Girls Inc., and the Freedom Fighter Award, Southern Christian Leadership Conference Manatee/Sarasota Chapter. But the latest recognition is every bit as special, she said.
“That’s an honor from the community where I’ve grown up and lived most of my life,” Mason said. “I’m just humbled.”


Mason is scheduled to receive the honor at the 30th Annual Freedom Awards Banquet on Oct. 8 in Sarasota.

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