By Charles Moseley (8/4/2010)

Isadore Mizell was a Black pioneer who came to Dania Beach, Florida at the turn of the 19th century. The family patriarch was born in 1882, 17 years after the Civil War ended. He lived to be 102 and his wife Minnie lived to be 98 and they raised 14 children on the family farm. And so began a real life story of an African American family’s pursuit of the “American Dream.” The Mizell families refused to let the vestiges of segregation in the Jim Crow South deter them from achieving their dreams.

Generations representing the Mizell family past and present converged in Fort Lauderdale for their family reunion recently in a celebration of life and family achievement unparalleled by few families in recent memory. Public officials and local residents joined at the Old Dillard Museum on Saturday, July 3lst to pay tribute to Don Mizell, a Grammy Award winning music producer, and the Mizell family for its numerous contributions toward the betterment of Broward County.

From the very beginning Isadore Mizell set an example for his children to follow based on hard work. He worked from,” can’t see in the morning til can’t see at night,” as one family member put it. And his children grew up expecting no less than the opportunity to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage. Ethel Pappy 93 was the seventh child born to Isadore and Minnie, one of six girls and eight boys who learned first-hand what it meant to be a Mizell in a house where God, family, hard work, and education were the order of the day. Pappy, a retired school teacher with over 40 years with the Broward County Public School System, earned her undergraduate degree in Education from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama and her Master of Arts Degree in Education from Columbia University in New York City. She also proudly proclaimed having taught Sunday school for 50 years at First Baptist Piney Grove Church.

“My father owned one of the largest farms in Dania Beach and raised cabbages on five acres of land. As children we worked on the farm every day before school and after school. If we were not working on the farm we were in school and on Sunday morning you had better be in Sunday school,” said Pappy.

The elder Mizell also was a builder and is credited with building the first school that Black students attended in Broward County located in Dania Beach in addition to building St. Ruth’s Missionary Baptist Church, located in Dania Beach, the first Black Church built in Broward County. His brother Ivory Mizell built the first library for Black students before the county had a library system.

The Mizell family produced a number of Black professionals including a doctor, a lawyer, photographer, minister, mortician, teachers, and quite a few business owners. As one family member stated, “ During those days a Mizell delivered you when you were born, educated you in school, married you when you got married, photographed your wedding , took care of you when you were sick, prayed for you when you needed prayer, and buried you when you passed on.”

Don Mizell was recognized for winning a Grammy as co-producer for the Ray Charles recording titled, Genius Loves Company in 2005… He took time out during the ceremony to pay special tribute to his late uncle, Dr. Von D. Mizell, one of the better known members of the Mizell family. Mizell was the first Black surgeon in Broward County and co-founded Provident Hospital in the 1940’s, because Blacks were not allowed to be treated at Broward General Hospital. Mizell was a champion in the civil rights movement who established the local Fort Lauderdale NAACP. He fought hard to gain public access for Blacks including leading the so-called “Wade-In” on Fort Lauderdale Beach in the early 1960’s to help force Whites to integrate the City’s public beach.

“Having experienced this family gathering, I have gained a vision for the future and plan to play a role in how my family legacy is pre-served and how I can use that legacy to achieve some things on a large scale in the area,” said honoree Mizell.

Broward County Commissioner Albert Jones joined Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bobby Dubose to present official proclamations to the Mizell Family which proclaimed July 31, as “Don Mizell Appreciation Day” and “Mizell Family Legacy Appreciation Day.” Local jazz recording artist Nicole Henry and Miami native Jo Marie Payton, co-star of the television sitcom titled, “Family Matters” paid tribute to the Mizell Family.

“Me having my roots in Dania Beach where the Mizell Clan began and certainly to the many lives who they’ve touched today in all aspects and quality of life from giving medical care, being the co-founder of Provident Hospital, being able to provide civic duties to the community and not forgetting from whence they came, as far as the NAACP. They played a vital part in the civil rights movement- a movement when they went into the Wade-Ins on Fort Lauderdale Beach that allowed us to come from the Black Beach in Dania. It all started with Isadore Mizell and came down throughout the Mizell family, even until today,” said Commissioner Jones.

Actress Jo Marie Payton spoke of the true meaning of family and was particularly proud to be a part of the pro-gram. She addressed the audience by challenging them to remain focused on the family. She said that it was important to ensure that young people were aware of their family history. She said she had come away with a renewed commitment to promoting family and children.

“The Mizell Family Reunion has reinforced how important it is to have family support and cooperation as far as achievement, contributions, and pride,” said Payton.