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Colonel Gorham Black (U.S. Army, retired) is fourth-generation military. Several members of his family have impressive military records. His father was only the thirteenth African-American colonel since the inception of the U.S. Army. “I’m a military brat, so I lived in the military for the first 20 years of my life, until I graduated college. Then, I went into the military for 27 [years], so I was 47 years old and had done nothing but militaristic-type things. [My parents taught us] to be Boy-Scoutish: kind, considerate, cheerful, thrifty, clean, brave… I’m not a fixer, but I really like to see things change for the better.”
Gorham, like many who retire to Florida, was tired of the snow, and he had a family connection in the area. He and his wife found their dream home and moved from Fort Meade in Maryland to Ocala in 2010. Almost right away, Gorham got involved in a prison ministry at Lowell Correctional Institution.
From there, he joined The Bridges Project of Ocala/Marion County. “Bridges was supposed to be just what the word says. It was supposed to bridge the gap between the Black and White populations of Ocala/Marion County. And what we were gonna do was look at the things that are precluding this bridge from existing.” One of the first projects the group took on was to successfully lobby to move the Confederate flag from the Marion County Governmental Complex to a museum in 2016. They have since commissioned studies on gun violence in present-day Marion County and on the history of lynching. (The study found 23 lynchings, the most of any Florida county.) They also have a goal of erecting a memorial to the lynching victims.
Gorham is a member of several organizations: The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the Military Officers of the World War (MOWW), and the Marion County Veterans Council. Through his volunteering, he has noticed a lot of redundancy. He convinced disparate groups, who were providing backpacks to needy children, to drop them off in one place to be disbursed evenly. “I’m trying to get rid of these silos,” he says, referring to his efforts to get groups with a common cause to work together.
This month, Gorham will be giving two workshops, which will include controversial topics, through the Master the Possibilities (MTP) Lifelong Learning Education Center at On Top of the World. (Non-members are welcome to attend for an additional fee.) “I hope that people can share their disbelief, beliefs, imagined beliefs, and let’s discuss it. If I can take one person and turn them around in their thought process and deeds, I will have been successful.”
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