Gulfport Historical Society Elects First Black Board Member

Marissa Stewart-Dix is ​​president of the Gulfport Kiwanis Club, social worker at Gulfport Elementary, and new board member of the Gulfport Historical Society. She is pictured here with her husband, Derrick Dix.
Marissa Stewart-Dix

Since its inception in the early 1980s, the Gulfport Historical Society has yet to appoint a black member to serve on one of its boards.

That’s until last month, when Marissa Stewart-Dix joined eight other members of the Gulfport Historical Society’s board of trustees. GHS operates the Gulfport History Museum and the Gulfport Arts Center soon to reopen.

She is president of the Gulfport Kiwanis Club, creator of the first official June 19 celebration in Gulfport, social worker at Gulfport Elementary, and a transplant to West Virginia.

“Being from West Virginia, a mostly white state, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time I’ve been a first; it comes naturally to me,” Stewart-Dix said. “I’m used to being in spaces where I’m the only person who looks like me.”

The GAC [2726 54th St. S.] is across Chase Park from the Gulfport History Museum (5301 28th Ave. S.) and will offer art classes, programs and events. Stewart-Dix hopes to steer the center toward programming for Gulfport’s younger generation.

I’m used to being in spaces where I’m the only person who looks like me.

“My flaw is looking through the lens of community for kids,” Stewart-Dix said.

As a board member, Dix looks forward to the potential to provide GAC scholarship opportunities, summer art camps, and long-term foundation programs for children.

“Gulfport Elementary is a Title 1 school, and I see a lot of families that don’t live in Gulfport, but they come here to have fun, they have their birthday parties on the beach…I hope some families from areas like Childs Park will benefit from our programming,” she added.

Stewart-Dix moved to Gulfport in 2017, after visiting GeckoFest.

“I thought to myself, I’ll move here when I retire,” Stewart-Dix said.

Shortly after her visit, she took a permanent trip across the country.

Stewart-Dix holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from West Virginia University and worked in Charleston, West Virginia as a social worker for a housing complex for over 55 years. She may be a busy woman with a bundle of titles, but the Gulfport resident is keen to enjoy her Florida home as much as she can.

“I spend a lot of time on the beach, especially in the summer,” Stewart-Dix said. “I am a certified spin instructor and love spending time with my dog.”

The other eight members of the GAC Board of Directors include Berkeley Grimball, Amanda Hagood, Amanda Hersem, David Kanter, Jim Thaler, Michelle Lee, Cathy Salustri Loper and Nicole Spence. Dix sits on the steering committee to reopen the Arts Center, which has a tentative reopening date this fall. GHS is currently fundraising to prepare for a proper reopening.

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