More than a Year ago, Dr. Rudy F. Jamison Jr. suggested "creating" a Mural on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. Others called it a vision. But not just any Mural, but one which would have Historical and Community Significance. They decided to call it the Hope and History Mural. Rudy "ran it" by Dr. Chris Janson (Chris), the Director of the University of North Florida’s Center for Urban Education and Policy, who was "All-In," and he contacted the Talented Muralist, Nicole Holderbaum, who immediately bought into the project. Rudy, who works with Chris in the Center, and, with me along for the ride, went to work on the Mural Concept. They decided to base the Mural on Ax Handle Saturday and the 1960 Sit-ins, using my book, “It was never about a hot dog and a Coke!”, and some of the images from the book.
Ax Handle Saturday and the 1960 Sit-ins by the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP, are two seminal Civil Rights Events in the history of Jacksonville, that few know about. With the exception of the local Black press, the Florida Star at the time, the traditional local press blacked out ALL local news about this Infamous and violent event, which saw 200 Racist thugs attack Black High school students, peacefully "sitting in" at heretofore White lunch counters, with Ax Handles and Baseball bats, while the police initially did nothing.
I wrote my book chronicling my personal account of the White Lunch Counter sit-ins both, as the President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP, and as one of the leaders of the White Lunch Counter sit-ins. It has become a history book of sorts, since you will only find some of the accounts of what really happened leading up to the event, the accounts of that day, and the fall-out afterwards, in the book.
Black Youths, mostly high school students from the 4 Black Segregated high schools in Jacksonville, and one White Florida State student who later joined them, confronted the Racism of Jacksonville in 1960 using the visual vestiges of Racism and Segregation embodied in White lunch counters. They represented the emerging Black Youth Leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, and later of this country.
Chris and Rudy recruited 25 high school students, with the permission of their parents, and with the assistance of public school teacher, Dr.Mai Keisling. Many of the students were about the same age as many of us who were "sit-inners." Chris and the Center purchased copies of my book for the students...I started explaining to them “what really happened” ...meetings and sessions with Chris and Rudy and me and the students and their parents.were held at various venues, including the University of North Florida..they walked in Hemming Park, one of the sites of Ax Handle Saturday...and the up close and personal education about Ax Handle Saturday began for these future leaders of tomorrow.
The Hope and History (Ax Handle Saturday) Mural was officially dedicated on Saturday, August 25, 2018 as a part of the 58th Commemoration of the 1960 Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP Sit-ins and Ax Handle Saturday. That was a milestone and the culmination of Rudy’s idea...his Vision...and his work with Chris and Nicole and Bruce Moye of the Eastside Brotherhood, formerly on Florida Avenue, renamed to A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, and the enlightening assistance of Hope McMath.
Yesterday, the very talented Nicole Holderbaum, who was the Lead Muralist, pulled together an effort which she called “We Rise” with Bruce and Dawn Weston (Co-ordinator of the Melanin Market), and the Jacksonville Art Community using the site of the Hope and History Mural, at the Eastside Brotherhood Building. It featured artists, and singers with an enclosed stage for them to perform, and spoken word artists who also performed on stage, and muralists, and various vendors and a food van.
Yesterday..."We Rise"... was a Happening...an Event... which focused on the positive aspects of “Out East” while bringing together Black people and Brown people and White people on the "Avenue"...at the corner of Jessie St. It was something to behold. While not sounding overly idealistic, When Good people get together to do Good things, Most Times, Good things happen. The Struggle Continues!