Thank you Stetson Kennedy Foundation. It is an honor. Thank you Sandy Arpen, Tracey Arpen, and the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society, as the Hosts of my presentation last night February 18, 2021.
Last night, before the Third Thursday Lecture (which was amazing!), we were honored to have the Stetson Kennedy Foundation present their annual award to our speaker, Rodney Hurst. The mission of the SKF is:
“to do all that we can to help carry forward mankind's unending struggle for human rights in a free, peaceful, harmonious, democratic, just, humane, bounteous and joyful world, to nurture our cultural heritages, and to faithfully discharge our commitment of stewardship over Mother Earth and all her progeny.”
Tracey Arpen presented the award on behalf of Sandra Parks and the Board of Directors of the organization. It is a prestigious award and we congratulate Mr. Hurst. The presentation follows:
“In case some of you aren’t familiar with Stetson Kennedy, he was a fascinating character who spent his entire adult life fighting for human rights, including infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s. He worked with Zora Neale Hurston and others in the Federal Writers Project to gather and preserve Florida’s history, culture and folklore.
He lived in the Fruit Cove area at a place named Beluthahatchee, where his friend Woody Guthrie was a visitor. He died in 2011.
Since 2007 the Stetson Kennedy Foundation has presented the Fellow Man and Mother Earth Award to recognize an individual's outstanding achievement in promoting environmental kinship, human rights or the preservation of traditional culture.
The Foundation recognizes and honors Rodney Hurst for his outstanding achievement as a civil rights activist, award winning author, community leader and black historian! If courage and leadership were also criteria for the award, Rodney would be even more deserving.
In 1960, at just 16 years old, Rodney was President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP. He and others led the sit-in demonstrations in downtown Jacksonville just months after the sit-ins in Greensboro and Nashville. He was there on Ax Handle Saturday on August 27, 1960. Because of the local “blackout” of news of the demonstration and attacks, Rodney’s book “It was never about a hot dog and a Coke,” detailing his eyewitness account is the only historically accurate description of the 1960 Jacksonville sit-ins and Ax Handle Saturday.
For over 60 years now, Rodney has been a fighter for equal rights and a chronicler of the struggle to achieve them. Stetson Kennedy knew Rodney and always appreciated the risk and courage that he and other activists took in the 60s. Stetson also appreciated that he wrote about it! Stetson appreciated Rodney's leadership role as a young member of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and his leadership role as it continues in the Jacksonville community today.
Rodney. L. Hurst, Sr.