WHEN WILL WE LEARN?
MEMO TO SOME IN JACKSONVILLE'S BLACK COMMUNITY:
Jacksonville's Black community was insulted and disrespected by not being included in the one-year planning for the city's history. That Racist disrespect, a cornerstone of Christian White American Racism, led many in the Black community, myself included, to disassociate ourselves from Jacksonville's 200th commemoration.
Others in the Black community are participating, which is their right. The Black community is not monolithic. It was not monolithic during the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and the '60s when we boycotted downtown in 1960. Yet, some of us still will not understand there is much more strength in collective togetherness than with a few individuals.
As a result of the insults, disrespect, and racism of downtown stores, the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP in 1960 conducted sit-ins which predictably led to White Racist violence and Ax Handle Saturday. We were mainly teenagers.
The following week after Ax Handle Saturday, the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and the Jacksonville Branch NAACP boycotted downtown stores. A few months later, after several months of acrimonious and many culture clashing meetings, an agreement to integrate White lunch counters was agreed upon in March of 1961.
Marjorie Meeks (Brown), the secretary of the Youth Council, and I, now students at Edward Waters College, ate at Woolworth's White lunch counters for a week so that Whites would become accustomed to seeing Blacks eating at White lunch counters. The following week saw ALL lunch counters in downtown Jacksonville integrated. Strength in numbers and the Black community using the boycott as a "tool" to fight Jacksonville's racism and bigotry.
Just because Whites pat you on the back a few times and tell you, "You are different," does not make it so. You are still subject to being called a NIGGER at any time. Do you think you are more respected by "going along to get along?"
The City of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Historical Society, and the City's Bicentennial Commission knew they would have to deal with Jacksonville's racist past and include the great legacy of Jacksonville's Black History if they were genuinely inclusive. However, by excluding the Black community-surprise surprise-irrespective of the degree they protested that exclusion, and by including a few Blacks after the fact, they figured that they would AGAIN appeal to Black egos and not have to worry about Black integrity.
Mr. Rutledge Henry Pearson: my 8th-grade American history teacher; my 9th-grade Civics teacher; the adviser to the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP during the 1960 sit-ins and Ax Handle Saturday; and my mentor, would say to his students and Youth Council members, "If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem."
For those Blacks who feel it is beneficial to "go along to get along" and who do not understand there is a Black face looking back at you in the mirror, which are you, THE SOLUTION OR THE PROBLEM?
Never mind, I know.
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Rodney. L. Hurst, Sr.