Black History Fun Fact Friday – Beyond Selma: The Civil Rights Movement in Jacksonville, Florida by KE Garland

Please be sure to read my Black History article on the PBS blog.

The PBS Blog

When you think of the civil rights movement, what cities come to mind? Mobile? Birmingham? Atlanta? some place, Mississippi? How about Jacksonville, Florida? Probably not, but this southern city and its leaders were just as influential as Selma.

I found this out four years ago, when I posted this photo to my blog.

A fellow blogger noticed the background and sent it to her friend, Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Mr. Hurst contacted me about purchasing a copy and explained the meaning of the sign behind the gentlemen’s heads.

That sign is actually a historic site marker commemorating an important civil rights event in Jacksonville called, Ax Handle Saturday.

I was excited to hear about this little-known Black history fact and asked Mr. Hurst to a breakfast interview to understand more.

KG: Can you describe a little bit about what Ax Handle Saturday was and what happened? 

RH: I was…

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Thanksgiving? 🦃🍁🍂

dinner-1060352_1280Did everyone have a great Thanksgiving? I did, but something’s been bothering me over the past few days. It began when I read Tareau’s commentary. You can find it here. His description of Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering elicited some ill feelings. I was just about to sit down and enjoy half a Cornish hen, mashed potatoes and green beans that I’d prepared.

I consider myself pretty conscious. So I thought I was doing pretty good not overindulging in turkey, dressing and other common staples. Certainly, Tareau wasn’t talking to me. Was he? I know the trials and tribulations of Native Americans. Surely, I can enjoy my food and be #woke. Right?

I finished my dinner and stumbled across Darryl’s post, explicitly titled, Thanksgiving and Black Friday: The Epitome of American Culture. Was the universe trying to tell me something? Darryl very succinctly explained the irony of the American football game for the day. Well, there’s nothing I could do about NFL scheduling, so I didn’t feel as bad, but I did begin to think that maybe baking hens isn’t enough of a rebellious stance.

My next stop was Facebook. Unfortunately, I didn’t screenshot my friend’s post, but here’s a loose paraphrase:

We all know where Thanksgiving came from so stop telling everybody about the Indians. Today is a day when most of us just get together to be with family and eat food, so enjoy it the best way you know how.

On the one hand, I used to be one of those didactic people sharing all kinds of information about Native Americans and how this wasn’t a holiday for them. On the other hand, I understood what he was saying. The holiday has changed. We’re not pilgrims celebrating the deaths of indigenous people. We’re people eating food with family.

Just when I’d begun feeling okay about how I’d celebrated this year, Dwight posted four things; two were about the Dakota Pipeline and the other two? Thanksgiving origins.

We talked about it during our Sunday walk.

“You got me thinking about planning a family trip to Plymouth Rock!”
“I was thinking the same thing,” he said.

By the end of our walk, I’d decided this. Whatever I do for any holiday is fine, as long as I’m doing it consciously. This year I was mindful about the amount of food the girls and I cooked, and I’m good with that. There’s no leftover anything and I don’t have to force someone to eat turkey for seven days. Conversely, Dwight and I could have a more in-depth conversation with the girls about why there’s a so-called Thanksgiving. If we add a road trip to Massachusetts, then I’ll let you all know. But for now, that’s as far as our activism will reach.

What about you? I know the holiday is over, but I’m wondering why, how and if you celebrate? Do you consider indigenous people on this day? How active do you have to be to be an activist?

What If?

Royalty Free

What if I told you that you’re enslaved and it has nothing to do with picking cotton? Would you believe me? Every time you seek education that has nothing to do with your passion or purpose, or whenever you pay for things that you really cannot afford, then you’ve created your own 21st century slave experience. Cause that thing that you don’t want to do and can’t afford? It owns you.

What if I told you that American schools are still segregated? Would you believe me? Or would you make me open an education textbook, cite facts and statistics and validate my statement? Maybe I could invite you to visit a school that is dissimilar to your own child’s. Trust me, there’s one right in your city. Then, you might notice that de-segregation is just a concept, an illusion.

Royalty Free

What if I told you that historically black colleges and universities were initially created as means for African Americans to attain post-baccalaureate degrees that were otherwise denied by predominantly white institutions? Would you respect them as a part of black history? Would you include them as a US history lesson focused on racial progression?

What if I told you that the American housing industry was designed to keep African Americans in one concentrated area? Would you believe me? Could we discuss “white flight” as a thing? And then move on to urban sprawl and gentrification, and all the other ways that space is used to mark and re-mark racial territory. Could we discuss the concept of building circles around one another, instead of working hand-in-hand with our neighbors?

What if I told you that we could praise Madame CJ Walker’s creativity and business savvy while simultaneously criticizing how she used tools to perpetuate unnatural standards of beauty? Or would you tell me I’ve gone too far? She was a product of her environment kg. Yeah, I know. We all are.

What if I told you that you don’t have to work twice as hard to be seen as just as good as your white counterpart? Would you believe me or would you fall back on passed-down, generational myths? I promise you it’s not true. And if you find it to be so, then you might be in the wrong pocket of American society.

Royalty Free

What if I told you that when President Obama ran on “hope” and “change” eight years ago, he was also implying that we all do our parts in our own communities? Would you argue with me? Would you describe how many jobs past presidents have so-called created and how they made our American lives better? Or would you admit that it’s easier to place blame than to vote, legislate, or organize?

What if I told you that we have overcome a lot but there’s still much more to do? Would you take a day off work to figure it out? Or would you use your job as an excuse for not protesting on your capitol’s steps for better schools, stand your ground, police brutality, clean drinking water, or anything for that matter?

Would you?