Monday, January 20, 2020

A Day of Healing in St. Augustine, But More Work Remains to Be Done Here. Now.

So proud of my town today, celebrating the holiday for the birthday of martyred Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once called St. Augustine "the most lawless city in America."

He was arrested here on June 11, 1964 for seeking to eat lunch in the Monson Motor Lodge, site of the Bayfront Hilton today.  A week later, sixteen rabbis were arrested there for praying, largest mass arrest of rabbis in U.S. history.

St. Augustine was run by the KKK then, with racist Police Chief Virgil Stuart and racist Sheriff Lawrence O. Davis deputizing KKK members -- repeatedly found to be illegal by federal courts.

The featured speaker was the eloquent Rev. Dr. Juana Jordan, the African-American woman pastor of the First United Methodist Church, where African-Americans were once arrested for trespassing for wanting to go to church.

The commemoration took place in the Plaza de la ConstituciĆ³n, where Jim Crow segregationists tried to murder Rev. Andrew Young, our future UN Ambassador, and where segregationist lawyer and Birmingham church bomber J.B. Stoner preached hate to KKK members deputized by Sheriff Lawrence O. Davis.

Mayor Ad Interim Tracy Upchurch gets it.  The scion of a segregationist grandfather who walked out of the 1964 Democratic Convention with Dixiecrats led by Strom Thurmond, Tracy Upchurch spoke of healing today at the band gazebo, in the Plaza de la Constitucion, a place where slaves were oncer sold.

Like former Mayors Nancy Shaver, Joseph Lester Boles, Jr. and George Gardner, Mayor Upchurch makes me proud to live here whenever issues of race and discrimination are discussed.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud of St. Augustine's progress, but we need to do more.

Voting rights are violated.  There's no early voting location in St. Augustine.  None.  Election Supervisor Vicky Oakes refuses to open one, rejecting my requests since 2010.  This violates the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as does the City of St. Augustine's annexations of ares at the demand of developers, reducing minority voting strength from 25% to 11%.

Wages are low, affordable housing is nonexistent, employers underpay workers, unions are discouraged and minorities, women and GLBTQIA+ people are oppressed.

St. Johns County finally fired racist, sexist, misogynist homophobe County Administrator MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK -- but replaced him without posting or advertising the position, replacing him as County Administrator Ad Interim with unqualified HUNTER S. CONRAD, spooner son of a conservative pastor aligned with Sheriff DAVID SHOAR.  Then rebarbative racist Governor RONALD DION DeSANTIS replaced CONRAD with St. Johns County Republican Chair BRANDON PATTY, without posting or advertising the position.

Is segregation is now de facto instead of de jure?

You tell me.

City of St. Augustine and State of Florida leases to business owners along St. George Street must be monitored to assure compliance with civil rights laws.  See Burton v. Wilmington Parking Garage Authority,  365 U.S. 715 (1961).

Expect Fair Housing Act and employment discrimination litigation if things don't change.

Expect me to continue raising these issues.

That's how God made me, my parents raised me and my dozens of mentors taught me.

Circa 1968, NAACP testers went to Southern New Jersey real estate offices.  My father passed the test.  The told dad: "Congratulations, Mr. Slavin, you're the only Realtor in. South Jersey who was willing to show a home in West Berlin to a black couple."

Don't take no for an answer.  Ask questions, demand answers and expect democracy.

It's our time, our town and as LBJ said to Congress after Selma, "We SHALL overcome!"

What do y'all reckon?

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