Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Peace Monument For St. Augustine, and Other Civil Rights Monuments

What will replace the 1879 Ladies' Memorial Association Confederate monument in the Plaza de la Constitucion?

Pursuant to City Code Section 28-87(10), I've requested HARB hold hearings on the memorial's removal on July 24 and August 20.  Meanwhile, as food for thoughtful reckoning:

  • How about a monument to all local Civil War veterans, as suggested by Sandra Parks, Commissioners Roxanne Horvath, John Valdes, me, et al.?
  • How about transforming the concept of a "war memorial" to erect a Peace Monument, not unlike the one that Admiral David Porter sponsored, just west of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., at Peace Circle?
Fond memories of this sculpture group with fountains, toward the beginning and end of my long walks along the Mall in Washington, D.C.   Facing the Capitol is a classical female figure, representing Peace.  Facing down Pennsylvania Avenue, toward the White House there are "two classically robed female figures. Grief holds her covered face against the shoulder of History and weeps in mourning...."   (From Architect of the Capitol website). 

  • St. Augustine needs a monument to the slaves freed here by the Emancipation Proclamation. See Dr. Susan Parker's column, 6/21.
  • We need a monument to three nuns arrested here in 1916 on orders of Florida Governor, for teaching African-Americans to read, a "crime" at the time.
  • We need a monument for the "U.S. Colored Troops," local African-American men, who helped free Fort Sumter and helped free Jacksonville and helped free slaves.  UF had a crummy design, criticized by historian David Nolan and I, and has not yet made public its response to HARB's directions in February.
  • We need to rename Francis Field to "Francis-Robinson Field" in honor of Jackie Robinson, who spoke here in 1964 and was forbidden to play baseball there in 1946.  His widow survives at age 97.
  • How about a statue honoring our namesake, Saint Augustine of Hippo, an African bishop, theologian and scholar who wrote, "An unjust law is no law at all."
  • How about a statue of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., arrested here on June 11, 1964?
  • How about a monument to the sixteen rabbis arrested here a week later?
  • How about a sculpture of Frederick Douglas, who spoke here at the Genovar Opera House on St. George Street?
  • Let's create St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore, to preserve and protect our history and nature forever, with federal protection for 130,000 acres of government land in two counties.
City Hall presided over a veritable demotion derby of our history, privatizing Dow Museum of Historic Homes, Spanish Garden, Lighthouse and grounds, Lighthouse Park Community Center/Restaurantand allowing destruction of Echo House, Carpenter's House and other historic treasures, often under false pretenses. 

We don't need to destroy any more history.

We don't need to indulge violent threats.

We don't need any of that, any more than a moose needs a hatrack. 

I agreed with Sandra Parks' proposal about altering the 1879 memorial to include all local Civil War veterans. 

I agreed with Commissioners Roxanne Horvath and John Valdes on the alternative proposed by Ms. Parks. 

Before Mayor Tracy Upchurch and Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline laid their cards on the table, there were nine hours of public comment (in-person, telephone and e-mails read by the clerk).  Why?  Something was missing.  

There was no focus on what would replace the memorial, no mature discussion of the need for healing, and instead we heard aspersions cast on the dead, e.g., draftees who were descended of 1200 indentured Minorcan, Greek, Spanish, Corsican and Italian slaves-by-contract. Half died of starvation/disease in Dr. William Turnbull's plantation at New Smyrna. The other half voted with their feet, walking here in 1777.

Commissioner John Valdes spoke eloquently of "atrocities" and history, reflecting deep understanding. 

How do we promote healing between two groups of atrocity victims -- African-Americans and Minorcans?

An all-inclusive Peace Memorial might be a good start. 

I'm proud of our citizens, equality protesters, police and city officials.  

Let's require police body cameras.

Let's elect only honest, ethical officials, adopt a county charter with human rights protections, Inspector General, and Ombuds, while promoting living wages, affordable housing and equal justice for all.

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

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