Thursday, September 03, 2020

Healing in St. Augustine, Florida (Ed Slavin column in St. Augustine Record, Sunday, August 30, 2020)

 Here's my St. Augustine Record guest column from Sunday, August 30, 2020:

GUEST COLUMN: Use history as a way to heal St. Augustine's race-related divisions

Ed Slavin
St. Augustine
Workers remove the top of St. Augustine's Confederate memorial from the Plaza de la Constitucion before dawn on Wednesday.

On Aug. 28, 1565, Spanish Governor Pedro Menendez saw land and named it "Saint Augustine," after the African bishop and theologian, who wrote, "An unjust law is no law at all." Ironically, Menendez's contract with the King of Spain required that Menendez bring in 500 African slaves within five years. American slavery began here.

It's time for peacemaking and truth-telling.

Commissioner John Valdes spoke eloquently of "atrocities" and history. Let's heed his wisdom.

Let's promote healing between two groups of atrocity victims – African Americans and Minorcans – both descendants of slaves. But how? 

A Peace Monument might be a good start. 

What will replace the 1879 Ladies' Memorial Association Confederate war dead monument in the Plaza de la Constituci├│n?

I support a monument to all local Civil War veterans. I agree with former Commissioner Sandra Parks, Commissioners Roxanne Horvath and John Valdes.  

Let's commission a Peace Memorial, not unlike one that Admiral David Porter sponsored just west of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., at Peace Circle. It is a sculpture group with fountains. 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, June 21).

We need a monument to three Sisters of Saint Joseph arrested May 20, 1916 on orders of Florida Gov. Park Trammell, for teaching African-Americans to read, a crime at the time.

We need a monument for local African-American soldiers and sailors. They helped America free Fort Sumter, free Jacksonville, and free slaves. The University of Florida proposed a dull cemetery-monument style design, criticized by historians. UF hasn't responded publicly to the Historic Architectural Review Board's directions six months ago to consult Black servicemembers' descendants. Is UF now ditching the project?

We need to rename Francis Field as "Francis-Robinson Field" in honor of Jackie Robinson, who was forbidden to play baseball there in 1946, and who spoke here at St. Paul A.M.E. June 15, 1964, supporting civil rights protests. His widow, Rachel, turned 98 last month.

How about a statue honoring our namesake, Saint Augustine of Hippo?

How about a statue of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., arrested here on June 11, 1964?

 How about a monument to the 16 rabbis arrested here one week later, for praying?

How about a sculpture of Frederick Douglass, who spoke at Genovar Opera House on St. George Street?

City burghers allowed a demolition derby of our history. They've privatized Dow Museum of Historic Homes, the Spanish Garden, both the Lighthouse and grounds and Lighthouse Park Community Center/Restaurant, and now, two Confederate memorials. Demolitions of Don Pedro Fornell’s house, Echo House, Carpenter's House and other treasures by fast-talking developers. Enough.

We don't need to destroy any more history.

We don't need to indulge violent threats.

We don't need to silence telephone call-in public comments to suppress dissent.

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

Let's create St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore, to preserve and protect our history and nature forever, with protection for 130,000 acres of government land in two counties, sharing the epic journey story of St. Augustine in a world class museum. 

Let's elect reformers, adopt a county charter with human rights protections, an inspector general and an ombudsman, while promoting living wages, affordable housing and equal justice in our time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the most part I agree. All of these quick actions of removal will not change history.