Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Celebrating Black History Month in St. Johns County, Rejecting Gov. DeSantis's Racist Dog Whistles

George Orwell's 1984 is closer than you think.

Pressures from our mean Governor, RONALD DION DeSANTIS, have led to Black History Month being ignored or disrespected. 

In Osceola County, where Flagler College Professor J. Michael Butler was scheduled to teach teachers about civil rights history, the program was abruptly cancelled. 

Dull Florida KKK ME-publicans are all about "cancel culture," and their hypocrisy is a stench in the nostrils of our Nation. 

Goofy Governor DeSANTIS has created a hostile working environment for education and learning in Florida, firing whistleblowers, attacking UF faculty members, and aided and abetted by louche legislators with their flummery, dupery and nincompoopery about "Critical Race Theory" and "Don't Say Gay" bills. 

Against this backdrop of Dull Republican mendacity and meanness, I am grateful to St. Johns County Commission Chairman I. Henry Dean for sponsoring the Black History Month proclamation for the February 1, 2022 Commission meeting. 

We are blessed with his wisdom and sense of decency.

And we're thankful to St. Augustine Beach Vice Mayor Dylan Rumrell, et al., to St. Augustine Mayor Tracy Upchurch, Vice Mayor Barbara Bloner, Commissioner Barbara Blonder, City Clerk Darlene Galambos, et al. for their work on parallel proclamations. 

This may be the first time in history that all three major local government entities have issued proclamations together on the same subject. 

Also grateful to Anastasia Mosquito Control Commission of St. Johns County Chair Jeanne Jackson Moeller and Commissioner Trish Becker for their support of  AMCD's Black History Month proclamation. 

Still waiting to hear from our School Board, Airport Authority Board and the Soil and Water Conservation District.  

In 2008, St. Johns County Commission Chair Ben Rich, Sr., a retired federal law enforcement agent, told Folio Weekly that St. Johns County was "one of the last bastions of the KKK."

Since 2013, our St. Johns County Sheriff's office has nor honored my requests to remove materially false statements defending racist KKK Sheriff LAWRENCE O. DAVIS on the Sheriff's website, which statements were previously issued since at least 1995 under the maladministrations of Sheriff NEIL PERRY and DAVID SHOAR (who legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994).  

Meanwhile, I am utterly unimpressed and underwhelmed with the tepid response to my inquiries of the St. Johns County Public Library System, whose managers seem to think that a book display or book club discussion constitutes a "program" or an "event."  

Only by Orwellian doublespeak -- redefining a "program" or "event" as including a display -- mutatis mutandis, can the SJCPLS claim to be doing any "programs" or "events" for Black History month. 

Actual speakers -- living breathing people -- were once our Library's routine practice for Black History Month.

That was before our creepy former Congressman, Governor RON DeSANTIS decided he could win elections with racist dog whistles about teaching Black History.

Anti-historicism and anti-intellectualism have no place in our libraries. 

I wrote the library director, without substantive response yet, sharing my suggestions for actual speakers -- living breathing people who know our local Black History:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Dear Ms. Gibson:
Thank you. 
1. SJCPLS can and must do better!
2. Pursuant to the equal protection clause in OUR 14th Amendment, the Library should arrange for powerful, knowledgeable live local speakers on local Black History, e.g., T.J. Jackson, Sandra Parks, Regina Gayle Phillips and David Nolan, to speak on an in-person and Zoom programs shared with all of our branches.  
3. Would you please be so kind as to arrange showings of suitable movies, such as In the Heat of the Night, Dare Not Walk  Alone, Crossing in St. Augustine, and Freedom on Our Mind? 
Thank you!
With kindest regards, I am,

-----Original Message-----
From: Debra Rhodes Gibson <dgibson@sjcfl.us>
To: easlavin@aol.com <easlavin@aol.com>
Cc: Betty Dixon <bdixon@sjcfl.us>
Sent: Mon, Jan 24, 2022 9:21 am
Subject: Fw: Black History Month programs

Ed --

Here's what the Bartram Trail Library has planned for Black History Month.

Debra Gibson

From: Maribeth Beck
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2022 8:39 AM
To: Debra Rhodes Gibson
Subject: RE: Black History Month programs
Good Morning Debra,
At BT we will have a Black History Month display as well as two book clubs with titles that relate to Black History. The Friday Morning Book Club will be reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and the Tuesday Evening Book Club will be doing The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict.
Maribeth Beck, Branch Manager
Bartram Trail Library
60 Davis Pond Blvd.
St. Johns, FL 32259
(904) 827-6960
Under Florida law, email addresses are public records. If you do not want you email address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing.
From: Debra Rhodes Gibson <dgibson@sjcfl.us> 
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2022 6:54 AM
To: Library - Branch Managers <Library-BranchManagers@sjcfl.us>
Subject: Black History Month programs
Managers --
I have received a request for a list of all programs, including virtual and displays, that are planned for your libraries in recognition of Black History Month. I do not see anything listed on the web calendar of events. 
Please compile your events & send to me ASAP so I may respond to the patron.

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