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REBELS from Space

There's been a lot of talk about Confederate symbols of late. In recent years cities like Orlando and New Orleans have removed their monuments to the failed rebellion of the 1860s, states like South Carolina have finally taken the Confederate flag off the state capitol dome, and even Jacksonville has acquiesced to demands to rename Nathan Bedford Forrest High School literally anything but that. It's gotten some folks to wondering if our Confederate statues are coming down next. They've even gone and started a petition.

Well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Sure, Robert E. Lee didn't start the Ku Klux Klan, but he was a general in the Confederate Army, and he's still got a local high school named after him, a school that has the Generals as its mascot and calls its yearbook The Blue and Gray, a school that's located in a ZIP code where nearly a third of the population is black--and there are no plans to change that school's name anytime soon. (Other local schools named for Confederate "heroes" include: Jefferson Davis Middle School, Kirby Smith Middle School and J.E.B. Stewart Middle School.)

Even if efforts to change the names of the aforementioned schools and remove the monuments are somehow successful, there's another little-known local Confederate tramp stamp in the aptly named Confederate Park.

Look at the aerial Google photo below. Notice anything, um, rebellious?


Now check out the topographical picture. See a familiar shape?


A closer look:


Yep, Confederate Park is basically laid out in the shape of a Confederate flag. You might not notice it at first glance, but trust us, it's like the Man in the Moon: Once you see it, you can never unsee it.

Makes us wonder if the park designers saw into the future when other towns would start trying to heal the wounds of the past by removing statues and markers and were like, "Nuh-uh. Hey, Nate B., hold my beer. We're gonna build a Confederate flag you can …   More


EXPRESS Yourself

On a side road off of Edgewood Avenue sits a small, nondescript building. Inside is the Murray Hill Art Center, which serves as a home to the Art League of Jacksonville (ALJ). Inside, teacher William McMahan begins his 3 p.m. class with a group critique. McMahan guides his students in how to critique each other’s works. Rather than being anxious about any criticisms, all but one were eager to have both their artistic assets and flaws explained to them by McMahan. The walls of the room are an office-like off white. Yet colorful paintings cover each wall, their colors only broken up by a few shelves of pottery. Improvements on last week’s work are pointed while some offer suggestions design principles and techniques.

A sense of community is apparent. Side chatter and laughing join their commentaries about each other and their positive progressions from when they first began taking the class.

Every class begins in the same way: 30 minutes of group critique from McMahan and the other artists. As he gives praise, he follows with specific suggestions and even makes strokes and, after asking each student’s permission, he outlines on each individual’s work.

Since 2012, McMahan has been a teacher at ALJ. In that short amount of time, he has witnessed its expansion and progression, as well as its ability to form bonds between artists.

Classes are home to all kinds of artists, ranging from novices to experts. Even those like well-known Jacksonville artist Cookie Davis continue to attend classes through the ALJ to be inspired by others and continue to improve.

“I believe everyone has an inherent artistic ability. Everyone improves and broadens their art through ALJ,” says McMahan, explaining that no knowledge of art or even skill level is required to sign up. “People have evolved so much. I say [to my artists], ‘Look at everyone’s techniques and be inspired by everyone …   More


The POWER of oMS

In 2012, Cheryl Russell and Megan Weigel, two working mothers in Jacksonville Beach, discovered they shared a vision based on their passion for yoga and appreciation of its positive effects on health.

When Russell and Weigel met at a multiple sclerosis support luncheon in 2011, neither anticipated the effect they would have on one another. "It was the first event I went to after my diagnosis. I told somebody I wanted to teach people with MS yoga ... and she said 'You need to meet Megan,'" Russell explains.

It turned out that each had dreamed of creating a yoga program for patients with multiple sclerosis.

A year later, the two ran into each other again at a Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga session; it was then they started the journey to create yoga classes for MS patients in earnest and their brainchild, the ever-growing oMS Yoga, was born.

The two talked to the founder of the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga, Baron Baptiste, and told him their wishes about starting a yoga program solely for those with MS. Russell says their declaration to each other on the day they reached out to Baptiste was this: 'If we say this to Baron, there's no turning back.' And they haven't-oMS will celebrate its five-year anniversary in November.

"The name is a combination of the phrase "omm" and the symbol [representing] "omm," which, when flipped, looks kind of like the letters O, M and S put together," Russell said.

oMS Yoga offers four classes a week in six-week intervals at one of four locations, including Big Fish Yoga, MBody, Dragon Dance and HotSpot. Classes follow the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga methodology, as the women believe it suits those with MS and allows them to participate freely. Weigel provides medicinal knowledge of the disease and Russell offers the support and empathy of a fellow MS patient.

The women weren't met with many obstacles on their journey to create oMS Yoga. They applied for a grant through the North Florida chapter of the Multiple …   More


Salad DAYS

People pining for the ‘80s are psychotic. Or they simply never experienced the Reagan era and are now piecing together nostalgic news blips and sound bites from Netflix shows and the “retro” virus that continues to permeate all things. The ‘80s was a ten-year epoch that saw the brutal arrival of AIDS, the ascent of the crack epidemic, and the Eugenics-born smirk of Yuppies. A popular line of clothing was titled “Members Only,” which sums up the dualistic, VIP versus uncool ’80s all too well. If one needs to see the karmic whip crack of the decade, alive and in person, they need look no further than to the salt-bloat-driven, bilious, panting, and embarrassing tweets of Donald Trump, the de facto “Totally ‘80s” President. There is always the same kind of five kids who were popular and enjoyed every facet of high school—and the ‘80s was their fucking decade and now we have their President. The chickens have come home to roost and they are shitting on everything in sight.

I digress.

Thankfully, for the pariahs and untouchables of that decade, they did witness and share in the undeniable and extreme evolution of two mighty forces: skateboarding and hardcore punk.

The new documentary, Blood and Steel: Cedar Crest Country Club, focuses on the give-and-take within the East Coast skate and punk rock communities, specifically in the city, nearbby suburbs, and hinterlands of Washington DC. Over the course of the film’s 77 minutes, director Michael Maniglia utilizes interviews with key figures in the skate and punk scenes, VHS home movies, TV news stories, and photos galore, to shed much light on a truly positive moment of '80s American history: youth in revolt and youth in the solution to get things done. While Blood and Steel is surely geared towards skateboarders, its recurring theme of building, sustaining, and even protecting community — in this case a “place of peace and …   More


Raising the BARS

Many fear incarceration. Yet for those who wind up behind bars, the experience of simply being human is soon relegated to a raw-albeit-complex existence, in a hostile realm where ideals like fairness and justice are locked up tight. In writer-director Drew L. Brown’s drama Sentences, the audience is shown through blunt, unflinching drama that sometimes unfairness in our criminal justice system begins the moment one is charged with a crime.

Currently on stage at Players by the Sea in Jax Beach, Sentences is loosely based on Brown’s adolescent years, when his mother Robin Owens was serving time in prison. The play starts with Robin (Rita Manyette) being booked into the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) in Tallahassee. She is soon befriended by Celestina Rodriguez (Julie Ann Dinneweth), who helps show the terrified new inmate the ropes around the facility. It becomes clear that Robin’s new life in the FDC isn’t going to be a smooth stay.

Sentences is a darkly emotional two hours onstage. Inmate abuse, drug deals and corruption are daily occurrences in the FDC. Over the course of the play’s two acts, inmates and guards tell their respective stories of what brought them to that particular place and why they now stand on one side or the other of the cell-block doors. These moments of self-disclosure cast greater light on the complex twists and turns of class, race and our judicial system—elements that are imprisoning to some while freeing others. Brown is deft in sending his message of compassion, fairness and justice directly through these characters’ lives. Without being heavy-handed, Brown addresses larger, universal issues like sexism, racism, justice and addiction with the same credible skills.

A simple-yet-effective multimedia-like atmosphere increases the overall experience of seeing Sentences. Minimal lighting, unique audio effects, even dance—all help in framing the play’s action. Additional …   More


Injured Congressman Sought to Relax Gun Control Laws

This morning, a lone gunman opened fire on Congressional Republicans at an Arlington, Virginia baseball field where they were practicing for an upcoming game. Five people were shot, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), before police shot and apprehended the alleged shooter, James T. Hodgkinson.

Rep. Scalise was shot in the hip and will reportedly make a complete recovery. Hodgkinson, who reportedly opposed Donald Trump and volunteered for the Bernie Sanders campaign, was taken to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries.

The outpouring of support on social media quickly devolved into a shouting match about gun control and who was to blame for the attack. Far right-wingers blamed liberal rhetoric that they believe escalates passions and sows the seeds of chaos. Liberals blamed lax gun control laws, pointing out that those targeted, including Rep. Scalise, are well known for opposing gun control of any kind, which others were quick to liken to victim blaming.

Gun control supporters will be interested to learn that Rep. Scalise has introduced legislation that, had it passed, would have made it easier for people from out-of-state to purchase firearms. ABC News reports that Hodgkinson, who hailed from Bellevue, Illinois, spent the last two months in Alexandria, Virginia.

Rep. Scalise, whose website proudly totes his A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, introduced the Firearms Interstate Commerce Act four times, in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. The legislation did not pass.


And now, a sampling of Republican tweets about guns:







Sen. Rand Paul was among those on the field today when Hodgkinson allegedly opened fire. He was unharmed.


'Merica!!   More


Ham, Cheese and POLITICS Please

This week, Governor Scott traveled around the state on his "Fighting for Florida's Future Victory" tour. Stops included Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Meyers, Tampa and Jacksonville Beach. He arrived at Angie's Subs at around 6 p.m. last night, where a gaggle of supporters waited inside the sub shop, and a gathering of protestors stood outside with handmade signs and megaphones. Most protesters, many of whom were parents and educators, toted signs asking Gov. Scott to veto House Bill 7069.

Schoolteacher Shannon Russell, vice president of Duval Teachers United, told Folio Weekly, "7069 will dramatically change public school education."

According to the Florida Senate website, this bill "[requires] that the lowest-performing elementary schools be determined by specified assessment results" and "charter schools are eligible for capital outlay funds pursuant to specified provisions." More simply put, HB 7069 will lower funding for Title I schools while increasing funds for charter and private schools.

Governor Scott will meet with Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who drafted HB 7069, this Thursday. So far the governor has not publicly said whether he will sign or veto the bill, but unconfirmed media reports indicate that he will sign it.

With only 537 days left in his second and final term, Scott hasn't shown signs that he is planning to slow down anytime soon. During the three-day special session on June 7-9, Scott not only made advances in his two pet projects, Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, but was also able to negotiate increased spending for the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The governor called the special session to discuss funding for Florida's K-12 students, the current state of Florida's job force and spending for tourism corporations. This can explain the push for increased funds for Florida's official tourism marketing corporation (Visit Florida) as well as its official economic development …   More


Strong But NOT the Same

I remember June 12, 2016 very vividly. I woke up at 6 a.m. to a text from my best friend who attends Florida State University. It said "Are you OK?" I didn't think much of it besides the fact that it was strange of her to ask me this in the wee hours of the morning. I replied with, "Yeah, why wouldn't I be?" Normally, I would've fallen right back to sleep, seeing as it was the summer and in between terms so I had nothing to do except sleep in and enjoy the 90°F Orlando weather. But I had a strange sensation in my gut.

I hopped on Facebook; the first thing I saw was that someone had shared an article with the title of something along the lines of "Orlando Nightclub Shooting." What with all of the fake news on the Internet, I instinctively thought it was spam, but I clicked on it anyway because, as a journalist student, I'm a pretty curious person. I started to read and I saw the words "Pulse nightclub" and "at least 20 confirmed dead."

My first few thoughts were that this was a joke, this couldn't have happened in my own backyard. I was sitting on my bed at the University of Central Florida, less than 20 minutes from the tragedy. Hands shaking, I checked my LGBTQ friends' Facebook walls immediately, hoping they were safe at home and holding back tears. A wave of relief washed over me when I saw that they were alive but, of course, they were in no way doing well. No one was.

I texted my roommates to tell them what had happened and assure them that our friends were OK. I didn't feel better, though. I didn't feel better because my friends had friends there and people were dead in the city I had come to know over the previous two years. I felt like puking. Of course, I couldn't go back to sleep. I spent the whole day in my room, trying to figure out why someone could do something this terrible, why someone could target innocent people because of their preferences and their lifestyles.

One month earlier, I had spent an evening in Pulse where I had …   More


Air Apparent

Artie Clifton lifts his baton up, down and side-to-side. He conducts and is the music director of the First Coast Wind Symphony, and with each stroke guides the ensemble to stay on tempo. Hailing from a small Pennsylvania town where community bands are a prideful tradition, he expected there to be a similar band in Jacksonville when he moved here in 1989. When he learned there wasn't a community band he could join, he decided to create one. He never expected it would grow to be as big as it is.

The journey began with an idea; the ensemble had its humble inception in the music room at Jacksonville University, where members were provided free rehearsal and performance space. Fast-forward 27 years, the First Coast Wind Symphony has increased its numbers, now claiming more than 50 community volunteers playing woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. Twenty-six of these members are preparing to fulfill the ensemble's collective dream: they will soon depart our shores on a pilgrimage to the birthplace of classical music, Austria.

The volunteer group includes musicians from all backgrounds and all walks of life. Members range from college students to attorneys, veterans, bankers and computer specialists. Some charter members have been in the band all 27 seasons.

The symphony actively supports music education in local schools and works with students to provide an annual Concerto Competition. In the competition, high school and college students compete for two $1,000 prizes and the opportunity to perform with the symphony. The competition is designed "to promote music education in Florida by providing talented students with an opportunity to perform a solo work with the wind symphony" the organization writes on its website.

The First Coast Wind Symphony is a member of the Association of Concert Bands, a national organization for community bands. It is also a Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville member.

The symphony prides itself on being a cultural …   More


Grassroots, Greenways and GATORS

You may think that storytelling has become a thing of the past, but in some places, it's alive and well. It has evolved into a complex practice where stories are created and transmitted through data-capturing and a convergence of different media. This idea of modern storytelling is at the heart of the very first Palm Valley Storytelling Day this Saturday.

Palm Valley sits just south and west of Ponte Vedra and is rich in history. Plans are for the event to feature a number of storytellers well-known in the Ponte Vedra community. Storytellers will include Sid Mickler of Mickler's Landing, and Bubba Stratton, a gator hunter famed for his collection of gator heads. The stories shared will reveal how the Palm Valley area has been shaped and how it can be improved for the future. The event will include bluegrass music, barbecue and beverages served by the American Legion, as well as storyboards showcased by the Beaches History Museum. There will also be an opportunity for others to share their stories and join others recalling the history of the area.

The Ponte Vedra Greenway & Preserve Initiative is hosting the event to remind people in the community of the importance of Palm Valley, especially in preserving nature and green space. One of the founders, Deb Chapin, says of Storytelling Day, "[I] envisioned an opportunity to capture some of the history and tell a story along this path.

"[The] history of Palm Valley is a valuable compliment to Ponte Vedra."

The idea for the event came to Chapin when one of her colleagues, Donna Carrasco, told her about a seminar that she had attended during which transmitting stories through data was discussed. This struck Chapin as important in the modern age. She says, "[The] future of history is not in paperback books." Thus the Palm Valley Storytelling Day was created.

Through the event, Chapin says, "[I] hope to get people together and capture the history of Palm Valley." The event will serve as a way to …   More