The Jacksonville Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference agrees with the removal of Confederate monuments from public property. Recently, the president of the Jacksonville City Council demonstrated moral courage by suggesting the removal of Confederate monuments from public display. On Aug. 14, Anna Lopez Brosche sent a press release calling for these monuments to be relocated from public property to museums and educational institutions. President Brosche’s comments took moral courage; by making them, she also demonstrated political courage.
Moral and political courage are anomalies today in the body of politics. It’s extremely refreshing to find a politician like Brosche who speaks with clarity on this subject. Most politicians have acquired the skill of double-speak, which is characterized as gobbledygook, resulting in the public having no idea where elected officials stand on any issue. This is not the case with our council’s president. Her stance was admirable in condemning the actions in Charlottesville as “horrific and unacceptable.” She was on target when she stated, “These monuments, memorials and markers represented a time in our history that caused pain to so many.” Moral and political courage are required today to guide our city from its dark and segregated past. Moral and political courage are prerequisites to lead us into a progressive, inclusive future.
These Confederate monuments were erected in a time of this city’s history when racial injustice, economic injustice and violence were the norm. The violence of Axe Handle Saturday occurred Aug. 27, 1960. It’s just one of many historic events of pain inflicted during Jacksonville’s past that President Brosche was referencing. Axe Handle Saturday was a bloody attack unleashed by citizens upon anyone black Downtown that day. They utilized axe handles and baseball bats on black citizens. Economic injustice is perpetuated today, knowingly or unknowingly, against minority and women contractors by the City Council when it systematically waives the portion of the procurement code that requires the city to award a certain percentage of city contracts for capital projects to small and emerging businesses, aka, those owned by minorities and women. These legislative actions prevent business owners from participating in capital construction projects paid for with public funds (federal, state or local).
Stopping this process will greatly enhance economic opportunities for a group that, historically, has been excluded. Folio Weekly’s March 16, 2016 article, “Down & Dirty City Contracts,“ raised the issue that the contract system is questionable at best. The existence of the JEA five (five black JEA employees who filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) speaks to the fact that racial injustice and flagrant nepotism are alive and well in at least one of the city’s four independent agencies. We have a supreme opportunity today to face and rectify the historical divisions that are endemically planted and still exist.
President Brosche’s moral and political stance on these Confederate monuments started a public response and ignited a spirited public comment at the Aug. 22 council meeting. This was a fantastic first step and the city owes our council president a big “Thank You.” She deserves our protection—not our threats.
Economic injustice is the basic struggle for Civil Rights today. For four long years, the SCLC, NAACP and the Urban League have been jointly seeking a political partnership with City Council leadership and a task force on the 2013 Jacksonville Multi-Jurisdictional Disparity Study.
Statistical data strongly suggest that poverty is a major factor for crime. A job is the first step toward economic development, reduction of crime, strengthening families and building communities. We have a superb opportunity today to rectify and work together, as a people and a government, to bridge the racial and economic divide, which was created in the past, during this historic time.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must learn to work together as brothers [sisters] or perish together as fools.” Reconciliation is the guiding principle for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Reconciliation can be achieved only through open, honest and candid conversations between people, government and communities.
Anna Lopez Brosche’s moral and political courage just presented our city with a historic chance to build a progressive, inclusive future.
Dr. Gray is the local chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.