Sept. 11 Mail: School Names and Biannela Susana

Preserve History in School Names

I recently read the article concerning two schools in Duval County with names tied to the Confederacy [“Confederate Clash,” Aug. 21]. Lee and Forrest were part of a vast number of Americans who fought for hearth and home, both fond of the Union and joined the rest of the South only when threatened by invasion. The official record of the United States Army, after thorough investigation, exonerated Forrest of all accusations related to the Battle at Fort Pillow. Forrest actually volunteered for service during the Spanish American War and was recommended by Gen. William T. Sherman. Sherman stated that he could think of no one who would serve this country more. As an example of how men can grow, I have attached the address to the National Association of Polebearers Forrest recited at a public event in Memphis. He was a supporter of the black community at a time when it was unpopular to do so.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, while president, was asked why he had the portrait of Lee on his wall, the visitor stating that Lee was a traitor.

Here is an excerpt from his letter:

General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.

From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s calibre would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.

Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.

I will let President Eisenhower’s opinion of Lee stand as a valid reason to keep the name of the school as is.

Concerning the Memphis Parks, the issue is far from settled. In 2005, a similar effort was made to erase history. At the time, the city council dissolved the Parks Commission and by ordinance granted full supervision and control of the parks to the mayor’s office. The mayor at the time was aware of more important issues and decided that changing the names of the parks would solve none of the city’s problems. Therefore, we contend that since the council, according to the city charter, has no legal footing upon which to base their decision to change the names of the parks, they acted wrongfully. To add to this, the NAACP, leaders in the black community, local black radio stations and the Southern Leadership council have come out against changing history and for preserving the names of the parks. Yet the council chose to ignore them. Strange bedfellows, the NAACP and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, wouldn’t you think? Not really. When you think of all the problems our communities face — crime, unemployment, blight, violence, teen pregnancy, high taxes and health care — changing the names of a few parks is like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I encourage the citizens of Florida to join together as we have in Memphis, to demand that their politicians act to help preserve history, and address the important issues facing our communities, children and families. Then we can say that we have done what is right.

Mark Buchanan

President, Citizens to Save Our Parks

Memphis, Tenn.


‘A New Chapter’ for Biannela Susana

The long, hard journey for Biannela Susana, mother of Cristian Fernandez, has just begun. The death of little David Galarraga, the arrest of Cristian and the loss of her remaining children were not enough for local prosecutors. The outcome, however, was the best this community could hope, and fight, for.

Attorney David Wells and his team, in conjunction with the strategy of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, executed a brilliant defense at her sentencing hearing. They were able to convince Circuit Judge James Daniel to render his difficult yet courageous decision. It was the best possible outcome for a woman whose life has been defined by tragedy.

Susana can now begin a new chapter in her life, receiving the therapy and services she needs. It is the first time since she was a child that her potential will be given a chance to develop; a fitting outcome because dedicated people, right here in Jacksonville, saw her potential and worked tirelessly to turn tragedy into hope.

Steven Tatsak