As racist relics of the South were torn down last summer, conversation mostly steered clear of Jacksonville and Duval County namesakes, Southerners with a past of slavery and ethnic cleansing. How has Duval changed over time, and is it appropriate to chant it?
It’s 2021 and everything is under question, and for good cause. Fueled by the civil unrest of 2020, cancel culture has become a vital vehicle facilitating progress in our city and has ousted inherently racist bricks from our foundation like the idolization of confederates in school names and statues. But recently, our war cry has been under fire.
Nothing stops someone from Jacksonville in their tracks like hearing the call: “DUUUUUVVVAALL!” Our war cry is by far one of the most recognizable aspects of being a Jaxson. But it wasn’t until I watched Bob Saget’s internal, onstage struggle over whether or not to participate in the audience’s “DUUUUUVVVAALL!” chant during a recent show at Florida Theatre that I really began to question the controversy and what this rally cry really is about.
Does shouting “DUUUUUVVVAALL!” pay homage to William P. DuVal, a U.S. judge and first civilian governor of Florida, then a territory, who was also a known racist and ethnic cleanser? Or does it mean something more?
I figured no better person to talk to about this subject than the man behind it all, Everett Eason aka Easy E. A popular Jacksonville radio personality for decades, Easy introduced “DUUUUUVVVAALL!” (his official spelling) to Duval back in the ’90s as a radio drop during his mix shows. Who knew that his three-second audio clip would turn into a national phenomenon? Today, you can hear the roar of 60,000 fans chanting it at Jaguars games, as well as random drunk guys screaming it in bars and people yelling it to each other all over the country when they recognize someone from the kingdom of Duval. (The first time I heard the call outside the city limits was on a ski lift in West Virginia.) “DUUUUUVVVAALL!” is everywhere.
“I’ve got to give credit where credit is due because people in the street were chanting ‘Duval,’ and I’m like okay, I can do something with that,” Easy said. “So what I did was I took the word and extended it.”
“When I created it, the people were like, ‘That’s something you hear in the streets,’ and they loved it,” he said. Easy gives big ups to the entire iHeartRadio family, especially coworkers and fellow jocks Dr. Doom, Wiz Kid, T-Roy and Bam Bam, who would “hit that drop, hit that drop, hit that drop” until “DUUUUUVVVAALL!” became part of the city’s culture.
Easy E is a tall, proud African-American who wears “DUUUUUVVVAALL!” on his sleeve, literally. When I dropped by his studio, he was rocking a custom t-shirt repping V 101.5 with “DUUUUUVVVAALL!” embroidered on the sleeve. He is incredibly dedicated and hardworking. He even picked up a night shift at the U.S. Post Office just to keep his voice on the radio throughout the pandemic—and has a shout out for Post Office superstars Isaac Odom Jr, Brian Baker, (Colonel) John Rachlow Sr. for helping him along the way.
Originally from Savannah, Ga., Eason got his DJ name from childhood friends who shortened his name to “Easy.” He was known as “Easy E” during his time in the military, years before becoming one of the city’s best known DJs.
“When I was young, I would sneak out the house and go to this club on the corner and DJ at night,” he said. “Fast forwarding, I went to the military and started DJing in the clubs [in Germany], became well known there and I started producing people’s songs.” He was discovered in Jacksonville by a program director while he was trying to drum up airtime for his music.
The PD asked if he was a rapper. “I told him no, but he said, ‘Keep talking, I like your voice,’” Easy recalled. “So we continued our conversation and he said, ‘I like your look, you ever thought about doing radio?’” A month later the station hired him for the midnight to 6 a.m. shift.
Easy moved to Jax in 1993 and has been a household name ever since. He’s rubbed elbows with music industry greats like Notorious BIG, Prince and DJ Khaled, and given a platform to local artists, receiving multiple awards for his work with independent recording artists in the process. Easy has also produced a number of Duval and 904-themed songs played during Jags games like “My City of Duval” which he co-produced with Jay McGowan. He’s also used his platform to bolster the Black Lives Matter movement over the past few years.
“It came to a point where African-American people just got fed up with a lot of stuff, and after you seen that 9-minute footage of how a man just laid on George Floyd’s neck and actually killed [him] in front of everybody’s eyes, it was painful. But what he did changed America a lot,” Easy said. “So for me, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back when that happened. Now things [that] were going on before George Floyd is still going on to this day. And it’s gonna be a long road ahead so far as Black Lives Matter.”
Like most things in the South, Jacksonville was founded upon the most extreme evil ever perpetuated by this nation. Racism has deep roots in our community and still finds pockets in our society to survive. Even our name, Jacksonville, is coined after murderer and racist Andrew Jackson. Although there are examples of city name changes around the nation, the likelihood of changing Jacksonville’s name is extremely small, despite Jackson’s face being removed from the $20 bill beginning in 2030.
William P. DuVal (pronounced doo-VAL) succeeded Andrew Jackson as governor of the Florida Territory from 1822–1834, making him Florida’s first civilian leader. However, naming the county after him in 1822 might have been a move made too hastily in his governorship. DuVal’s term was dominated by bigotry with efforts to bring in slave owners to start more plantations and remove natives from the region. In 1823 he signed the Treaty of Moultrie Creek to squash conflict between settlers, natives and African vassals over land for cultivation forcing Seminoles to leave their native land and move to a significantly less productive area located below present-day Ocala. The government’s promise of rations was never upheld, in turn, leaving the Seminoles struggling, eventually leading to the Second Seminole War in 1835. DuVal was even quoted saying he was certain that the future settlement and development of the southwest were directly linked to maintaining the “Peculiar Institution.”
Easy explained. “I had no idea that DuVal was a slave owner, and I really didn’t know Andrew Jackson was a slave owner too. So, you know, things have become real political and controversial now with slave owners and pulling down statues, renaming schools and whatnot, which is great.”
“We all know that we’re saying ‘Duval’ because of Duval County. But we’re not saying ‘DuVal,’ we say ‘Duval,’ that’s number one. Number two, it’s spelled differently. He is DuVal. I was ‘Duuuuuvvvaall,’ you see it’s totally different,” he continued. “So, it can be some kind of controversy because he was a slave owner, but African-Americans know that the word ‘Duval’ was embraced due to urban people and it was built up. That’s something that they can’t take away from us because that’s where it started. It started in the streets.”
Our war cry isn’t about where we came from. It’s about where we are currently and where we are going. It’s about creating connections between people who live here and letting our name be known throughout the nation.
As Easy put it, “It shows unity. Blacks, whites, Chinese, all of us together. To me it’s a good thing because it’s unifying. It’s bonding us together versus all this segregation about Blacks and whites and blah blah blah. It’s good to get out this war cry, it is gonna help build the city.”