A Sad Day in Gainesville Draws Ire

 

“No colored man can read an account of the recent lynching at Gainesville, Fla., without being ashamed of his people … Without resistance they let a white mob whom they outnumbered two to one, torture, harry and murder their women, shoot down innocent men entirely unconnected with the alleged crime, and finally cap the climax, they caught and surrendered the wretched man whose attempted arrest caused the difficulty. No people who behave with the absolute cowardice shown by these colored people can hope to have the sympathy or help of civilized folk… In the last analysis, lynching of Negroes is going to stop in the South when the cowardly mob is faced by effective guns in the hands of people to sell their souls dearly.”

— 1916 editorial in The Crisis excoriating blacks for submitting to a lynch mob

Sources: Negroes and The Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms  by Nicholas Johnson  Prometheus Books 2014 pages 153-154; and W.E.B. DuBois, Crisis, October 1916 at 270-271

Seeking Serenity? Try Mizell-Johnson State Park

 

Walkway leading to the beach at Mizell-Johnson State Park
Walkway leading to the beach at Mizell-Johnson State Park

I’m not sure if people living in the Fort Lauderdale area realize what a treasure they have in the Mizell-Johnson State Park. Many probably won’t recognize the park’s name.

Say John U. Lloyd Park, and perhaps, you’ll see a glint of recognition.

Von D. Mizell was a prominent black physician and founder of the local NAACP chapter. Eula Johnson was a businesswoman who owned several gas stations and became NAACP chapter president. Both worked to change the Jim Crow laws that kept blacks and whites separate.

On July 4, 1961, they led a “wade-in” protest at Fort Lauderdale’s “whites-only” public beach. The one that is now the economic engine and tourist attraction.

In their honor, the one-time blacks-only beach was renamed after Mizell and Johnson. Three pavilions have also been renamed to honor other black dignitaries in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Regardless of the name change, the park is a beautiful locale and a nice alternative to the city’s more popular — and heavily used — beach.

Yes, the Fort Lauderdale beach along A1A and Las Olas Boulevard is free, and there’s a cost to get into Mizell-Johnson. It is a state park after all.

Looking north along Mizell-Johnson State Park
Looking north along Mizell-Johnson State Park    convenient and inexpensive place to park. Try negotiating space on the beach itself after you crossed traffic to even get to the sand and shore.

The  irony is hard to miss. The one time “all-white” beach and cultural attraction for Fort Lauderdale can be a experience of sand, shore and crowd control. The more serene historic “all-black” beach in Dania Beach is the real  jewel.

In place of the congestion that comes with a tourist-trap strip, Mizell-Johnson State Park offers a very pleasant shoreline, park amenities and tranquility. If you’re looking for serenity in South Florida, I can’t think of a better spot to find it.

Photo Credits: Doug Lyons

 

Prophetic Quote from Florida’s Own

 

 

“Look for the enemies of Medicare, of higher minimum wages, of Social Security, of federal aid to education and there you will find the enemy of the Negro, the coalition of Dixiecrats and reactionary Republicans that seek to dominate the Congress.”  — A. Phillip Randolph during his 1963 March on Washington speech

For Those Who Think Their Vote Doesn’t Count

“As racists rewrote Florida’s history as well as its constitution, it was forgotten how well black people in Florida had taken to electoral politics. According to Carter Brown’s study, Florida’s Black Public Officials 1867-1924, nearly 1,000 black people, the great majority of them Florida-born ex-slaves, held office following the Civil War. By profession, they ranged from farmers and laborers to craftsmen and preachers.”

Source: Finding Florida The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman Grove Press, 2013 p. 297

Welcome to My Blog

 

By Douglas C. Lyons

I am at a point in my life where I can relate to Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston, if you don’t know by now, was a legendary author, anthropologist, playwright  and journalist and an icon of the Harlem Renaissance. She loved black people in the South, particularly in the Sunshine State. She lived an extraordinary life.

In no way am I comparing my meager talents to hers — that’s not my point here. It’s the age-thing that is gnawing at me. Growing older may be a blessing, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

In Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd —perhaps the best biography on Ms. Hurston — the author describes Ms. Hurston’s views as  the famed writer approached the twilight of her distinguished life.

“When I get old, and my joints and bones tell me about it,” she once said. “I can write for myself, if for no one else, and read slowly and carefully the mysticism of the East, and re-read Spinoza with love and care. All the while my days can be a succession of coffee cups.”

I’ve spent most of my adult life writing for newspapers and magazines, including EBONY, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Florida is now the place I call home. I didn’t expect to stay in the Sunshine State, given all the weirdness that comes with the abundance of diversity, sunshine and promise.

Florida always promises. It’s part of the state’s charm and bluster. What I found fascinating is the state’s unique history, particularly involving its black citizens.

For example, the first black man to set foot on the peninsula was not a servant, but a conqueror who owned slaves. The land itself became a haven for runaway slaves, long before the Underground Railroad was even recognized. And don’t think that black Floridians simply wilted in the face of harsh Jim Crow laws.

Folk do things differently in Florida. The state’s rich history shows us that. It took a while for me to appreciate what many generations of black Floridians already know. I’m just glad I have the chance to explore and experience it.

Is age anything but a number? Or does getting old set limits on boundless imagination?  I’d like to think of myself as someone who will pursue what I love as long as I live. There are still, unfortunately, moments of doubt. As a longtime writer and budding blogger, I am eager to relate to Ms. Hurston’s words.