By Willie B. Hall
When I was a student at Raines the administration was always allowing influential people who “looked like me” to come and speak to the student body. Simply being a member of the student body allowed the students of Raines the great opportunity to hear people like Muhammed Ali, Rosa Parks, Don King, Cicely Tyson, Melba Moore, Montell Williams & Doug E. Doug speak, just to name a few.
In the spring of my freshmen year, I can remember during a regular school day, hearing our principal come over the public address system and say: “all band members please report to the band room immediately following school”. As we arrived inside waiting for us was the administration, our band director and men in suits. They informed us that Vice President Al Gore was coming to our school to speak and we were being requested to perform. You can imagine the logistical procedures we had to go through in order to gain clearance. I can remember most of us didn’t really think it was a big deal. This was before social media and the popularity of cell phones so who would we have even told?
The next day came quickly and we reported to a secret location inside the school. At our arrival, we were held in that area for what seemed like hours. Finally, as we had been waiting in full uniform, the secret service came in to get us. They checked each student for any paraphernalia other than our instruments. We even had to take each instrument piece apart so that they could look inside of them. That is when we started to realize the importance of the event. Finally we were taking with guards into the gym.
As we walked in it seemed like thousands of people were all waiting, holding signs, cheering and some giving interviews. National and local elected officials, dignitaries and community leaders were in attendance. We were all waiting for the Vice President.
After what seemed like more hours the Vice President and the platform guest were brought into the gymnasium. I really can’t remember what the Vice President said that day. I’m sure he said a lot about his platform and what he planned to do as president. However that is all a blur.
I do however remember Congresswoman Corrine Brown taking the stage. In her speech she informed us that she had specifically requested the event be held at Raines. She said it was many other places that were suggested. However, she felt that the students of the Northside needed to have the experience. She told us that a reporter had even called her asking her in surprise and confusion, “Why did you pick Raines?”
The question she eluded, was said in a way to insinuate that we were not deserving of such an event. That the school was not a school that should be highlighted. Well, she told that reporter “Why not Raines? …They are in the heart of my district and they have the best teachers, principal, supportive parents and the best students!” You see Jacksonville was important to her and we were too. She made us feel important and she used her voice to bring positive light to the school and community.
Years later as an adult I joined the same church that the Congresswoman happened to also be a member of. For years I have watched her keep the members informed about important issues that affected us and had it not been for her telling us we would not have known about most of these things. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed many areas and people’s lives and the government was stalling and not responding as quickly as a lot of Americans think they should have, Congresswoman Brown came to church that morning. She told the congregation what she as a congressional member, was trying to do to help the people. The legislation, the money that needed to be secured, she went through it all. She then paused and said “but I cannot wait, we cannot wait until this process trickles down. We must do something now.” With her leadership we were able to send our own supplies, volunteers and money to the area to help the people.
You see some people may not have liked her “loud mouth”, her unconventional way of getting her opinion out about political candidates, (“quick picks”) but like her or not, Congresswoman Brown spoke up on issues and fought for causes that for years before her had been left by the waste side in Jacksonville.
Is she perfect? Absolutely not. Despite some of the issues people have with her personality and her unconventional way of giving her opinion on certain issues she has delivered for the Jacksonville community. Billions, yes billions of dollars she has brought to our city, thousands of unemployed people she has helped find jobs with her job fair, she has helped millions of people save their homes from foreclosure, and she has fought and used her voice to fight for important issues whenever the community has called her to lead. If you had a problem and you didn’t know how to solve the problem calling her office would provide you with help. She has delivered.
Yesterday we had a 29% voter turnout. If that turnout is a prediction for the general election we are all in trouble! When I look at who this city put in office as it relates to our school board and other local races it saddens me. The people of Jacksonville didn’t deliver for the Congresswoman and more importantly the people of Jacksonville didn’t deliver for themselves. My opinion is based on the number of votes that were cast for all candidates and specifically for our congress and local races like school board.
The democratic and republican congressional candidates that will proceed to the general election seem like nice people but I hope whoever wins will deliver for us like Congresswoman Brown did.
This is simply my truth and my opinion.