By Trey Ford – The Inaugural Civil Rights Conference was held recently at the Southbank Marriot, led by Dr. Rudy Jamison, the United Way of Northeast Florida, and civil rights activist Rodney Hurst and educator Johnetta Cole. Billed as a first of its kind event conference for Duval, the event coincided with the 62nd anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday that took place August 27, 1960 in downtown Jacksonville. The 1960 racially motivated attack included sit-in/lunch counter protests opposing racial bias and segregation in schools, shops and neighborhoods.
The conference brainchild and moderator Rodney L. Hurst Sr., author and black historian detailed the events program, “We are delivering on our vision to connect the historic to the contemporary, while demonstrating a different, more inclusive and collective leadership, we want the Jacksonville Civil Rights Conference to propel action,” said Hurst. The goal of the event was to educate participants about civil rights movements through featured speakers, breakout sessions, panels and discussion of the four key areas of combating civil rights freedom that include: connecting historical contexts to the contemporary; community building; connecting civil rights issues to arts and culture and providing leadership development opportunities through youth and adult partnerships.
Leading the opening day conversation was Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, professor, author, ordained minister and radio host dialoguing on the topic, ‘Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness In America.” Day two Carol Alexander co-introduced Dr. Johnetta Betsch-Cole with Paxon School for Advanced Studies, 10th grader Tiffany Powell. The two spoke in tandem about Coles accolades of being an accomplished author, college president, museum director and anthropologist. The descendant of the Kingsley Plantation is also the sister of the late ” Beach Lady” Mavynee Betsch and granddaughter of A.L. Lewis, founder of American Beach and the Afro Life Insurance company.