Eastside Honors Local Civil Rights Heroes

Shown is Dr. Rudy Jamison presenting Rodney Hurst The Melanin Market Humanitarian Award

A series of community events, conversations, exhibits and volunteer projects were culminated with the 4th annual Historic Eastside Root and Rebuild: Activating the Dream, event held last weekend. The Eastside community leaders and Unite Way of Northeast Florida collaborated to honor and award local community champions that have uplifted the historic community and the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King.

The event paid tribute to Jacksonville’s “Out East” historic neighborhood to celebrate its roots and take important steps in rebuilding Northeast Florida’s legacy.

Awardees included: Principal Jamelle Wilcox-Godwin (Matthew Gilbert/The Melanin Exceeding Expectations Award); Ruth Louise Graham-Ray (The Melanin Market Living Legends Award); Alvin Mitchell Sr.  (The Melanin Social Justice Award); Pearlie Graham (The Melanin Market Service and Dedication Award), The 1958 Matthew W. Gilbert Football State Champs; Angela Nixon (The Melanin Market Women That Won’t Quit Award); United Way of Northeast Florida (The Melanin Market Community Investor Award) and Rodney Hurst (The Melanin Market Humanitarian Award).

“I’m very appreciative of the award which was given to awardees for our involvement and work during the civil rights movement,” said Hurst.

In 1960, sixteen year old Hurst served as the Jacksonville Florida NAACP Youth Council President. In his book, It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke, Hurst shares his role in the infamous “Ax Handle Saturday,” where he was one of the leaders of the 1960 sit in demonstrations in downtown Jacksonville. He vividly described the bloody events of August 27, 1960 when 200 whites with axe handles and baseball bats attacked members of the NAACP youth council who were demonstrating peacefully at white lunch counters in downtown Jacksonville.

Located near Springfield and Downtown Jacksonville, the Eastside saw major decline following the Civil Rights movement. Most notably was the destruction of many shops in its commercial district on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard in a racially charged riot in 1969. Efforts are now underway to revitalize and rebuild the neighborhood to a more vibrant, prosperous community. Shown is Dr. Rudy Jamison presenting Rodney Hurst The Melanin Market Humanitarian Award. To learn more about the “Historic Eastside Root and Rebuild: Activating the Dream” initiative going on now through April, visit unitedwaynefl.org/MLK.

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