Historically, Jacksonville has been a city of African American trailblazers. From James Weldon Johnson, who famously wrote the Negro national anthem with his brother to A. Phillip Randolph, the national labor and Civil Rights leader.
Then there are more local giants like Mary Singleton, the first black woman elected to the Jacksonville City Council; Willye Dennis, librarian, civil rights activist and Florida state legislator; Rutledge Pearson, baseball player, educator, civil rights leader and human rights activist.
All of the aforementioned Jacksonville natives led African Americans through Duval Countys consolidation to the Civil Rights movement to desegregation of public schools.
This week, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville (NCOJ) held an event to honor local living legends for their activism, leadership and sacrifice. The organization packed the Legends Center on Soutel Drive for a “Living Legends of Civil Rights,” occasion, a night to honor individuals that are still standing tall for the fight for justice.
NCOJ President, Ben Frazier moderated the event and highlighted the areas in which honorees made significant achievements including the fight for equal opportunity in employment, housing, and education. Other areas of recognition included the right to vote, the right of equal access to public facilities, and the right to be free of racial discrimination.
Rodney Hurst, author of the book, It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke, gave a rousing speech to the crowd on the true meaning of African American history and the fact that black history is still devoid of the truth. “To each and every one of these warriors we and all the generations that follow, we owe an eternal debt of gratitude,” said Frazier.
The evenings honorees included: Honorees shown l-r seated: Rometa Porter, Dorothy Pittman Hughes, Sandra Thompson, Lloyd Pearson and Sollie Mitchell; standing l-r: Rodney Lawrence Hurst, Sr., Reverend Levy Wilcox, Malachi Beyah, Alton Yates and Edward Exom (honorable mention: Moses Davis).