By Pat Bryant – Reverend Reginald Gundy is a Christian preacher, a disciple of the fearless Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth whose leadership broke down racial segregation in Birmingham, Ala in the 1950 and 1960’s. Rev. Gundy is set to lead the Movement that will ignite a movement against Governor Ron DeSantis over DeSantis’ controversial standards to teach black history in public schools.
At a civil rights meeting in Jacksonville, Florida convened in Gundy’s Mt. Saini Baptist Church of more than 30 years, the native Jacksonvillian laid out his strategy to mobilize churches across denominations, Florida youth and a skillful legal team. Since 2004 he has led the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition to numerous victories.
Rev. Gundy will present the legal team, the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law in Jacksonville Monday August 21 at 6:30 pm. The Lawyers Committee, a 60 year old institution, has been key in important legal battles in the South. It was organized by then President John Kennedy to hold southerners accountable to the U.S. Constitution’s 14th and 15th amendments while southern activist communities challenged practices of racial discrimination. The Committee has hundreds of large law firms in every state that joins with its staff to fight discrimination.
The new Black history standards are focused nationally by blacks and progressives because of two provisions: the first requires teaching that slavery was a benefit for black people because of the skills learned and violators of the law would be fined $5,000 and serve 5 years in prison.
Gundy mentioned connections with progressive groups statewide that will mobilize youth in schools to walk out of history classes while the lawyers battle DeSantis probably in federal court. Youth in public schools in Jacksonville and across the state walked out of classes and rallied against the draconian measures while they were being debated and passed in Florida’s Republican dominated legislature.
Youth and grandmothers were the heart of the Birmingham, Ala Movement led by Rev. Shuttlesworth. International attention was brought to this Alabama industrial town in the spring of 1963 when the Children’s Crusade marched daily and were plummeted by bull whips, fire hoses, police dogs and jail. It was Birmingham that Dr. King wrote on toilet paper his now famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”.
It appears that the new standards were not approved properly. Some members of the board have said they did not vote on the standards, saying DeSantis did.
Gundy, a history and social studies teacher, said that 150 teachers failed to show up on the first day of classes. Rev. Gundy quit teaching rather than teach to a not so clear law and less clear procedures on how to teach the new standards. At press time this assertion of teacher absences could not be verified.
*Pat Bryant is a journalist and urban planner for more than 60 years covering freedom southern struggles and engaged in community organizing.