Safety Harbor is a small southern town. What are the implications of that phrase — “small southern town”? What are the implications of racism in small southern towns? In cities and towns across this country? Have we, as citizens of a small southern town, chosen to ignore the impact of history? In doing so, what are we missing about our town’s present?
White people in this town — in every town — have the luxury of ignoring racism. And we do it every day. Many of us who purport to hold justice and freedom dear have the luxury to ignore what is right in front of us. But for Black residents, there is no luxury of ignorance.
Our country is again at a crossroads, facing a conflict long ignored. This is a moral conflict. And it is a conflict that must be addressed by the white folks who perpetuate it. It is one that must not be ignored by those who value justice and freedom.
Tonight, the Commission is called to re-address an issue decided last week: A decision to place signs on the grounds of City Hall that acknowledge the value of Black lives. This is not a topic our Commission has addressed directly — perhaps ever. Whose lives do we value? What is the meaning of community if we value some lives more than others and do so based on the pigment of skin? And why, if we purport to value all lives, is there such angst and derision when we are asked to acknowledge the value of Black lives?
The Safety Harbor Sun has been purposeful in not taking sides on local issues. And there have been plenty upon which we could take sides. But there have been no editorials, no position statements here, until this moment.
In this moment, we acknowledge and affirm the value of Black lives: Black Lives Matter.
If this statement offends, if you find yourself called to fight or to argue about the meaning of this phrase: Please pause and listen. Listen to the voices of your neighbors. Hear the stories of past conflict and the pain of our country’s history reflected in our own. Small southern towns are a microcosm of this history of pain.
This small southern town prides itself in being a welcoming community. A town that considers itself special. If this town’s specialness has roots in racism, this is not something any of us should treasure. If this town is not welcoming to the very folks who live here, this pride is farce.
If you have followed the Safety Harbor Sun over the past year of its existence, you are likely aware that it developed as a project for my master’s program. What you do not know is that this project was not my first plan. My initial plan was to create a multimedia project about the history of redlining in Safety Harbor.
Redlining is the practice — the legal practice — of housing discrimination. Redlining happened everywhere in the United States and it is apparent everywhere. It is apparent here. It influences personal wealth. Health care. Food security. Education. It is apparent in all of these things. It is apparent in many southern towns with streets named “Division.” It is apparent when we “cross the tracks” and find neighborhoods — old, established neighborhoods — that have not truly had community support. Neighborhoods that have been continually marginalized based on the skin color of the majority of people who live within.
This is undeniable. This is fact.
As a majority white, small southern town, we could choose to look away. Indeed, we have. But now, in this moment — a national moment — we are called to look again. We are asked to reconsider. We are asked to look at ourselves as a community, to consider our actions and our ability to truly value all of our citizens.
This is not easy work for white folks. Some will refuse. Some will ignore. Some will back down. But it is our work — the work of the white people in this town — to listen and to learn and to take steps to right past wrongs. To prevent future harm.
The choice made by the City Commission last week was a very small first step. Tonight, the Commission has the opportunity to reaffirm this step and to lead this community forward towards better understanding of the past and towards a more equitable future.
The Safety Harbor Sun makes space for this topic: To inform, to enlighten, and to engage in hopes that negative aspects of Safety Harbor’s past will not be the road map for its future. Please continue to read, with open mind and heart, a guest op-ed from resident Carol McNamee and letters sent to the Commission by other residents. The clear, moral choice here is one that affirms the value of our Black neighbors and friends.
Signs are not enough, but they are a start.
Op-Ed: Does Safety Harbor need a Black Lives Matter sign?
Last week, the Safety Harbor City Commission decided by consensus to place two Black Lives Matter signs on City property, one at City Hall, one at the Library. It was a courageous step, as they knew they would get blowback. A step that puts our town on the right side of history. Unfortunately, it’s not a done deal! The mayor wants to revisit the decision tonight.
What is the guiding principle for the mayor? Is the mayor committed to creating an antiracist environment in Safety Harbor, as he claims? Or is he counting votes? If the former is true, he must act on that principle and not political expedience. He must abide by the commission’s decision.
I read the blowback on social media that began after the last Monday’s meeting. People denounced the decision for myriad reasons that neither factual or legitimate. Reasons that have nothing to do with the purpose behind displaying the signs.
It’s Not Political
Some people claimed the sign is political. It is not. In June, the U.S. Office of Inspector General informed fellow agencies that “BLM is not a political activity because the BLM Global Network is not a partisan group” (Politico 7/16/20). This means employees of government agencies are permitted to wear clothing and have BLM paraphernalia in the workplace without violating the Hatch Act, which bars government employees from participating in partisan political activity.
Others declared BLM a Marxist movement. Another said the organization is comprised of Socialists who aim to “destroy the nuclear family in America.” Someone else feared BLM supporters are communists trying to take over “our” town. Looking at these kinds of claims, Tampa Bay Times Politifact reported that the Black Lives Matter Organization was founded by community activists, two of whom had Marxist training. However, the current Black Lives Matter Racial Justice Movement, PolitiFact noted, has moved beyond the BLM organization, evolving into its own, distinct movement. “Black Lives Matter has grown into a national anti-racism movement broadly supported by Americans, few of whom would identify themselves as Marxist” (8/22/20).
All the above claims were lobbed at other civil rights movements in the past. During the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, opponents claimed Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. was a communist. J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI at that time and a harsh critic of King, wrongly used his office and taxpayer’s money to investigate and spy on King and his fellow activist leaders. FBI’s papers documenting this were made public in 2017 and are available for anyone to access.
It’s Not Terrorism
One commenter said that BLM protesters burn buildings and kill people. In an article in Palo Alto Online Blog (June 3, 2020), the teenage author notes that burning and looting has occurred in her town, but that the looting is mostly at night while the protests during the day are peaceful. These peaceful protests, she notes, arose, ironically, from the fact that “too many stories have made the news of Black Americans being killed while posing no threat to police officers, and most of the time the officers in question are not charged with any crimes.” A search of national news outlets yielded no stories—zero—of protesters killing a person. None. We do not condone looting and property destruction, which has been minimal in comparison to the size and number of peaceful protests across this country and the world. In any case, the argument is a red herring used to avoid the moral question the BLM Movement asks of all of us: Do Black Lives Matter in America?
“All Lives Matter” Misses the Point
Many White people respond by saying All Lives Matter. That is not and cannot be true until Black Lives Matter! All means All! As Lewis Ponds so eloquently said, this is not about Black supremacy, it’s about placing the same value on Black lives as we have historically given to white lives.
The most disturbing comments by far, however, are those concerning racial history. When mention of our history of brutality toward Black Americans is made, the outrageous retort is: “That was a long time ago; that’s over.” Or, “They (meaning Black people, as if Black people are a monolith) “should get over it. Stop playing the victim role. No one is stopping them from coming downtown!”
Let’s try this on for an answer. Were your grandparents and parents prohibited by law in Florida from buying property even if they had the money? Property deeds still exist today that state the property cannot be sold to a “Negro”. My sister had a deed to her house in Palm Harbor that included that restriction.
Jim Crow Is Still With Us
The Supreme Court ordered public schools across the country to desegregate in 1954. It took 20 years for Pinellas County to take the first step in that process, and only because a black resident sued the County and won. Even so, 41 years later, in 2015, the Tampa Bay Times documented clearly and thoroughly in its in-depth, investigative series “Failure Factories,” that we continue to have a double standard for schools serving predominately Black children compared to those serving mainly white children. So, as Andy Zodrow said at last Monday’s commission meeting, this isn’t about what happened 100 years ago, it’s about what’s happening right now, in 2020. It’s about continued, systemic racism in this country.
And It’s Not Charming
One woman opposed to the signs reasoned that Safety Harbor is a “charming town,” and we need to keep it that way. Is she implying that a sign meant to signal that Safety Harbor welcomes and values its black residents threatens the town’s charm? More to the point, has Safety Harbor been a charming town for its black residents? A Brief History of Safety Harbor Florida written by two residents, Laura Kepner and Warren Firschein. gives some historical insight into the lives of Safety Harbor’s Black residents. It’s not a charming picture.
The KKK was out in the open here even in the 1970s. There are stories from long-time residents about Black people having to get off the sidewalk. If they wanted a beer, they were served from the back window of the bar and had to sit in the parking lot to drink it. We have Black residents alive today who lived through these demeaning acts and their underlying message of white superiority. We live in a system of White Supremacy, enforced by laws and police policies. That is what so many people are protesting all across the country, and indeed the world. People of all colors, who live in the oppressive system of White Supremacy are tired of it.
It’s a Moral Issue
I have worked with more than 100 of my fellow residents to get this message out and to educate people on what we mean. Our guiding principle: We want our Black citizens, our brothers and sisters, to feel the same accepting attitude as we do in Safety Harbor. All of the blowback I addressed above is deflection from the moral issue at hand.
The mayor says he wants to unify the city by reversing the decision to place BLM signs on city property. In fact, that will only cement the divisiveness now on display. The divisiveness over a sign declaring that we want Black Lives to Matter, and we want Justice for All residents in the City of Safety Harbor, has been fueled by a failure of leadership on the part of our Mayor. It is a leader’s job to educate and enlighten his constituency when facing pushback against progress, in this case the march toward racial justice. It is a leader’s job to model the empathy and courage needed to admit and repudiate society’s past mistakes and dare to set a new course. That is how you unify a community.
Commissioners Nancy Besore, Carlos Diaz, Cliff Merz, and Andy Zodrow demonstrated that kind of stellar leadership last Monday. I hope they will do the same tonight.
Carol McNamee is a Safety Harbor resident and a member of the Pinellas County School Board’s District Monitoring Advisory Committee that continues to monitor the court-ordered progress of Black students in Pinellas County Schools.
Letters to the Commission
I support the Black Lives Matter movement. At this date 7/23 I noted the sign in front of city hall.
I put one of the same signs up in the front of my building.
Making sure that our Sheriff department and code enforcers work with fairness and impartiality while working in Safety Harbor should be monitored for adherence to policies of fairness and impartiality.
Furthermore I would like to believe that hiring practices in the city have been and will be color blind.
Personally I have felt that my hiring practices have had an element of affirmative action.
The black race and the white race history of Safety Harbor out to be taught in booklets distributed in the Chamber of Commerce and the city schools.
It is not my intent to prove my implied assertion in this note to you. You shall find truth where it is.
This note is support to the commission for getting on a movement occasioned by an undeniable event of a murder in Minneapolis by an untrammeled city police.
Fortunately nothing of this nature has happened here in the last decades. But the lesser acts of racism should be fought with signage and policy.
I do not have an open door policy. To suggest I am open to the general public would be a lie. Any person of any color who has Optimum Medicare Advantage health insurance can be a patient.
Over the last 38 years in Safety Harbor I have heard more than a few accounts of biased application of the law. I have met black men and women who had lived in Safety Harbor who then were convicted felons. They were able to serve their punishment and were back in Safety Harbor to live again permanently or for a while. One of the common threads was the harshness of the circumstances of the arrest. Some stories include unfair application of the terms of arrest. Other stories cover the unfairness of their journey through the Justice system. Another is the impossible nature of restoration of voting rights. Another is for getting a job.
My experiences have included first and second hand accounts. Aside from believing i have a personal policy of affirmative action in hiring for my real estate work, I think the most direct action I have been able to take is to write letters to the corrections institutions for change of prison to enable better family monitoring of inmates by their families. a very small act. But one which family illness leaves me to be the singular provider of such a note.As the only doctor in this precinct of any duration I am more likely than anyone else to be be able to write a medical note.
I hope one day another black person will be found to be a member of the commission so as to lead a full panoply of both equality and affirmative action in Safety Harbor. I knew the son of the first black commissioner. That service was around 1980. the son of that commissioner lived at 650 Second Street North. We did have conversations A second hand account to be sure.
The gentrification of Safety Harbor is raising all property values. At this point black people living in and owning property here are making a life style choice . The choice is to remain in their community instead of cashing out while the bubble is ballooning. Ensuring fair application of rules is important .
Can you join me in imagining providing a reward to life long residents who have chosen to stay and to live here. To stay here instead of cashing out. Can you imagine a policy which encourages stability , longevity and diversity? It could be equal provision of utilities; perhaps utilities are all equal now? It could be recognition of enjoyment of being here. It could be grants for hurricane windows.
In my 38 years here I met James Pasco. I am curious to hear an official report of this former city employee .I am not quick to judge based on his side of his tale of mistreatment.by his city department employer. repeating his assertions will not garner repercussions as he is dead now. If there is an element of truth in his story then one can not think that a nationwide movement to make black lives matter is misplaced in Safety Harbor. If there are elements of truth of the several other residents who reside around here not really living but holding residence,, then the nationwide movement is not misplaced in S.H.
Submitted in support of your gesture, and in support of your determination to even the playing field,. The murder of George Floyd and dozens of other black persons, interrupted my concerns and endeavors in the medical arena of Covid 19 pandemic.
We need leaders who respond vigorously with scientific zeal in interrupting the spread of covid 19. We need an administration which enforces the mask ordinance of the county commission. Less is dereliction of duty.
We need leaders in black lives matter who can atone the past, consider reparations, reward the present , safeguard the future, and control the ugly undercurrents. Waffling on the message Black LIves Matter at this time is tone deaf atavisml it is not concern, it is not leadership. It is moral quisling.
With due concern,
Owen Linder MD FACP
Dear Mayor Ayoub and City Commissioners,
I am writing today in support of the Black Lives Matter.
I listened to the City Commission meeting of 7/20/20 and was very moved by the words of Safety Harbor resident Lewis Ponds.
It is heartbreaking that in the 21st century we have a man in tears, asking to be treated equally. Not better than, to make up for the centuries that Black people have been treated so unjustly, but just to have a seat at the table. I am heartened by all of your responses; you all seem to have been moved as well and want to do the right thing.
It is time. It is more than time that we stand up individually, as a city, and as a country to finally say “yes.”
Yes to equality, yes to humanity and yes to the dignity of all people. I am very encouraged by your formation of a Diversity Board and don’t see how you can opt for diversity while taking down the Black Lives Matter signs.
You may be aware of my FaceBook posts on Safety Harbor Strong and Safety Harbor Neighbors. I was stunned, saddened and frankly frightened at some of the responses. Mayor Ayoub stated on his FaceBook site that he will open this matter to public opinion; you will likely get some strong pushback from residents of Safety Harbor.
I implore all of you to stay strong. I believe that we are at a crossroads in history. There is much civil unrest, a global pandemic and the concerns of the climate crisis are still with us. I believe that history will judge us by our actions this year, both individually and collectively. In the past, there were people against slavery who gave it little more than lip service. Others were abolitionists who said, “not on my watch.”
When my grandchildren ask me about the year 2020, I am determined to have a story of courage and hope and strength to tell them. I will tell them that I held my fellow men and women in great esteem and gave my all so the world could be a better place. That I did not let discomfort or property values or fear win out over love.
I invite you to join in my story. This is not the time to back down.
Here in Safety Harbor, FL, Black Lives Matter! We, residents of Safety Harbor, support ALL members of our community and want to show our support in justice for ALL.
I, as a resident of Safety Harbor would like to see our city, as a small but important 1st step, display two Black Lives Matter- Justice for All, signs as a symbol of solidarity against racism.
This last commission meeting, the city unanimously decided to display these signs for 60 days outside of City Hall (hopefully with more action to come). The mayor is backpedaling and we must come together to say that WE want these signs displayed. This is a small 1st step, with hopefully more action against racism to come from our city.
The diversity board is needed ASAP. It should be made of ALL people of color. We do need an additional LBGTQIA+ advisory board as well to make sure that all voices are represented.
When knocking on doors during the last election, I had one woman tell me that a city representative talked her OUT OF opening a business on Main street, telling her it was “very expensive” Also, I was told by another Black resident that Joe Cooper told her that the wait to have a spot for 3rd friday was 3 years! A black friend of mine said that she does not feel comfortable or welcome going downtown or 3rd friday. I, myself had to pressure wash racial slurs off of PLAYGROUNDS and walking bridges. When I asked about putting a community garden and butterfly garden at Daisy Douglas, I was told NO, that “They” would just destroy or steal the plants. These are all examples of racism in our small town.
There is racial injustices happening in our own town, we can not deny or ignore it. We have to stand together as one unified voice. If we ignore it, we are a part of the problem, not the solution.
Dear Commissioners Besore, Diaz, Merz, and Zodrow,
As the world finds itself in what feels like never ending change, we are forced to ask what parts of what used to be “normal” are worth carrying into the future. Coronavirus has forced us to take a harder look at safety and the importance of others to our mental health. The Black Lives Matter movement on the other hand has forced us to question what injustices we have inherently taken in and continued because it’s just “normal.”
We ask each of you to stop and look at what is being done in Safety Harbor in reaction to Coronavirus. We are wearing masks and keeping distance not just to protect ourselves, but to protect others around us – neighbors, friends, and even complete strangers. We talk and hear often about those who are “at risk” of the worst consequences of the disease and we’ve put task forces together to determine how they can best be protected. Every time you put a mask on your face, you are saying that you care about them and want to keep them from harm. Do you know who else in our neighborhood is at risk? Black people. Yet when it comes to putting up a sign to signify that you care about them and want to keep them from harm, you second guess the decision. You got it right the first time. If someone is at risk, you help them.
Coming to the aid of others is in our nature as humans and is illustrated perfectly by the Parable of the Sheep in Luke 15:4-6:
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
Consider your own children or loved ones. If one is sick, injured, or in danger, what do you do? You go after them. You help them. You don’t wait for others’ approval. You don’t wait for others to join. You don’t run halfway to them and then change your mind because it gets difficult. You go to them without hesitation because you care deeply. You don’t say that any of your other children or loved ones matter less because they aren’t getting your attention in that moment. You couldn’t imagine standing by and not taking action. Because you are human.
We ask each and every one of you on Monday evening to remember that – you are human. We all are. If this year has shown us anything it is that. We are all equally fragile, vulnerable, and capable of having things we take for granted taken away from us. Yet at any given point, some of us are more at risk than others – whether from becoming critically ill from a novel disease or being harmed because of the color of our skin.
Remain human. Stay the course. Keep the signs up.
And remember this decision every time you put on a mask to help someone at risk.
Ashley Westfall and Leo Moscardini
Hello, Commissioners Zodrow, Besore, Merz and Dias:
Thank you for agreeing Monday night to participating in drawing attention to the issue of Black Lives Matter and Equal Justice for all.
What I hear today, namely the Mayor backtracking on posting the signs, shows clearly that some residents of Safety Harbor are not ready (yet?) to open their minds and hearts to what should be normal and natural.
I am disappointed. I love living in S.H. and CANNOT BELIEVE that some residents feel left out of this community, and others think that’s ok.
Dear Commissioners Besore, Diaz, Merz and Zodrow:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your support at Monday night’s commission meeting for the Black Lives Matter movement/signs at City Hall. This direction is one that gives us all hope that our City understands the importance of our black community.
This City has a very dark past with our black community – one that included the Ku Klux Klan. Although we can never right that wrong, we can let our black friends know we are not that City today. We can let them know they are welcome and belong in our City.
This is a very meaningful step in the right direction. A direction that says “you are important to our community.” A step that also says “we can not rewrite our past but we can do the right thing today and in the future.”
Please stay the course you are on and know you are doing the moral and just thing for our black neighbors and our City.
Thank you, take care and be safe.
Dear Commissioners Besore, Diaz, Merz, and Zodrow,
As my father often told me when I was young, fear is a poor counselor. It compromises us. It compromises our judgment.
I’ve read some ugly social media posts denouncing your decision to place Black Lives Matter signs on city property—posts that are fueled primarily by fear. Fear of those who are different, fear of competition, fear of loss of privilege. Some residents fear change, others misunderstand the movement and its slogan—either through ignorance or willfulness. And, unfortunately, small pockets of racists still linger here. Please do not succumb to their vitriol.
You know the right path forward. You took it on Monday. In doing so, you served not only the Black community, but our entire community. As Commissioner Merz noted, the rising tide of justice and equality lifts all boats. Now the question is whether you will advance, or retreat in the face of ugly social media posts and unreasoning fear.
We are at a new, yet familiar crossroads in our country. Once again, we are being asked by a segment of the population: Are we included in the “all” in this country’s pledge of “liberty and justice for all?” This was the question behind emancipation; women’s right to vote; Black Americans’ right to sit at a lunch counter or at the front of the bus; Hispanic Americans’ right to a living wage; gay marriage. In each case, some people made outrageous predictions of chaos and societal breakdown should the answer be yes; claims born of ignorance, misinformation, bigotry, and fear. And in each case, politicians had to decide whether to cower before the challenges of social progress—or to lead the march forward.
That is the significance of last Monday’s decision. You chose to lead.
On Monday night, you sent a courageous message: In Safety Harbor, Black Lives Matter.
Next Monday, you apparently will be asked to send a new message, and the headline might well read: Safety Harbor decides Black lives don’t matter after all. And rather than being a local story, it may well be a national one.
I pray you resist such a retreat. You all knew that, inevitably, there would be pushback. Commissioner Merz noted that this move may alienate some but added, “this is definitely a time of fundamental and enduring change and I think we must unite in this commitment to try to do something.” He also noted that the picture on the sign is inclusive and the message clear: “Justice for All.”
I thank you from the depths of my heart for taking this stand in support of the racial justice movement sweeping this country. In doing so, you also reached out to Safety Harbor’s Black community, letting it know, by this symbolic gesture, that they are welcome and valued here, which has not been true during most of this city’s past. As I said to you last Monday, this is not a time for counting hands. This is a time for moral conviction and courage. You showed that moral conviction and courage last Monday. Now that a storm of fear is upon us, I pray that you, like other great leaders, will stay the course.
Dear Mayor Ayoub and Commissioners Zodrow, Dias, Merz, and Besore,
This Monday eve you will be asked to reconsider your decision to place on city property two small signs reading: Black Lives Matter/Justice For All.
How sad that such a simple message can provoke so much … what? Derision? Anger? Hatred? But there it is, and now you must face up to it.
I favor the signs. But you will not read here any further argument on why they are appropriate for this time and for this place. I think we’re beyond that.
Rather, I ask only that you be true to the heartfelt sympathies you expressed publicly last week. More simply, I ask that you be true to yourselves.
Amid the inevitable tumult and shouting, that may not be easy. So, for it’s worth, I ask you to recall your high school history. Writing at a time when the American Revolution seemed near collapse, Thomas Paine wrote: These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman …
Of course, the stakes in Safety Harbor are not so dire. And yet, in a very real sense, the cause of freedom remains in peril.
Reversing your votes Monday means enlisting in an army of summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. I pray you stand your ground, knowing that, as Paine wrote:Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Michael A. Moscardini
Dear City Commission,
I thank each of you who voted to post two very sweet, unifying, and positive signs in front of the city hall and library in Safety Harbor, affirming that Black Lives do in fact matter, and that you support justice for all. I would hate to think our elected leaders are incorrectly associating violence with being black, which is a falsehood.
Please follow in the footsteps of the Pinellas County Commission and our neighboring town, Dunedin, and show you’re actually developing a pathway toward justice for black residents in Safety Harbor. In 2020, in Safety Harbor, most long-time African American residents still do not feel comfortable walking down main street, and feel alienated from city government. You have the power to change this. Please stand firm in your conviction to intentionally welcome blacks, and say that they matter. You must deal with the systemic racism in our community, and take the moral high ground. It is not an easy road, but it is the difference for a brighter future, and justice for minorities in our lovely city.
P.S. – Here are the correct response to the narrative of those who have not confronted their own unintentional bias: They argue: But ALL lives matter and it’s NOT FAIR to single out one racial group. The answer: THIS particular racial group – and no other – was enslaved in our country (eg, 4 million slaves by 1860), and continued to be treated as second class citizens, even in Safety Harbor until the 70’s and 80’s, meaning African American families for many generations have felt unwelcome, rejected, and unable to participate in city activities. Safety harbor is STILL segregated, and the stain of racism and violence against blacks will remain until our elected leaders confront it. Therefore, it is logical to intentionally support this racial group in an effort to heal injustice, bias, and racism against blacks. Not confronting the problem could make it fester and erupt in undesirable ways.
Karen Owen, PhD
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.Preamble to the Declaration of Independence
But ALL did not mean all; it meant white men only. In 1918, the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. So ALL then meant white men and women. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination based on race. So ALL should have meant everyone, but it did not. Safety Harbor has a history that no one should be proud of. None of us, whose skin is white, ever feared being lynched, or killed for looking at someone the wrong way. It is time that our City declare that Blacks Lives Matter, because for too long they did not.
The Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center supports Lewis Ponds and the African American Community in placing the Black Lives Matter signs in front of City Hall as do I, Janet Hooper, a former City Commissioner.
The very fact that you have brought this forth to reconsider is a dangerous precedent for all Commission decisions going forward. A very sad day for our community.
Janet L Hooper, Executive Director Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center
Dear Mayor Ayoub,
You will remember we had an impassioned conversation about mandating masks for Safety Harbor. I do appreciate that you called and listened to my point of view. Unfortunately, we continue in Florida to have one of the highest rates of covid infection in the country and the world. However, today I am writing you about another topic – Black Lives Matter.
I was unable to attend the city council meeting on Monday. However, I would like to weigh in on this very important subject. I urge you to stand strong with all of your citizens of Safety Harbor, and proudly display the Black Lives Matter sign in front of City Hall, and all over Safety Harbor.
It is time. It is past time. You are being asked as a leader to stand on the right side of history – to make a stand to work to right a historic wrong, both in our country, and in our city. I personally have witnessed incidents of racism toward black friends – at the community center – at basketball games there. It is obvious if you open your eyes that systemic racism exists in our city and institutions today and that slavery, white supremacy, Jim Crow Laws, and racism are a part of our history. All of us now need to acknowledge this, make amends, and work towards reparation and reconciliation.
You need to be a leader, and stand strong. You said, “the signs are divisive.” It isn’t the signs that are divisive – it is the systemic and institutionalized racism that is divisive. Change makes some people uncomfortable, and some people do not want to acknowledge a painful truth. But, the signs are not the cause of their discomfort. The cause is change, and unwillingness to do self evaluation, remedy a wrong, and grow.
Acknowledging a problem doe not create the problem. It is the beginning of healing.
Saying “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t say that other lives don’t matter. But white lives have always mattered – we need to acknowledge that part that painfully hasn’t mattered.
I know you will do the right thing. Be a leader. Black Lives Matter.
Mary Poole, Ph.D.
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