An insightful message

Darryl Jones urges continued teaching of Black history

Leon County School Board member Darryl Jones delivered at impactful message at an event celebrating Martin Luther King.
Photo courtesy Leon County government

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Considering that Florida’s legislators have passed laws to block the teaching of Black history, it wasn’t surprising that the censorship was a popular topic during celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday.

The stage at the MLK Foundation’s celebration was Darryl Jones’ platform for stating his disgust last Wednesday. As the keynote speaker, he also took the opportunity to encourage his audience to take the lead in educating Black children.

Hoisting a book titled “African American Education in Leon County, Florida. Emancipation through Desegregation,” Jones pointed from the rotunda in Leon County Courthouse toward the Capitol across the street.

Like King did countless times during his civil rights speeches, Jones was deliberate with his words.

“We don’t care what they say,” said Jones, a member of the Leon County School Board. “Those mediocre people with mediocre minds and mediocre intelligence and mediocre integrity; we are going to teach African American history in our Leon County schools.”

Going further, Jones said a copy of the book written by Althemese Barnes and Debra Herman, will be in each school in the district. He and Rosanne Wood, another school board member, will buy 51 copies to distribute.

As if to respond to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ claim that slavery was beneficial to Blacks, Jones mentioned how the church and schoolhouses became the places where Blacks were educated.

That is something that the governor doesn’t know, said Bishop Harold Edwards, who praised Jones for being on point with his speech.

DeSantis “doesn’t understand because he doesn’t have the cultural background to understand,” Edwards said. “Maybe if he had a Black history education he would understand that some of the things are still going on.”

The MLK Foundation’s event was the first of several that took place in observation of the King holiday. Other events included a parade and celebration in Cascades Park on Monday.

 The day started with the NAACP’s citywide celebration. It featured speakers, including FAMU Professor Tiffany Packer, Ph.D., attorneys Daryl D. Parks and Chuck Hobbs. A march to the Capitol for a rally culminated the NAACP event.

Earlier in the week, the NAACP also held its Commemorative Breakfast at the Leon County Civic Center. Attorney Jessica Yeary, Public Defender for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, spoke on the theme “The Power of the Dream: Justice for All.”

The Civil Rights Institute at Florida State also put on five days of activities that culminated Monday night with “the journey to justice.”

Just before Jones made his way to the lectern, Skyy Proud, a student at Pineview Elementary School, told the MLK story with a passionate delivery that got the audience’s attention. The crowd was especially captivated by her cadence when she preferenced several historic facts with “it was here …, referencing several civil rights action that took place in Tallahassee.”

Two references in particular seemed to resonate with the audience.

One was about Florida having the highest number of lynching per capita. The other was about Blacks being able to work downtown but had to be gone before sun down.

Jones also delivered some history-related nuggets, but what he asked before returning to his seat was impactful.

“I want you do decide today that you’re going to make choices to be involved in the future of our young people,” Jones said. “We need to find the same heart and grit that these people have. They did not wait on anyone to save their children. They took the responsibility as a community onto themselves.”

The community at large should adhere to the charge, said Greg James, pastor at Life Church International and a community advocate.

“I think the speaker was very profound and very encouraging to know that the African American history book that they will purchase to put into all of the school,” James said. “Our kids will have understanding of what our history looks like.

“The key to (Jones’) charge is that we as African Americans have a responsibility to be there to take upon ourselves to reinvest in education. The church and the school were hand in hand. I think we’ve got to go back to that.”

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