After 50 years, life for African Americans is different, but it is not quite the MLK Dream. Known as the “Historic Waterfront Gateway City”, Sanford, Florida sits on the southern shore of Lake Monroe at the head of navigation on the St. John’s River and is merely a 20 minute drive from Orlando.
The city claims that it is “no Selma,” but Trayvon Martin’s shooting has brought to light a troubling and consistent pattern of racial prejudice and injustice. Upon closer inspection, the truth is Selma, Alabama may proudly refute that in a historic timeline of evolution, civility and growth, it is “no Sanford, Florida”.
History is repetitive and undeniable. The unnecessary and racially-motivated shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida; the continued refusal of the city’s judicial system to charge his shooter after more than a month; and the subsequent release of Zimmerman has caused debate and dismay. Yet, the current ‘Stand Your Ground Law” reality is less surprising when you acknowledge the residents’ volatile lineage and Sanford’s undeniable past.
IN THE BEGINNING The Mayaca or Jororo Indians peacefully inhabited the shores of Lake Monroe at the time of European contact. By 1760, however, divisive wars and disease introduced by Europeans had completely erradicated the tribe, which would be replaced by the Seminole Indians.Native Americans first settled in the area thousands of years before the city of Sanford was formed.
ALLIGATOR BAIT Refers to the common practice of using black babies and children as bait to catch alligators. Popular in cities such as Sanford, the practice has appeared in films such as: “Alligator Bait” (1900) and “The ‘Gator and the Pickaninny” (1900). Accounts of boys used as alligator bait were told in “Untamed Fury” (1947).
AMERICA’S GREAT #42 Sanford residents demanded that Jackie Robinson…be run out of town while he was playing for the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers AAA team, which trained in Sanford.
Dodgers General Manager Manager Branch Rickey thought that Robinson’s family and presence on the team would be accepted as long as Robinson didn’t try to stay at any Sanford hotels, didn’t eat at any restaurants not deemed “Negro restaurants,” and didn’t dress in the same locker room as his teammates.
WHERE THERE IS SMOKE School teacher Harry Tyson Moore founded the first NAACP in Seminole County, fought for racial equality and from 1944 to 1950 Moore’s increased Black voter registration to 31 percent of those eligible to vote, higher than any other southern state. On Christmas night of 1951 and the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary, he and his wife Harriette Vyda Simms Moore’s home was fire bombed. After their murders, no one was ever indicted, and firebombing became a popular method of racist intimidation in the South.
ROSEWOOD MASSACRE Jealous of the fiscal independence and prosperity of the neighboring black community, Caucasian men from nearby towns lynched a Rosewood resident. When black citizens vehemently defended themselves against further attacks, several hundred Caucasians combed the countryside hunting for black people and burned almost every structure in Rosewood. In 1993, the Legislature commissioned a report and as a result Florida became the first U.S. state to
compensate survivors and their descendants for damages incurred because of racial violence.
QUESTION OF HUMANITY On Dec. 4, 2010, 21-year-old Justin Collison was captured on a YouTube video sucker- punching Sherman Ware, a homeless, innocent black man and slamming his face into a utility pole, then onto the pavement. Sanford police had the video but did not arrest him. Like Zimmerman, Collison’s family is politically connected. Collison’s father is a Sanford police lieutenant, and his grandfather is a former circuit judge and wealthy Florida landowner.
NO VOTE. NO VOICE. In an exclusive 2012 report by the Palm Beach Post, several prominent Florida Republicans are now admitting that voter suppression was the goal of new election laws which were geared toward suppressing minority and Democratic votes. Ironically, the Florida GOP had to confront its own scandal when a voter registration firm they hired turned in hundreds of fraudulent registration forms in several Florida counties.
THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE Corizon is the nation’s leader in correctional health care solutions. In reality, this Tennessee-based company has a disturbing history of prisoner abuse and human rights violations. After a controversial court battle and public outrage, Florida Governor, Rick Scott fired 1,756 state- employed prison healthcare providers. This $230 million deal is slated to be the largest outsourcing of prison medical care in the nation. Now, Corizon, a known human rights violator, has direct control of the health care of thousands of inmates.
MONEY IS POWER Does your money support the shameless cloud of racism and inhumanity of the ‘Sunshine State’? 23.4 million tourists visited Florida in the second quarter of 2013. As we all continue to fight for justice for Trayvon Martin, remember that it is not just this one tragic incident in a vacuum, but it is a deeply engrained, systemic structure, funded and thriving off our vacations and conferences. Decide whether or not the state of Florida deserves your tourism dolars. Like Stevie Wonder stated, $$$tand your Ground.