I am not taking the “last train to Jacksonville,” but I am heading to the River City for the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s 39th National Education Conference.APRI was co-founded by the legendary labor leader and Bayard Rustin.
Randolph’s steadfast devotion to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which he founded, helped lift tens of thousands of black families into the middle class. The statute of Randolph in Union Station in Washington, DC, is a constant reminder that giants once walked among us.
Randolph, a native of Jacksonville, was an unsung hero of the civil rights movement. As Florida state Sen. Anthony C. “Tony” Hill Sr. observed:
This APRI National Education Conference is very timely in view of the fact that July 26, 2008, marked the 60th anniversary of Executive Order 9981 issued in 1948 by President Harry Truman to ban segregation in the military. What is lost on most is that A. Philip Randolph’s nonviolent organizing against discrimination was a key instrument in effecting the implementation of that crucial document.
Hill has brought a ray of hope to a state that has seen more than its share of disasters – natural and man-made (think 2000 election debacle and George W. Bush).
Last year, Hill introduced legislation that launched a statewide competition for a song to replace the official state anthem, Stephen Foster’s “Swanee River (Old Folks at Home).” Adopted by the Florida legislature in 1935, the not-so-golden-oldie rhapsodizes about a slave yearning for “de old plantation” and refers to blacks as “darkeys.”
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist recently signed into law Hill’s legislation establishing a new state song, “Florida (Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky),” written by Jan Hinton, a music teacher.
So, props to my friend, Tony. But I’m looking forward to the Opening Session and the rendering of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which was written by James Weldon Johnson, who was also born in Jacksonville.