It’s Black History Month. Do you even care? You should!
Who created the idea or notion that we should only celebrate ideas, people, cultures, occurrences when there is, and ONLY if there is a designated day or month for it? It’s silly that we hide behind the societal norm of doing so and that the times when we really should speak up and “stick it to the man” we retreat and are silent.
I think it’s a shame that in the grand scheme of things, we do so little to celebrate and learn and enjoy.
The Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave
Well, the question of if we are all “free” is a perpetual debate within itself. Experience and perspective weigh heavily in that. And for some reason, and probably with good intuitive presence, since I was a child, I have always pictured our indigenous First People in my mind’s eye when we voice the words “home of the brave.”
All of this is justifiable banter considering we are in the land of the Porch Creek. Colonial Spanish came, inhabited, and further populated the land here. Since 1559, there has always been a black presence. By 1900, there were significantly more blacks in Pensacola than whites. A good portion of them free.
Who is Jim Crow, Anyway?
By 1905, Jim Crow was reigning supreme in the city. As you (should) know, prominent black business owners in downtown Pensacola were forced to close their doors. Many moved up to the neighborhood of West Hill, later more commonly known for the central intersection of Belmont-DeVilliers. Since then, the neighborhood has been a beacon of culture – food, music, and community.
Tell the Story
Okay. That is an understatement. The only way to do the space, the people and the generations justice is to start to tell you the story. I won’t do it here. I will, however, point you in the direction of the many ways you can learn the stories. And, naturally, from the storytellers and keepers of our community.
Start with a drive down (or up) DeVilliers St. Hanging along the front of the Savoy building, there is a “History Walk.” It tells a bit of the Belmont-DeVilliers story “through the decades.” It was a feature attraction of the Heritage Festival back in November. Take a stroll by and read the stories.
A Wealth of Knowledge
We have local historians like Dr. Marion Williams, Councilwoman Teniadé Broughton, and Robin Reshard of the Kukua Institute. Each has ties to the community and, in fact, are currently running a series of obituaries for black Pensacolians who never got their obituaries in the paper to begin with. They ran their first on January 15th in the Pensacola News Journal for none other than John Sunday himself.
If you know nothing else about Pensacola black history, do yourself a favor and learn something about Mr. Sunday. If you live in Pensacola, he has undoubtedly touched your existence in one way or another. Reach out to the Kukua Institute, and Robin can share with you so many profound and wonderfully connected stories. Councilwoman Teniade Broughton is intertwined in various ways of “telling the story” and does history walks from time to time in historic Pensacola too.
What’s to Come?
Keep your eye on the Blues Trail designated Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood. They have an active association that is serious about their plan of revitalization – a celebration of the past, a nod to the present, with an intention for the future. Listen out for events and, more importantly, the storytelling – celebrating every facet of the community.
Until then, support the current happenings to fill your bellies, your minds, and your souls:
Unity Entertainment Complex (Blues & Jazz Club)