Be where you are. If you stay there, really LIVE there, dig into the place, listen to the voices, watch the faces and people movements, you’re likely to discover the deeper streams of courage and frailty that make a place what it is.
Take yesterday, for example. Kay and I attend the “Hands Up!” educational event at St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, around the corner from where we’re living this January. Mr. James Jackson, who seems to know a great deal about the law, citizens’ rights, and how to deal with law enforcement, sits behind us. There’s something different about him, a weathered face and voice that come with experience.
When the opportunity presents itself, we step outside for conversation. James Jackson was a Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Field Officer in St. Augustine with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I listen to what he tells me about the tumultuous time in St. Augustine that led to the passage of U.S. Civil Rights Act. “The bill was sitting on Johnson’s desk,” he says, “but he didn’t want to move forward with it. What happened here in St. Augustine [referring to the acts of civil disobedience to de-segregate the public beaches] drew national attention and put pressure on Washington.”
After the “Hands Up!” workshop a google search for James Jackson leads to more information about him, Dr. Robert B. Hayling, a dentist, and another who were kidnapped by the Ku Klux Klan. Gwendolyn Duncan tells the story.
For [Dr. Hayling’s] continued fight to right the injustices perpetrated upon him and his fellow Black Citizens, his home was shot into, barely missing his wife and killing his dog which was within the home. His wife and children escaped without injury. On another occasion, Dr. Hayling, along with Mr. Clyde Jenkins, Mr. James Hauser, Mr. James Jackson were kidnapped by the Klu Klux Klan.
All of the men, except Mr. James Jackson were beaten unmercifully and left semi-conscious. If not for the compassion of a white minister, Reverend Irvin Cheney, who slipped from the rally and called the State Highway Patrol in Tallahassee, Dr. Hayling and his fellow activists, who were stacked like firewood, would have been burned alive with gasoline. Dr. Hayling received the most serious injuries, suffering hospitalization for fourteen days, losing eleven teeth, and several broken ribs. Scars he is known to have said, “I’ll take to my grave.” He and the others were charged with assault but charges were dropped because the Klan never showed up to court. The Klan was never prosecuted in this case.
— Copyright © 2004, Gwendolyn Duncan, “Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement – Dr. Robert B. Hayling”
Dr. Hayling’s house is three blocks from where Kay and I are staying. Before meeting Mr. Jackson yesterday, we read the Freedom Trail plaque walking by the house around the corner here in Lincolnville.
Be where yo are. If you stay there, really LIVE there, dig into the place, listen to the voices, watch the faces and the people movements, you’re likely to discover the deeper streams of courage and frailty that make a place what it is.
– Gordon C. Stewart, Jan. 18, 2015