Civic Media Center to hold 24th anniversary dinner, speakers: Matheson Museum, Friday, Oct. 20

The Civic Media Center will mark the start of its 24th year with an anniversary dinner at the Matheson Museum on Friday evening, Oct. 20. It is a happy return to the Matheson where the CMC has held a number of successful “SpringBoard” fundraisers in years past.

The dinner features varied food from area restaurants, and great raffle and silent auction items. As an incentive to expand CMC’s collection, donations of current (within the last 5 years) and relevant books will be given a free raffle ticket per book.

At this event we will be honoring one of our community’s great Movement elders, Carol Thomas, who as a result of arrests and intimidation for integration organizing was branded “the most dangerous woman in Gainesville” in the 1960s. In addition, the Penrod Award will be presented to Candi Churchill for her labor organizing work for United Faculty of Florida.

The Matheson is located at 516 E. University Ave. with lots of parking adjoining the museum and across the street at the Kirby Smith building. Doors will open at 6:15, and dinner will begin at 6:30. The CMC is asking $25-50 per person. Advance tickets (or donations) can be made through PayPal on the CMC website, or at the door.

As a reminder, the CMC currently can accept tax-deductible donations made out to NUBA (Neighborhood United for a Better Alachua) but earmarked for the CMC, until our own 501(c)3 status is approved. We intend to keep the program lively and moving, and we will be done at approximately 9:30. We know from the past our varied supporters always enjoy being in each other’s company.

Being recognized at the CMC anniversary event will be Carol Thomas, a woman who was at the forefront of early desegregation efforts in Gainesville. Carol moved to Gainesville in 1960, but she had already developed an activist, progressive attitude from participating in anti-McCarthy demonstrations at Wayne State University near Detroit as a youth in the 1950s. Later in the ’50s, she moved to Nashville and was involved in protests against the White Citizen Council’s marches against desegregation. When she got to Gainesville, the segregation here, the substandard housing, and the abuse of black people at the jail moved her to be a community activist. She joined the NAACP, Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, and was a member of the community Bi-racial Committee, and also worked at voter registration and education efforts.

She was harassed for having integrated organizing. Carol was basically run out of town in 1969, after being threatened with charges of criminal aiding and abetting, and with that, the threat they would take her children away from her.

She left her mark on many people here, and then, once resettled in Louisville, continued her work as a community organizer around housing issues, working with the Legal Aid Society and the National Tenants Organization. While there, she formed tenant unions, changing the housing codes and helping create statewide adopted reforms based around the rights and responsibilities of tenant and landlords.

In 2000, she came back to Alachua County, and remained active with many organizations and issues in the City of Alachua and in Gainesville. Among them, ten years ago, she was a co-founder of Neighbors United for a Better Alachua, a group which the CMC has come under the wing of to be our 501(c)3 sponsor while we work to reinstate our own 501(c)3 status. Carol’s address to us will be a wake-up call to understand our history and the changed context of the events of today.

As mentioned earlier, the John A. Penrod Award for Peace and Justice will be awarded at the dinner. The award was established to honor local activists in memory of John A. (Jack) Penrod. The award is coordinated jointly by the Alachua County Labor Coalition, Veterans for Peace, and the United Faculty of Florida.

Prior to his career as a Professor at the University of Florida, Jack volunteered and fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade against fascism in the late 1930s Spanish Civil War. Jack was active in all three sponsoring organization (as well as the CMC) and was a co-founder of the faculty union. It is one of their union members that is honored in the award this time, Candi Churchill.

Since first embracing activism and organizing in the mid 1990s as a UF student, she has been a solid worker both in feminist organizing with National Organization for Women and National Women’s Liberation, as well as Graduate Students United and now United Faculty of Florida. This is in addition to marriage to her partner Andrew Reynolds (they met through GAU) and raising their son Max.

That these fine organizations choose the Civic Media Center dinner for this award presentation is an honor in itself. It is the linkage of so many good organizations and their members that keep this great little blue dot of progressivism that we all share so vital. The CMC hopes you can make it, and if not, a donation to the CMC is encouraged to launch them into their 24th year. 

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