Author Archives: Jessica

The precipitous decline of Florida Blue Key 

How a once-powerful UF leadership honorary society resorted to extracting $1,000,000+ in tuition money

By Rey Arcenas

It is an open secret that Florida Blue Key controls the student government of the University of Florida. Over the course of their one hundred year grip on power, they’ve been associated with petty corruption scandals such as throwing out thousands of copies of newspapers with negative headlines, slashing tires, and pouring sugar in their opponents’ gas tanks. Nevertheless, Florida Blue Key celebrates a long list of influential politicians that stretches decades across political lines: Spessard Holland, Fuller Warren, Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles, Buddy MacKay, and Adam Putnam among others. 

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Gainesville Roller Rebels: Back and better than ever!

Come watch the All-Stars take on the Sugar Sands Roller Derby on Saturday, July 8, and the Tallahassee Roller Derby on Saturday, July 29, at 6:30pm at the MLK Jr. Multipurpose Center at 1028 NE 14th St. in Gainesville.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Kids 12 and under get in free. Pick up tickets from Loosey’s Downtown at 120 SW 1st Ave., or purchase them online at Brown Paper Tickets. Doors open at 6pm and the action starts at 6:30pm. Food and drink will be available for purchase. There will be a raffle with proceeds going to a local charity.

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Editors’ picks: News that didn’t fit

‘Absolutely Tragic’: Doctors tie Trump’s 30-foot border wall to surge in injuries and deaths
by Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams | April 30 |
“We’re seeing injuries we didn’t see before: pelvic fractures, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and a lot of open fractures when the bone comes through the skin,” said a San Diego doctor.

Algeria’s war of independence (50-minute audio)
from The History Hour | BBC News | May 2 |
Sixty years after Algeria’s independence from France, first-hand accounts of a traumatic ‘birth of a nation’: a female Algerian bomber who was part of the battle for Algiers; how the French military responded with brutal tactics; a massacre on the streets of Paris; and reprisals against Algerians who fought alongside the French. Plus, the flowering of a national spirit through football.

ALU Staten Island: Labor movement resurgence (5:46-minute video)
by Dave Lippman | YouTube | April 25 |
Friend of Iguana Dave Lippman sent in this video: Amazon Labor Union (ALU), having won the election at the JFK8 Staten Island warehouse, looks to their second vote this week at the adjacent LDJ5 warehouse. Supportive unions and politicians rally at the site.

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May-June 2021 Iguana

The May-June issue of the Iguana is now available, and you can access it here! If you want to get your hands on a hard copy, check out our distro locations here.

Standing on the Shoulders of Women Before Us

One morning in February 2021, Nkwanda Jah wrote to me and said she was having many thoughts about the women who had died who had influenced her and taught her how to be an activist. She wanted to brainstorm how to honor these women for Women’s History Month. We talked and decided on 10 women who fit that category. We hired a graphic artist, Tanisha Byars, and started writing to women we knew who had known one of the women and asked if they could write a short tribute to that woman. That’s how Kim Barton came to write the tribute to Barbara Higgins, who had worked at the Supervisor of Elections office for years and was instrumental in getting many black folks to register to vote. Vivian Filer wrote about Verdell Robinson, because they were both nursing professors at Santa Fe College. And so on. We hope to be a cog in the wheel of history that keeps these women alive in our collective memory.                                          

In the struggle,  
Pam Smith and Nkwanda Jah

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Our area deserves a representative who cares

by Kayser Enneking

Hello, my name is Kayser Enneking. I am a native of North Central Florida, a mother, a wife, and a medical doctor. I am running for the Florida State House District 21 because our community deserves a Representative who votes like they care about the community. 

Like many of my patients, I am frustrated by the current status quo of our healthcare systems. I was shocked by the purely political decision by Florida State Legislators to not expand Medicaid. This decision has been bad for our state, and this district. Prior to COVID-19 it was estimated 800,000 Floridians would’ve been eligible for healthcare if we expanded Medicaid. As thousands lose employer sponsored healthcare due to job losses, that number has now ballooned to well over 1 million Floridians. In our district, Medicaid expansion would translate into jobs and critical funding for our rural hospitals. It also would cover mental health as well as substance abuse treatment, which are vital to the health of our community. 

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Civic Media Center SpringBoard postponed

It had all come together so well, the date, the speaker, the place. We were in the midst of planning the food when the Coronavirus invaded like little alien ships attacking the humans of Earth. So we had to postpone SpringBoard. And, as well, the CMC has had to postpone all events except the Free Groceries on Tuesdays.

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History and the people who make it: Barbara Higgins part 2

Barbara Higgins [H], civil rights activist, was interviewed by Stewart Landers [L] in August, 1992.

This is the 55th in a series of transcript excerpts from the UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program collection; the first part of this interview was printed in the September Iguana.

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler.

L: The NAACP youth council starts picketing the Humpty Dumpty. There was an incident at the Florida Theater. Then in the fall of 1963, students started picketing College Inn and Gold Coast across from the university. And in October of 1963, the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights … 

H: I did not join them at the beginning. The first integrated organization I joined was the Democratic Women Club, when Judge Atkins’s wife was the president. 

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Thank You

Thank you for donating to the Gainesville Iguana. Your support helps sustain the work of an all-volunteer staff and existence of the area’s longest running progressive newsletter. Without you, we couldn’t do what we do and have done each year (okay… we did take one year off) since 1986.

In solidarity,
The Iguana Fam

‘1984’ (the play) hits the Hippodrome Mainstage

The Hippodrome Theatre and the UF School of Theatre + Dance will partner to bring George Orwell’s dystopia to life this fall.

1984, written by George Orwell and adapted by Andrew White,  makes its Southeast regional premiere on the Hippodrome Mainstage. The show runs Sept. 1 through Sept. 24.

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So Not Wasted Fundraiser for the Repurpose Project, July 22

The Repurpose Project is excited to announce its …so not wasted fundraiser at First Magnitude Brewery at 1220 SE Vietch St., Gainesville, on July 22, 2017 from 6-10pm.  Join us for a fun evening of trash carnival games, waste stream education, a serious and not-so-serious auction starring our very own fast talkin’ auctioneer, live music, the Trash Princess, raffle, silent auction, local beer, pizza and pretzels. Learn about our mission and ways to tread lightly on the planet.

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Veterans display tombstones to remember fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan

by Gainesville Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Peace will be displaying more than 6,915 tombstones from dawn on May 27 through dusk on Memorial Day on 8th Avenue just east of 31st Street as part of their Memorial Day Weekend event. This display is to remember those who have died in the wars in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.

The tombstones will line the street along 8th Avenue just east of 31st Street, where the Solar System Walk is located. This is the tenth year VFP has set up the display, and in 2008 we had to cross over to the North side of Eighth Avenue due to the continuing number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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History and the people who make it: Lilly Sanchez

Lilly Sanchez [LS], of Nevada’s Western Shoshone tribe, and her daughter Virginia [VS] and granddaughter Cora Burchett [CB], were interviewed by Ryan Morini [RM] in December 2012.

This is the 40th in a series of transcript excerpts from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program collection at the University of Florida.

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler.

LS: My name is Lilly Virginia Sanchez. I was born in Duckwater, where my grandfather always lived, under the willows. We never go to doctors those days, we just have our grandmother as a midwife.

RM: When were you born?

LS: 1923.

RM: Were you delivered by a midwife?

LS: Yes, by my grandmother, Mary Blackeye. My parents was Agnes Blackeye Penoli, and my father was Frank Penoli.

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Veterans for Peace announces public reading, reception for Peace Poetry Contest, Peace Scholarship Awards

by Gainesville Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Peace Gainesville Chapter 14 has announced the 8th Annual Public Reading and Reception of the Alachua  County Peace Poetry Contest and Peace Scholarship Awards.

On Saturday, May 20, 35 students from Alachua County schools will read their peace poems aloud at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as winners of the 2017 Peace Poetry Contest.

The eighth annual Peace Poetry Contest began in January, inviting all K-12 students of Alachua County schools, both public and private, to submit one poem on what peace means to them. A team of community writers and poets judged the over 280 poems submitted, according to age group.

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WGOT-LP FM to hold volunteer information meeting

By Michele LeSure, WGOT Volunteer Coordinator

You’ve seen our logo and call letters advertised in these pages for going on ten years now. WGOT-LP FM, in partnership with the Civic Media Center, has been broadcasting continuously since 2008.

Recently, you may have read that WGOT-LP FM moved to a new frequency (100.1 FM) and a new studio space within the space of one month; that’s a major leap in such a short period of time (not to mention the installation of a new antenna to help our signal strength).

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ACRev continues political revolution

Alachua County Revolution’s purpose is to continue the political revolution Bernie Sanders started, through effective local action and is modeled after Our Revolution, the successor organization to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

ACRev supports other local, progressive and activist groups and hopes to identify a new generation of progressive leaders to fight for progressive change and help to elevate the political consciousness. 

ACRev promotes local action and sharing of events through the site. 

Who is the Resistance?

by Joe Courter

In the Editors’ Picks on this page there is a listing for a talk given in Chicago  and hosted by Haymarket Books. It features Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein, two leading thinkers and analysts of our time. It is about 90 minutes and well worth it.

In her opening remarks Alexander questions the concept of Resistance as applied to the opposition to the Trump presidency. She says she appreciates how the term came into use, but then she turns it around.

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Women’s March Gainesville

Women’s March Gainesville is the official local chapter of Women’s March Florida, the originators of the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21.

We pride ourselves on being a non-violent organization with a pro-woman, pro-community, pro-sustainability, pro-love, and pro-diversity focus.

We believe in art as a means of revolutionary change. Our organization is a great place for first time activists as well as long-term activists interested in getting involved with the local government and our community.

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Vietnamese writer to speak May 30

Writer and illustrator Thi Bui, who has written the graphic memoir The Best We Could Do, an intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying her family’s journey from Vietnam during the war, will be speaking and reading on May 30 at the Civic Media Center. The event runs from 6:30 to 8 pm.

This beautifully illustrated and emotionally evocative memoir is about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love.

Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

“With great mastery of writing and drawing, Thi Bui shows the consequences of war lasting from generation to generation.”

— Maxine Hong Kingston

“Be prepared to take your heart on an emotional roller-coaster journey with this thought-provoking account that completely satisfies as the story comes full circle. Highly recommended for teens and adults; an excellent choice for book clubs.”

— Library Journal online (starred review) D

Debunking alternate energy denial: seven responses

By Larry Behnke

Climate change denial has been around for years. But there’s another climate-related denial that is just as damaging: alternate energy denial. You usually hear this put-down of alternate energy from utilities that fear loss of control and income as people discover ways to produce their own power.

Solar electricity is often the target for alt-energy denial. We’ve heard for years, “It’s too expensive; it’s inefficient; we need more research.” But the efficiency of PV (photo voltaic) panels has increased as their price has dropped the last few years. More people are buying them, while utility companies fret.

Over the past few months in our area, I have seen the following examples of alt-energy denial, actual quotes from local officials. I will comment on each one according to my experience as a user of solar electricity to power my home with a system I installed in 1984.

“Salesmen will tell potential customers that their panels will save them X amount of money over a 30-year period, but the panels themselves are only warranted for 20 years. That means the homeowner has to re-invest in new solar panels before they have received the benefit of the utility savings.”

Only 20 years? Your car should have such a warranty! But that’s just a warranty, not the life of the panels. My PV panels have been producing more electricity than I can use for 33 years. The panels General Electric made 60 years ago still work. Some scientists predict PV panels could work for 100 years; there are no moving parts to wear out (although there is slight loss of output). You will never have to buy new panels unless you want to expand the size of your system, and it is easy to wire on new panels.

“PVs don’t produce any voltage on cloudy days.”

Yes they do, just not as much as in bright sun. My PV panels fully charge my batteries by around noon or 1 p.m. On cloudy days it may take until 2 or 3 p.m. to get a full charge. I know this as fact from 33 years of checking my battery voltage. I simply push a contact button on my wall to see the voltmeter reading.

“Solar panels can’t move with the sun.”

For more than three decades the Zomeworks Company has built an efficient tracker that moves panels to follow the sun across the sky all day and then repositions them for the next morning, all with self-contained solar power. But my panels don’t need to move.

“PVs don’t produce much voltage in the winter or when covered with ice or snow.”

PVs actually work better in winter, producing more power when they are cold (a balance to the shorter days of sunlight). That’s why an air space between the panels and roof is important during hot weather (and why solar shingles are less efficient).

Ice and snow are no problem in the Sunshine State. If northern PV panels don’t slope enough, snow may accumulate. But a rare covering of ice would still let enough sunshine through to produce electricity.

“Solar is higher cost compared with other forms of generating electricity.”

That may have been true 30 years ago, but in some communities, solar electricity is the same cost as coal generation (fossil fuels and nuclear would be far more expensive without their government subsidies and tax breaks). But what is the added cost of burning coal for electricity? Damage to humans who have to breathe its toxins, as well as the heat of burning coal that is warming up our planet (2016 was the hottest year on record).

Recent research by Bloomberg showed that new solar power around the world is “robustly entering the era of undercutting fossil-fuel prices.”

“The most expensive and inefficient use of solar is by one individual;…”

I am one individual using solar electricity to pump all my water from a well. I use solar for lights, fans and assorted 12-volt appliances. The cost of my PV system, figured over the years I’ve used it, is $8 a month. Does that sound expensive?

I also use $5 a month worth of grid power (plus the customer fee of $20, and taxes) for my refrigerator, lights and TV. My house is wired for these two separate systems, so I am less affected when the grid goes down during storms.

“…it is more cost effective if solar use is on a city-wide basis, and most cost effective if a group of cities can employ solar using the very latest technology.”

Solar is only more cost effective on a citywide basis for the utility company so they can sell solar electricity to their customers. They don’t make profits when people have their own solar “power companies” on rooftops.

Making electricity on site with PVs is more efficient than having to transport it over long distances, losing power along miles of lines.

Not all utilities are in denial. According to Lynn Jurich, CEO of Sunrun: “Sunrun pays to install a solar electric system on a person’s roof. There’s no up-front cost for homeowners. They then buy the power from us, typically at 20 percent less than what their utilities charge. We take care of the maintenance. Homeowners save money immediately. We’re in 12 states now.”

Of course our local utilities would rather have “solar farms” that they can own and control to sell power to their customers as they always have. As for cities being able to use the “latest technology,” PVs themselves have changed very little over the decades. What has changed is that they are much more efficient and cheaper than ever. I paid $260 for a 30-watt panel in 1984. Now you could buy a 300-watt panel for the same amount.

Why do our utility officials tell us all these falsehoods about solar electricity? Control and profit. They can sell electricity for a profit when they control the buying and selling of coal, gas, oil and nuclear. But they have not figured out a way to sell us sunshine, except with their own solar farms.

In the stock market fossil fuel has been among the worst performing sectors, while investors are now piling more money into renewables, because that’s where the growth will come. Economics will kill alt-energy denial.

Perhaps our local utilities will someday work with their customers to promote and sell PV panels. But they are used to doing business their old way, so for now they will use alt-energy denial to dissuade us from installing our own PV power, using free sunshine.

You can contact Larry Behnke at,   386-454-3249, or  P.O.Box 1311, High Springs, FL 32655. D