by Joe Courter
A quick update on the Civic Media Center as it approaches its 30th (!) anniversary on Oct. 18 …
While not doing as many public events post-COVID, it is host to a lot of organizing and many folks are plugging in to advance social justice work.
Dozens of people help with Free Grocery Store on Tuesdays. Evening events include Books 2 Prisoners, anti-incarceration organizing, the weekly poetry jam, and occasional live music.
by Nelida Esther Jean-Baptiste Pellot
In June, AJ Owens, a Black woman, was shot by a white neighbor in Ocala after the neighbor threw a roller skate and swung an umbrella at Owens’s two sons (ages 10 and 12) for reportedly being too loud.
When Owens attempted to confront the neighbor by knocking on her door, she was shot through the door in the chest and died from her injuries.
Owens’s family is pushing for hate crime charges, but currently the charges stand at manslaughter with a firearm (in addition to culpable negligence, battery, and assault.
Gainesville gathered to honor Owens on Aug. 2, and the text below is a reflection on that gathering and the plague of gun violence.
This is part 2 of a 2017 interview with Ms. Sophia Threat (T) of Groveland, Florida, by Deidre Houchen (H). It provides insight on how history is remembered, on the role that race plays within the carceral system, and the ways history can better be respected. Transcript edited by Donovan Carter.
H: What are your memories of growing up in Groveland other than workin’ in the groves?
T: For me it was good. We were back in the 70s, but for me it was good.
H: By good, you mean you enjoyed your childhood, you have happy memories?
T: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Happy memories.
by Matthew Cugini, Hipp Cinema Program Manager
The Hippodrome Cinema, still located right in the heart of downtown Gainesville, has undergone a remarkable transformation, thanks to the support of the Wild Spaces & Public Places sales tax. With a rising number of residents in town and the further development of the historic downtown area, this project could not have come soon enough.
Come watch the All-Stars take on Swan City Roller Derby in the last bout of the 2023 season on Saturday, Oct. 7 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 at 120 SW 1st Ave. in Gainesville or purchase them online at Brown Paper Tickets.
Janet Coats, Managing Director of the Consortium of Trust in Media and Technology will be the Florida Free Speech Forum speaker on Monday, Sept. 11, at 11:30am.
Coats has been at the forefront of the seismic shifts in journalism and information culture over the last 25 years. She’s led large multimedia news organizations, done groundbreaking work in civic engagement and reader outreach, and built her own consulting company focused on engagement and sustainability strategies for non-profit and entrepreneurial news organizations. She is the Managing Director of the Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology, UF College of Journalism.
It is too late to reserve lunch for the September meeting, but entry is free if not eating.
The speaker for Monday, Oct. 9, is Nathan Crabbe. His presentation will be on “Communicating about climate change: Informing the public about the threats we face—and what to do about them.”
by Chelsea Wilson, Treasurer, Acrosstown Repertory Theatre
The Acrosstown’s new location, Suite O of the Creekside Mall, is on the southwest corner of West 34th Street and University Ave.
Surrounded by restaurants and shopping, the Board of Directors is excited to bring a new energy to this location in the heart of west Gainesville. The space, formerly a yoga studio, was converted into a 50-seat theater by a team of volunteers in just two months’ time.
1763-1815: American Revolution / Screenwriting Feature-Length
As part of Santa Fe College’s fall community education classes, Gary Gordon—author, musician, and former Gainesville City Commissioner—will teach “1763-1815: American Revolution” and “Screenwriting Feature-Length.”
1763-1815: American Revolution
Revolution, Declaration, Constitution, Union …
Many people think of the American Revolution as the Boston Tea Party, the battles at Lexington and Concord, the Declaration of Independence, Valley Forge, and the British surrender at Yorktown. They think of Washington and Jefferson and maybe John Adams and Benedict Arnold. But there’s more to it than that.
by Danny Hughes, Loosey’s Downtown
I remember the first time I said it out loud at a special planning meeting with the city.
It was late April 2020, when COVID-19 was in full swing. Businesses, especially in the restaurant industry, were STRUGGLING. And my restaurant, Loosey’s, was certainly no exception. The day after Florida officially hit the panic button regarding COVID-19 I laid off all but four of my staff of 22.
This was bad. We hoped that “two weeks to stop the curve” was true, but after a few weeks it became obvious that there was not relief in the form of reopening inside coming anytime soon and we had to make a change. Adapt or die.
by Alachua County Branch NAACP, Environmental and Climate Justice Committee
The ongoing extreme weather events we are witnessing should serve as a loud wake-up call to Planet Earth. We have been hitting the snooze button too many times; it is time to roll out of bed, put our feet on the ground, and get to work addressing the climate emergency unfolding outside our windows.
We can no longer ignore the clear evidence that continuing business as usual will create unmanageable problems for all present and future generations. We must act now, and act effectively, to avoid the consequences of having powered our civilization by burning fossil fuels for more than two hundred years.
by Angela Wilson with Arbor Conscious Tree Service
Gainesville is a Tree City. With 60 percent canopy cover, our city has one of the most cohesive canopies in Florida, but even a Tree City must provide adequate sidewalk spaces for its citizens. Recently, four heritage oak trees—two Live Oaks and two Shumard Oaks—have sparked a conversation around town about the public sidewalk space we all share.
Early in the summer of 2023, after a trip and fall lawsuit was filed, an investigation revealed the sidewalks along SE 1st Ave. and SE 1st St. were not up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility code. The ADA code states all sidewalks must be at least 36 inches wide to provide an accessible route. The ADA code supersedes the Gainesville City Code of Ordinance that protects heritage trees within the city limits with permitting and resident notification. Certainly, these sidewalks were built originally up to code, so what had happened to prompt this lawsuit?
by Jon DeCarmine
Executive Director, GRACE Marketplace
There is perhaps no program that has a bigger impact on the quality of life—for housed and unhoused people alike—in Gainesville than GRACE’s street outreach program.
This five-person team meets people where they are, literally, to provide services, housing, and other support to people who can’t, or won’t, seek shelter.
The program launched in 2021, intent on capturing the spirit of the HOME Van, a long-standing Gainesville institution.
by Supervisor of Elections Office
With the 2024 Presidential Election cycle beginning in less than a year, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections is recruiting election workers to serve their community at county polling places and early voting locations.
The office is seeking new election workers and thus will host an election worker orientation session in September, October and November. Space is limited.
by Jack Kulas
In early August, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mississippi’s lifetime voting ban for felons who committed certain enumerated crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
In the decision, the judges wrote, “Mississippi denies this precious right to a large class of its citizens, automatically, mechanically, and with no thought given to whether it is proportionate as punishment for an amorphous and partial list of crimes.”
by Joe Courter
The past two headlines of the Iguana: “Well that sucked” and “Horrors,” both reflected the Florida legislature ramming their agenda through. I realize wrong feelings might have been conveyed. Yes it’s about what they are doing, but it needs to imply what we can do. Not having hope is a block to living a meaningful life. Finding purpose and committing to it is a key, whatever path you choose.
Although fair elections are under attack, we still have the vote, and it is up to us to organize and make our greater numbers count. In state after state, as the Right tries to criminalize women’s healthcare, ballot measures to resist these efforts have been winning; not just Ohio, as the cover story says, but California, Michigan, Vermont, Kansas, Kentucky and Montana. Coming up in 2024 are Maryland and New York, as well as maybe seven others, including Florida (see pg. 26).
Recent policies and controversies over the teaching of the College Board AP course in African American Studies, the new African American History Standards, Gender Identity, Woke, Multicultural Education, Diversity and Inclusion, and Critical Race Theory (CRT), demand immediate attention and action.
A central issue in the controversies is the assertion by blindly ambitious politicians and ill-informed academics that “slavery provided beneficial skills to the enslaved and how mob violence against Black people included acts of violence perpetuated against and by African Americans.”
Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center
Friday, Sept. 22, 7-10pm
Join us for this fab dance and fundraiser.
Dance like you did “back in the day”!
1950s-1960s-1970s-1980s hit tunes spun by Live Soul DJ LloverLord just in from Atlanta (Hot-lanta!)
Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center
837 SE 7th Ave, Gainesville
Do the Twist, the Mashed Potato, Wa-Watusi, Electric Slide …
Refreshments, Dance Contests, and Prizes
Cash bar, beer and wine and a little Boogie Woogie Rock ‘n’ Roll history
The dance floor is revving up, so get your tickets now!
Tickets: $25 available online at www.cottonclubmuseum.com/events
The Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center is an organization dedicated to enriching the experiences of all who wish to grow in knowledge and appreciation of the history and culture of African-derived cultures, highlighting those in Gainesville and North Central Florida.
The September 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.
Florida city fights its own citizens over clean water
Titusville repeatedly thwarts voters’ approval of anti-pollution referendum
by Craig Pittman | Florida Phoenix | June 15 | tinyurl.com/Iguana1644
Last fall, Titusville voters approved, by an 83 percent margin, making a right to clean water a part of their city’s charter. However, the city council refused to certify the election results, even after a judge ruled for the citizens. They are still fighting the measure.
Gainesville Eight anti-war activists honored 50 years after historic local trial
by Ron Cunningham | Aug. 31 | Gainesville Sun | tinyurl.com/Iguana1652
A half-century ago, eight young men erupted in celebration after learning that their jury declined to send them to prison after being accused of plotting to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. They took a celebration photo on the steps of Gainesville’s federal courthouse. Recently, the five surviving defendants of the “Gainesville Eight” returned for a group photo at the same location.
A State Heritage Site and a Contributing Building to a National Register of Historic Places Historic District, it should not be demolished.
by Friends of the Thelma Boltin Center
The Servicemen’s Center was built in 1943 during World War II. It is the only building in the State of Florida specifically built for WWII soldiers to socialize and relax. Soldiers hitchhiked from Camp Blanding, Jacksonville, Orlando, and other cities to arrive in Gainesville, pop. 14,000.
In July of 1943 11,000 men were reported as having used the Center. Non-profits and churches prepared home cooked meals for the men, local groups provided entertainment, and soldiers spent the night in homes, or other facilities. WRUF broadcasts of dances could be heard in north Florida and Georgia.
The Thelma Boltin Recreation Center is one of a few buildings in the City named after a woman. Thelma Boltin never married or had children. This building is her legacy. She was the Program Director and hostess for the events at the Serviceman’s Center. When the War ended she became the Recreation Director for the City of Gainesville at this site.