I went to a presentation at Old School Square this past week and a gentlemen in the audience said that he feels the white community in Delray is always reaching out to the black community, but that it’s never the other way around. I found that comment to be tone deaf for several reasons, but I’ll say this… In the two years that I have been in Delray, I’ve gotten to know both communities fairly well. I’ve worked a couple political campaigns, attended several dozen community events, and I have spoken to hundreds of people.
The white community and the black community both have concerns and things they want for the city. However, one group is often fighting for their lives, or if they have made it, they are reaching back to lift up those who are fighting that war. Are there people in the white community who reach back, absolutely. However, it’s not done with the persistence I see it done for matters that don’t concern the very lives of our children of color.
Jackson is an example of a student who attended school in our community and got lost. Thankfully, he’s found his purpose. But there are still a couple hundred kids, who look like Jackson Destine Jr., who go to bed hungry at night. It is the job of those who have reached the top to reach back and offer a hand. Conversations and criticism are important, but do more than that. Reach back. Furthermore, if you are pushed to name leaders within the black community in Delray and can’t, it’s likely that you’re not reaching far enough, so again, reach back.
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.” -Toni Morrison
This argument is complicated when race is implicated, but if you’d like to learn the racial history of Delray Beach, visit Spady Cultural Heritage Museum. Gain an understanding of communities who live outside of our Downtown. Gain an understanding of the impact 250 years of chattel slavery followed by 100 years of Jim Crow had (and still has) on black participation in the Southern economy and social system.
Be well, and meet people where they are. It is much more beneficial to learn the culture and needs of those you seek to influence, rather than dragging them to what you think is best for them.
Watch Jackson’s Story: