This Sunday in our On the Brink of Everything series, we explored “On the Brinnk of New Horizons.” New horizons are often positive, new technology, new opportunities. However, sometimes those new horizons can cause fear and uncertainty. In our state, the so called “stop WOKE act” limits the freedoms that schools, colleges, and even businesses have in portraying our history accurately and combating racism. How might we respond to this disconcerting new horizon?
During my message on Sunday, I inadvertently left out this story about one who is facing this horizon head-on. Last week The Washington Post published an article about Marvin Dunn, 82, professor at Florida International University. Not only is Professor Dunn part of a lawsuit challenging the new law, he is doing his best to defy it. He leads a Miami-based nonprofit that takes students and others on tours of historical sites in Florida of significance to African Americans.
Recently, he took a group of students and parents to Pleasant Plain Cemetary in Newberry, Florida. It was there that “the Rev. Josh J. Baskin and five other Black Floridians” were “hanged by a White mob from an oak tree in 1916 after an accusation over a stolen hog sparked two days of terror.” Though the new Flroida law “says students should not be made to ‘feel guilt’ because of actions committed by others in the past,” Professor Dunn says, “I can’t tell the story of the Newberry Six without expressing my disgust for the lynching of a pregnant woman. As a teacher who has spent 30 years going from place to place in Florida where the most atrocious things have happened, I don’t know how to do that. And I don’t want the state telling me that I must.”
Professor Dunn is a shining example of an elder who will not stop embracing, or fighting, new horizons. “Listen, if there is such a thing as the woke mob in Florida,” proclaims the professor, “I aspire to lead it.”