Native Florida radicals speak at CMC event
May/June 2005

The Civic Media Center, reading room and library of the non-corporate press, held its annual "Springboard" fundraiser April 29. According to organizers, it was the "biggest and best yet," raising over $4,000.

Diane Roberts, a radio commentator, author, and writer for the St. Petersburg Times was the guest speaker. She delivered incisive observations and biting criticisms of Florida politics past and present. She is the author most recently of Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and other Florida Wildlife.

One observer noted that there seemed to be "a strong feeling of gladness," given the political situation, "to be around fellow progressives and break the isolation and hopelessness these times engender."

The visit from Diane Roberts spilled over to Saturday with a booksigning event at Goerings Book Center. Roberts was joined by Stetson Kennedy, the Florida folklorist, author and civil rights activist who is now 88 years old and has a memory the envy of those half his age. He is perhaps best known for having infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and for trying to expose their activities to the U.S. government, which wasn't particularly interested in cracking down on these racehaters.

Roberts and Kennedy, both Florida natives, talked about old Florida and the scalawags--white folks in Florida after the Civil War who were racially progressive and by virtue of that were subject to beatings and lynchings as much as blacks were. Kennedy reported that scalawags weren't just "pro Union" (as in opposed to the Confederacy) but "pro people, that is they were not racist. I remember one of the testimonial they did in Jacksonville in 1872, this scalawag unionist was saying (in response to the question) "Why did the Klan flog you?" He said, 'well I was neighborly with Negroes.'"

Going further about the Republican scalawags, Kennedy said it was something you couldn't admit to, because the Klan would flog and kill you, but "the times have changed--there's all kinds of Republicans. ... Lincoln would turn over in his grave in thinking of government by and for the people--we're so far from having anything resembling that in 2005, where all we've got is government of by and for the corporations. And it affects not only government but all of our institutions, they've bought controlling interests in nearly everything, so it's corporate power as opposed to people power, as far as I can see," Kennedy said.

Diane Roberts donated a copy of Dream State to the Civic Media Center. Stetson Kennedy donated four of his books: Southern Exposure, A Jim Crow Guide to the South, Palmetto Country and The Klan Unmasked, thus adding 5 new books to the 10,000 books, tapes, CD and DVDs available for check out at the Civic Media Center with a $10-20 membership. The Civic Media Center is located at 1021 W. University Ave..

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