BY THE DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
In random order, here’s who’s up and who’s down in Daytona Beach in the wake of Bethune-Cookman University’s commencement controversy last week.
•Reverends Patrick Harden (New Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church), Evan Smith (Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church) and Jeffrey Dove (Allen Chapel AME, New Smyrna Beach): These ministers were involved with protest organizers and students from beginning to end. Harden allowed local organizers to use New Mt. Zion for meetings. He, Smith and Dove all stepped up, provided spiritual support and guidance, and counseled and marched with the students.
•Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP Branch: They led the way, coordinated with the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches, quickly mobilized protesters from all over the Daytona Beach area, and worked closely with the students, other protest organizers, local media and law enforcement. They were prepared to stand by the students with support and legal advice if B-CU retaliated.
•Daytona Beach Police Department and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Department: Years of community-based policing work paid off. Law enforcement officers on the scene of demonstrations explained to protesters what was legal and what was not. They watched patiently and kept order at all the protests without an intimidating combat-style presence or overreaction. There were no reports of violence and no arrests.
•Dr. Evelyn Bethune: The granddaughter of B-CU’s founder stood up for and marched with the students, one of whom is her grandson. Dr. Bethune had an excellent radio interview on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show’’ and gave a personal perspective on what had become a national story. She put Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s legacy in the context of the controversy, explained it well to a national listening audience, and represented the Bethune family well.
•Daytona Beach-area B-CU alumni: Many of them supported and encouraged students from the start, advised them how to effectively protest, and served as an effective liaison with alumni outside of Daytona who wanted to show support.
•B-CU President Edison O. Jackson and Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Joe Petrock: Joined at the hip, they are the two faces of this disaster. Among other things, they exposed Board of Trustees members to international ridicule as a consequence of their unilateral decision to bring Betsy DeVos in. The faces of Jackson, Petrock, the Board of Trustees, and B-CU leadership on the platform during the commencement ceremony tell the story.
•B-CU’s local Board of Trustees members: Anyone living in Daytona since May 1 – when DeVos’ appearance was confirmed – should have seen all of this coming.
Given the extreme level of paranoia and secrecy enveloping the university’s Board of Trustees, we can’t know if County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack, Dr. Michelle Carter-Scott, Rufus L. Wilson, M. Decker Youngman, or Dr. Kent Sharples – all respected local residents – knew about the high level of local and on-campus discontent surrounding DeVos’ appearance.
If they did know, did they inform Jackson? He obviously didn’t listen. If they didn’t know, they have lost touch with the community in which they live. Either way, none of them stepped up and spoke on either side of the issue.
•The Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance: As a group, the Alliance stood by and twiddled their collective thumbs. Sources close to the Daytona Times indicate that Jackson did meet with the Alliance. At that meeting, Jackson allegedly informed him that he spoke to God, and God told him not to disinvite DeVos and to go forward as planned. That was good enough for the assembled Alliance members. Most wouldn’t allow protesters and organizers to use their sanctuaries, and they didn’t openly support the students. They just sat on the sidelines and literally watched the student protestors pass them by.