February 17 was supposed to be a day of fun in the sun, community unity and nonviolence. A day of laughter among friends, music, dancing and a time for closure, grieving and remembrance for not just one family, but several broken families in our community. Families who have lost sons, daughters, brothers and sisters to nonsensical violence and in return, turned their pain into progress.
The second annual “Doo Day” celebration, which honors the life of murdered community citizen and father Jerrod Swinton, has become almost legendary. All over the city, adults and children alike were planning on celebrating the day by riding dirt bikes in honor of the slain young king, which was his favorite pastime. Coined “ Bikes Up, Guns Down,” the all-day event ‒ which was to include a community prayer session and a demonstration on anti-gun violence ‒ was all but banned. The increase of “
Streets blocked off
Unlike last year, there were no young men riding dirt bikes down “The Ave.” Instead, there was a police blockade which prevented cars from either entering or leaving the entire MMB-MLK area for eight entire hours ‒ an entire workday. Not only did this severely affect the planned antiviolence bike ride; it severely affected our valuable and appreciated Black business owners who depend on local customers to provide for their families.
Our community prides itself on “The Ave” and the illustrious businesses that are all lined up around this area. From Bethune Grill to Zion Gates, each of these corporations – mostly Black-owned ‒ suffered an economic hit to the gut as well as had to shut their doors as a result of the lack of activity happening that day. If you love this community, you should be outraged!
The most ironic part is that “Doo Day” happened to fall on “Daytona Day,” on which the Daytona 500 commences. On the busiest day of Daytona Beach tourism, police officers were ordered to cut off access to stores and businesses that are located on the historic Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd. Even before 8 a.m., there were 9 patrol cars perched on Garden Street, while video evidence shows officers riding up and down the street almost like a warden checking on his prisoners.
An event based on positivity, anti-gun violence and unity had more police presence than that of a bomb threat being called in. Is the city sending us a message? Is it finally time to accept that Daytona Beach, Florida has no plans to promote or approve any urban-focused events?
Sadly, we shouldn’t be surprised. Who remembers Black College Reunion ‒ the one weekend of the year where Black college students and non-students alike came to Daytona Beach and turned it into the world’s biggest house party? Cancelled. What about the annual MLK parade? Non-existent these days.
Award-winning chef and Restaurateur Jessica Foreman of “Sauté Kingz” has personally dealt with the disrespect and confusion between events held in our city. “Stop showing favoritism to certain businesses and events and making decisions based on personal opinion of
“Doo Day,” and similar events such as “Dre Day” ‒ in memory of another slain citizen, Quordre Wiley ‒ have become Daytona staples. Children and families depend on cultural events for representation and positive motivation. It’s a day where the lower-class locals get to come together and take dirt bikes and ATVs to the streets in remembrance of those killed in gun violence, promoting positivity and unity in our poverty-stricken community.
“City officials do not care about the wants and needs of the lower class in Daytona Beach; only the tourist, middle and upper classes,” says Jared Thompson, entrepreneur and community leader. Many respected community citizens engaged in online debates about the situation all day Sunday, Feb. 17. Though many disagreed, it is time to truly step up
and get involved!
What we can do
The city offers a free Citizens Academy course Tuesday mornings to educate us on policies, laws, and elected officials. There are also privately-owned properties that are willing to collaborate as well. Use these resources and let’s make sure each and every positive Black event in our community, whether “Doo Day” or my organization’s upcoming second annual Malcolm X Day Community Bash, gets the support, respect and attention they truly deserve.
Black events, like Black music and Black lives, still matter!
Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.