Nine Jacksonville African American Civic and Social Organizations are urging the black members of the City Council to form a Black Caucus to represent underserved communities in the city.
In a document sent to the seven black council members, it outlines that the caucus would primarily serve as a voice for Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10, which are located on the Westside and Northwest sides of Jacksonville.
The document details the issues that the organizations say have persisted in those districts while others have been “rich, robust, vibrant and growing.”
“It’s health, education, crime, justice, the legal system, unemployment, housing, and consolidation,” said Isaiah Rumlin, President of Jacksonville’s NAACP Branch. “I mean, these are issues that we’ve been talking about for years.”
The document states that for the first time in Jacksonville’s history there are seven black City Council members, they could have “significant influence on decisions impacting the city of Jacksonville.”
Rumlin said they sent the email to the seven City Council members on June 6, and are still waiting to hear back from any of them.
“We feel that in the best interest of the people that they represent, that they could do it a little bit better from a collective standpoint,” Rumlin said.
The seven members mentioned in the document are Sam Newby, Terrance Freeman, Brenda Priestly Jackson, Garrett Dennis, Joyce Morgan, Ju’Coby Pittman and Reggie Gaffney.
Gaffney, Pittman, Dennis and Priestly Jackson represent the districts that the organizations stated in the document need the most help.
On Wednesday, the City Council announced the formation of a new Social Justice Committee, which would focus on legislation regarding social injustices, law enforcement and economic opportunity. Priestly Jackson and Matt Carlucci will serve as co-chairs on the committee.
At the same meeting, Mayor Lenny Curry said he would introduce legislation in July that would bring together local and state officials, along with “independent” voices from the community to discuss city issues and figure out solutions to racial inequities.
Northside Coalition President Ben Frazier said while he is happy to see some form of progress, his organization can’t help but be “cautiously optimistic.”
“We wonder why there's such a rush now to form these various committees and march around with protesters and remove Confederate monuments,” Frazier said. “We can't help but be a little bit suspicious as to wonder about how genuine the mayor's intent is, or if he's actually doing this as a stopgap measure in anticipation of making sure that the Republicans who come to Jacksonville real soon don't have any problems.”
But Frazier said it’s a step in the right direction. If local politicians continue to ignore them, Frazier said the organizations will continue planning marches, economic boycotts, and petitions to remove them from office.
He is, however, confident that now is the right time to create a black caucus.
“The caucus will come to life, it will happen,” Frazier said. “And I believe that our people, a city in the nation can be better.”
Organizations that signed the document sent to the City Council members include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the African American Ministers Leadership Council, the D.W. President Perkins Bar Association, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, President Eighth & Whitner Group, Take ‘Em Down Jacksonville, the Northeast Accountability Forum Corporation, along with the NAACP Jacksonville Branch and the Northside Coalition.