Title: Simmons, interview at St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Augustine on October 26 [ SACR 3 ]
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00093180/00001
 Material Information
Title: Simmons, interview at St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Augustine on October 26 SACR 3
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Interviewer: M
Publication Date: October 26,
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00093180
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


This item has the following downloads:


Full Text

M: [I am at] St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Augustine. Today's
date is October 26, and the first question I have for you is when and where were
you born?

S: I was born in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1947.

M: What's your educational background?

S: I have a B.S. in Aeronautical Sciences from the University of Houston.

M: When did you first move to St. Augustine?

S: November, 2000.

M: Where else have you lived?

S: Basically born in Tallahassee, raised up in Tallahassee. I went to high school
there. I graduated, lived around four years in Texas in the military. San Antonio,
Amarillo, and Abilene. After that I was discharged and moved to Houston, and
lived there for an additional four years. I moved back to Tallahassee, and from
there I took an assignment with the Federal Aviation Administration in Hillard,
Florida. I spent time in Hillard, about a year-and-a-half moving back to
Tallahassee. I had an assignment in Oklahoma City as well as Gainesville,
Florida, working with the Federal Aviation Administration for a total of twenty-two
and-a-half years. The last fifteen of those years I was bi-vocational in the ministry
and public services.

M: So you moved here because you got assigned to this church?

S: That's correct.

M: Where did you live when you first moved here?

S: In reference to where?

M: Where in St. Augustine, in the area.

S: We lived in the south end of the city, out in what we call Moultrie. If you want the
physical address it was ....

M: No, that's okay. Do you still live there?

S: No.

M: The area you first moved here, what was the area like, what were your neighbors

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 2

S: I had a mixture of neighbors. I guess the demographics were--very low African
American population. For the most part we had non-black neighbors, but based
on the ratio of St. Augustine I would consider it normal in that particular area of
the city.

M: Where do you live now?

S: I live in the Elkton area called Southeast Cypress Lakes, which is just south of
west St. Augustine. I still consider it St. Augustine, but basically some folks
[would] say its south.

M: How is that different from Moultrie?

S: I would say slightly more diversified as far as cultural backgrounds, and also
racial or ethnic groups. The ratio, I really haven't had a chance, we've been here
since March, and I really haven't had an opportunity to find out the actual
makeup of the community, but just from observation I would say it's a little bit
more diversified.

M: Since you've only been here for around five years, how would you characterize
race relations in St. Augustine, between the city and the people?

S: Are you asking me on a scale or basically just an average statement good,
bad, or indifferent?

M: Maybe a little bit of both. How good it was. If it's good, why is it good? If it's bad,
why is it bad?

S: I would consider it fair. One of the reasons, I would say, is basically because the
opportunities afforded for non-blacks are just nonexistent, basically. When you
look at the format, what we have is basically St. John's County school system. I
think there are a couple of other entities here that employ, or have an opportunity
to employ. Northrop-Grumman and the City of St. Augustine. But the ratio is fair
at best, I would say.

M: How's it compared to other places you've lived?

S: Compared to Houston, I would probably put it on the scale of, say one to ten, I
would put it right at three. Compared to Tallahassee, Tallahassee is a very
diversified community. It would probably be about the same, because you just
don't see non-blacks visibly and actively involved. Equal housing is not that great.

M: Along the same lines, you in the course of your job must interact with a lot of
people. How often do you interact with people of other races and what type of
interactions do you have with them? What's the relationship like between them?

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 3

S: My personal relationships, I would consider to be good. I had an opportunity to
interact with the Mayor of the city, an opportunity to interact with the previous
Sheriff of the St. Johns County and the current Sheriff, who was previously the
police chief of St. Augustine. As far as a relationship with the ecumenical
community, we have a relationship with the Holy Memorial Presbyterian and
Grace United Methodist. Other entities within the county, of course the School
Board, we've had interactions with them. From a personal point of view, I would
consider it good, but I'm probably in a minority there of having that experience. I
don't know if that's because of my position or my ability to venture out and gain a
working relationship or a capable relationship with the community.

M: Do you actively seen any racial tension or discrimination in the city?

S: Yes, we do have a problem with the police department, the Sheriff's department.
There are some problems, we addressed those with a promise that there would
be a better working relationship. But there's a big difference in law enforcement
on the west side of St. Augustine versus the downtown area or in St. Johns
County, obviously Ponte Vedra, World Golf Village. A major difference in police
presence and police or law enforcement activities. There just seems to be a sort.
I wouldn't go as far as to say they're profiling, but its come very close to the
description of profiling.

M: You mention some incidences involving the police. What were those incidences?

S: Well, just a little more a year ago, we had a very sensitive incident where an
individual was Tased [shot with a Taser stun-gun], and the Sheriff's Department
was considered to not have used the best judgement in that situation. And that
was not a good incident for the balancing or the smoothing of the race relations
in this county.

M: And that man ended up dying, correct?

S: Yes.

M: What was the response to that incident?

S: Whose?

M: From the black community, primarily.

S: Very much enraged over the fact. We brought in several civil rights groups or
interests and in doing so, the community sort of rallied around to the man. Some
response from law enforcement as to what actually happened. In addition to that,
a continuous pursuit of getting to the bottom of it, which I am not privileged at this
point in time to either share or have the knowledge of the actual disposal of the

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 4

case. But I do know that it was probably was at that time, and still is, in the back
of the minds of the citizens of St. Johns County, as to being unfairly treated.

M: You mention you had a pledge of getting a better working relationship with the
police. What exactly does that entail? Has there been any movement towards

S: Basically, just dialoguing. But at that time, the police chief, Shoar, and the Sheriff,
we sat down and talked to try and find ways and means that which we could
have a better representation of blacks or African Americans in law enforcement
and to have a mutual respect for one another in the carrying out of their duties
and the respect of the citizens. As I said, a verbal pledge that this was being one
of the primary motives of the department, specifically that they didn't blatantly do
things would cause this attention. I respect both the persons, and that position of
authority, and I think they simply had a desire to see a better relationship in the
community. But having to control, quote unquote, staff and they sometimes can
not be as closely monitored as they should.

M: This kind of segues into one of my questions. I talked to the Human Resources
Chief at the City of St. Augustine, and they said there are currently no African
Americans working in the St. Augustine Police Department.

S: Correct.

M: Do you know what the ratio in the St. Johns County Police Department?

S: The St. Johns County?

M: Yes.

S: You mean [the] Sheriff's Department, right?

M: Yes, Sheriff's Department.

S: The ratio is probably less than five percent.

M: Do you think there is an active reason behind this? Or is this just more of a

S: I think it's a combination of things that have taken place here. Finding persons
who are willing to settle in St. Johns County who are of the African American
persuasion. That's the first thing. Secondly, I think the screening process may not
be. We're not totally aware of what the criteria may be for, but just judging from
surrounding counties and other cities, I would think that we would find qualified
persons in this area as well as others. So I really don't know the reason why. I

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 5

have been told the salary is probably one of the reasons, that when we get
someone, case in point in the Sheriff's Department, that they start out to get the
basic foundation, and then as soon as they are established with a credible
foundation in law enforcement, they seek employment elsewhere in surrounding
areas. And I guess the city of Jacksonville and Orlando certainly will be cities that
will pull persons who have experience in that area. And being within a relatively
short commute distance, it may attract a lot of people from this area to go there.

M: Just to make sure, but I'm assuming that most of your church is black.

S: Yes.

M: So what areas of town does your congregation live in?

S: For the most part, we have them here in the Lincolnville area, West Augustine,
and a very small percentage of them living in the outlying areas such as the
Shores, Oakbrook, and the Moultrie area. The rest of them, for the most part, are
within the St. Augustine city proper.

M: Obviously, there's a very big difference between Lincolnville and West St.
Augustine, or at least some difference. What are those neighborhoods like? What
are the defining characteristics of those neighborhoods?

S: Which ones?

M: Well, start off with Lincolnville.

S: Defining characteristics of Lincolnville, it's somewhat historic. The older
settlement of St. Augustine, this area was once predominately probably black.
[In] the last two census, we've seen a significant decrease in the black American
population in this area. So I think there's more of a pride in the Lincolnville area.
And here, we're seeing a mixture of the races in this area, so you get a little bit
more of a tension here. I think other entities may have an interest in the
developing of Lincolnville, so therefore what we have here is probably going to be
preserved and protected. Whereas, if you look at the westside of St. Augustine,
there are some gradual changes, but they're changes for the most part not for
the benefit of the black people. As far as public service in that area, it's kind of
low compared to other areas of the city and the county.

M: What do you mean by public service?

S: Well, if you drive down the streets, there's inadequate drainage, the streets are
narrow, there are very few sidewalks. There has been some movement to make
improvement along King Street, West King Street, but outside that, between
about Volusia Street or Dubal and St. John Streets and all those areas in there,

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 6

you will probably find a less than desirable community conditions. As far as public
facilities, they have Calvin Pete Park there, but it's just not something that would
entice people to move to that area. There's some development in that area now,
but when we speak of affordable housing, the employment system does not allow
the blacks in this area to even have an income to get them to the baseline of
affording homes. I think the average cost of a home here in St. Augustine is
probably somewhere in the neighborhood now of $140,000, $180,000. And if you
don't have the income to support that, then you have to live and work out of what
I would consider less than desirable housing.

M: Speaking of employment, obviously in the last few decades African Americans
have been relegated to mostly menial tasks, janitorial, manual labor, things like
that. In St. Augustine, has that changed much? Do you see blacks working in
professional level jobs or white-collar class jobs?

S: For the most part, no, because if you look at the city government, there are very
few. If you look at the commissions, we have a black city commissioner, and
none on county, none of the elected positions within the county are held by
African Americans right now. Within the public school system, we have several
AP's [Assistant Principals] but very few Principals. In the school system, at the
school board level, very few. I don't think the ratio is balanced. If you asked since
the Civil Rights Movement, has there been a significant change, I would say, at
this point in time I would be hard pressed to say yes. Maybe there was an initial
movement towards that, but for whatever reason, it just doesn't exist right now.
When we have young folk from the area who decide not to return to the area
because of a lack of opportunity, I don't think its going to get any better.

M: So what you're saying is that its more just a problem of lack of opportunity?

S: Lack of opportunity, and a lack of the system affording an investment. Therefore,
I think it's closely linked and does not, in my opinion, does not seem to be
favorable for change. I suppose that may require a bit more explanation. Trying
to find a proper word usage. To come short of saying that, I think employment is
based on favoritism. I think I'll just stop with that. Basically who you know and
who you've known in the past, that's my opinion on what's going on.

M: Back to West Augustine, there's at least been a lot of press coverage and at
least words going into the idea that money and effort are going to West St.
Augustine, with the federal Weed and Seed program, the Community
Redevelopment Area, there's also the West Augustine Improvement Association.
Do these programs seem to be doing anything, do they seem to be working?

S: Yes, they are effective. However, the process is real slow right now. I would think
because of the lack of having it now, we should have a little more
aggressiveness from all interested parties to see it come to fruition at a more

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 7

rapid pace. The process is just very slow. When we talk about the housing
improvement in West Augustine, we're seeing some changes in the quality of
homes, but yet those homes are still out of reach for some of the people who are
in dire need of them.

M: What do you see these programs doing?

S: First of all, I think they do raise the awareness of the need. The programs or the
designs both help facilitate in accomplishing the ultimate goal of living the
American Dream. As I said, the goal and objectives are fine, but the process of
getting to those is just real slow.

M: Now as a Pastor, I'm sure a lot of your congregation comes to you when they
have problems. Without going into specifics, I don't want you to violate
confidence, how often do you hear of cases of outright discrimination in this city?
S: Well, [complaints of] outright discrimination. I would say, to [that] has been very
minimal. I'm not so sure why it has been so subtle and mild that it's [not] worth
speaking about it. There may be a fear of not being able to accomplish anything
from complaining about it. It's perplexing to me as to why there's not more of an
outrage over that, the disparity between the have and the have-nots.

M: Do you have any reasons why there might be that lack of outrage?

S: I'll give you a personal response to that.

M: That's fine.

S: I think we need to have a concerted effort of oneness. That may bring about a
change, the unity within our community may, if there was solidarity within that, it
might bring about change. For instance, we are, right now, on the post Rosa
Parks era [famed Civil Rights protestor Rosa Parks had died the day before the
interview]. Back in the time when she protested, the inadequacy of equality, the
whole community came together and decided they would boycott, and they were
successful in that. I think initially if something of that nature should happen within
our community, we would probably rise to the occasion. But when we start
coming together trying to draft ways to address the issue, we see the support
always dwindling. It might be a lack of cooperation or a lack of unity. But that's
just my personal opinion on that. I don't claim that that speaks for the entire
community. I fear that may be one of the reasons why there's not more of an
outrage over the amount of inequalities within the area.

M: This interview is not just about your position, but also [concerns] you personally,
so feel free to answer it personally as much as you want. But you mentioned lack
of unity in the black community. Are there various factions, what are the reasons
for this fractionalization?

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 8

S: If I had the answer to that, it would be a packed white church on Sunday.
[laughter] But it could be a matter of lack of trust among one another. Or the fear
that one may use the other to exploit or advance his or her own cause. Can you
hold on just a moment, please?

M: Sure.

[Break in tape.]

M: Okay, we're back on the interview. So you mention you haven't had many people
come to you specifically and talk to you about discrimination, but have you heard
things through the grapevine, through the rumor mill, of any instances?

S: I don't think you would have any blatant, hardcore discrimination. St. Augustine is
becoming a little bit more diversified, but it's just the status quo. It's just
established. There are boundaries and barriers that exist that people choose not
to try to knock down anymore. I don't think that you would see any particular area
in the city that you could not go into, one would fear his or her life in doing so. So
it's there, but it's subliminal, I would say. So naturally, in order for that to happen,
the time when you see it would be, for instance, like the situation that occurred
with the young man on the Westside. Then the sort of southern racists as I said
from time to time, we do see--and I don't justify anyone's illegal activities. But
there are times when we may drive up and down King Street [one of the main
roads in St. Augustine, connecting downtown with West Augustine] and you find
numerous persons spread eagle [forced by police officers to spread their legs
and arms for a search]. If it's involved with an illegal activity, then I guess then
they don't have a legitimate complaint, but then again, it's an opportunity for
discrimination to come out in that sense. And I guess the vigilance of law
enforcement in areas like that may be more persistent than they would be in
other areas. Because I've had parishioners from the church come and say
"Pastor, such-and-such a thing happened to me, and I need some assistance in
following through with the discrimination." It very seldom has happened. And as I
said, it's not a blatant violation of one's civil rights or anything of this nature, but
I'm sure it exists. You see that based on the progress of the persons. I can think
of only one case where a parishioner came to me and indicated that her civil
rights had been violated by an establishment here. The employer used the
N-word towards the individual. I think they got into a verbal confrontation. She
was of course, dismissed from her work. We, of course, put her in contact with
the state to follow up on that. But here again, sometimes when we don't follow
through all of the steps, you get lost in the paperwork, and you never find the end
results of that. That was the one case that I knew that was clearly a case of

M: Now you mention that there's little African American representation in city
government, and there's none in county government. Have you noticed that

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 9

there's a concerted effort by black people to get involved and its just not working.
Or is it just not very ....

S: Well, we've had numerous persons who have campaigned vigorously for
positions. But I suppose when you look at the ratio, and I'd have to go back and
look at the census, but we're talking in a neighborhood or a county where you
probably have at this point in time now somewhere close to 150,000 people, but
you're only talking 7 to 8 percent are black, the chances of you being voted in
become very minimal at best. Until you can concentrate on a certain area, the
commissioner [Errol Jones], I think if he had been running for an [at] large
position, he probably wouldn't be there. He just wouldn't have the votes, and not
because of the person not being qualified, but I think it's simply because of a
matter of race. That makes a difference there.

M: Now obviously this church was very historical, especially in the civil rights
movement. I'm assuming, that many of the older members of your congregation
probably were involved in that. In talking to them, have they told you how things
have changed, have things have moved on from there?

S: Yes, there have been some changes. For instance, we frequently have the
mayor of the city to worship with us. That's a major change. We have had the
police chief to worship with us. Those are changes, good changes. I would like to
put a feather in the mayor's cap to say that he visits with us, worships with us
during off-campaign years, so it is not a political issue with him. I think it's his
faith that he believes, also to be a part of this community, also to support the
community, and I can see that in other areas as well. There is a Fort Mose [a fort
north of St. Augustine where the Spanish allowed runaway slaves to live]
Society, that's basically focusing on the historic movement and existence of
blacks within the community. And we have several non-blacks with that. Just this
past Tuesday, we had the opening of the Excelsior Culture Center. We had
several persons from the community involved in that, and those are changes that
I'm sure that one can point to and say it's a difference from 2005 and 1964, they
simply didn't exist back in those days. And as far as being able to frequent the
establishments within the area, of course you know as well as I do that there
were several businesses that were basically off-limits to the blacks during the
Civil Rights Movement. So there are older members of the congregation that
have been able to identify and can definitely specify areas where changes have
been made. Those are just some of them.

M: Changing tracks, in the 1960s, in 1964 in St. Augustine and St. Johns County,
the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizen's Council were very active. Now they
don't appear to be very active anymore in St. Augustine, but do you know of any
other similar organizations or any other similar people in the community that may
still have some influence or are active in the city?

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 10

S: Well, I sort of beg to differ with you that you say the KKK is not active. They're
not visibly active. And this comes from a reliable source. In fact, within the
surrounding perimeter of St. Augustine, and I'm gonna say St. Johns County,
Flagler County, I don't know about Volusia, but I'll name those two, St. Johns
County and Flagler County, I understand there is still quite a bit of activity of the
KKK. Groups that would probably be considered, I won't go as far as to say
they're Neo-Nazi groups, but similar.

M: White Supremacist, at least.

S: To identify their actual location, I would not be privy to say, because I have not
seen it for myself. I have heard that in some areas of the Northwest portions of
St. Johns County.

M: Northwest, really?

S: That's quite amazing, because when you talk of the Northwest, we're talking
about World Golf Village, we're talking about Fruit Cove.

M: You're talking about Julington Creek.

S: Julington Creek. But then keep in mind also that within that Northwest region
there's still quite a bit of pristine farmland, and they use that as a haven to
practice and to, I guess, stage their desire to do whatever they desire to do. And
like I said, this comes from a very reliable source, I would not be privileged to
share that source with you right now. But I'm not so naive to think that it doesn't
exist. Unfortunately, I wish that it didn't. It's there, it's there. We won't see them
marching up and down the streets everyday or causing any problems, but I think
the fact is that it's still there.

M: Do you see them having any marginal influence or any marginal impact or ....

S: On the way things are?

M: Partially. On the way things are, the way things are changing.

S: At best, I would say marginal. I'm a very optimistic person, and until proven
otherwise, I would give the citizens of St. Johns County the benefit of the doubt. I
think for the most part they want to see things get better. I don't know why they
are not better, because if you sit and talk to anyone, there seems to be a desire
to see changes for the better. Unfortunately, when there comes an opportunity to
add persons placed in strategic positions within the county as far as the
workforce is concerned, you don't see them being replaced with blacks or other
minorities. So I guess they are holding onto their positions for security for

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 11

M: Now the St. Johns County School system was integrated in 1970. But there is
still a huge discrepancy between, say, Nease High school which, I think there's
like twenty black kids there, and St. Augustine High School, which is much more
integrated. Is your impression that the school system is equally fair to everyone,
or is the difference due to something other than housing patterns?

S: I think the strategic locations of the schools have been a major difference. For
instance, you mention Nease. If we look at the geographical location of Nease,
the black population there is simply not there. At best, you may find three
hundred, maybe four hundred black families in that school zone. And you
understand that. For instance, if you go to St. Augustine High, you look at the
boundaries of that school zone. You have a larger ratio of blacks there, so
naturally it's going to be an imbalance in the population. I think if they had placed
the schools in other locations, the racial balance would have been better.

M: That brings up a different question. Pedro Menendez is one of the newer high
schools. What's their zone? Do they zone part of West St. Augustine in their
district, or are they more concerned with southern St. Johns County?

S: I don't know where the dividing lines may be, but I would say at the extreme
southern end of West Augustine would probably be zoned for that.

M: So since most black people live in St. Augustine, the majority of them would be
zoned for St. Augustine High School.

S: Right. I'm gonna give an example on the elementary school level, which is
something I'm a little more familiar with. There's a school out in Hastings,
Hastings Elementary. I think the mindset of Hastings Elementary was out of
sight, out of mind. Of course it was rural St. Johns County. High ratio of migrant
and transient persons. When the school was in Hastings, the population was
normally 60/40 [minority to white students.] 60/40. This past year, a new school
was built in This is the first year that the new school was there. Now
when the population of Hastings Elementary was 60/40, several of the persons
living in the Hastings area or the Flagler Estate, they had their children taken to
other school districts, out of the Hastings School district. The new school comes
along, and all of a sudden, they bring them back. So the ratio has probably
reversed. Now for a predominately black institution like Hastings Elementary, an
opportunity for new teachers now becomes available, I think at the best, there
was only one black person hired for the whole school. And that's just an
indication of how things will take place. School location is a major thing as far as
seeing a racial balance. And I suppose when you look at areas like Nease and
other schools where you don't have the population, you can't do anything about
that. If I was a parent who had children in school right now, I wouldn't want my
child bussed way out of district just to balance things out. What I would fight for is
to get a school within the area where I am that is credible, and will attract others

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 12

from other areas and maybe balance out things. I think we see that where the
identity changes with different schools if they moved them out of their areas.
Unfortunately, we have a total difference in racial balance of the schools.

M: Just a few more questions. Mayor Gardner told me to talk to you because he
named you as one of the leaders of the black community. Who else do you see
as a leader of the black community in this town?

S: In the area of being a minister?

M: No, just as a leader. Also mentioned I think was Lorenzo Laws and Linda James.
Just various professional or ....

S: I would say we have a member within this congregation named Otis Mason. He
was a school superintendent, would be considered a leader within the
community. We have another named Arnett Chase who is certainly respected
and...I wouldn't say revered [laughter] but he's highly respected in the area.
Ronald Stafford is a minister at New Mount Zion Ministries, a pastor. The minister
at First Baptist, O'Connell, would be considered a person who I think people will
listen to and be willing to hear. Somewhat of unsung heroes, the Russells, I'm
trying to think of the first name now, but they were in the public school system,
both are retired now. Eugene Motley is a member at First Baptist is a person I
would consider a key member of community.

M: You mentioned before the factionalism, and if you said reasons why, you would
have a white congregation, but what do you see these people striving for? What
do you seem them working towards?

S: Just in general?

M: Obviously they're going off in different directions. So what do you see being
done, in general but also individually. You don't have to go through them one by

S: As a whole, I see them working for an identity that would be respected. Case in
point, the Fort Mose Society is certainly one that wants to bring recognition to
and the history of Florida and also the nation. The group which is
called the Friends of Excelsior is to striving bring recognition and pride...

[End of Tape A, Side 1.]

S: Back to the community of Lincolnville, Excelsior being the old high school for this
area-and in doing so, to share the history and heritage of the black community.
So there's a concerted effort to let people know that we are important, we have
played a role in society. So I see that as being a common goal within the

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 13

community. Individually, I think everyone is striving to better him or herself by
wanting to be gainfully employed and [to] be able to contribute back to the
community, not only on a economical level, but educationally as well. To make
the community stable and also attractive for others to come. I do know that
there's a group of persons from within the county school board who've gone out
and tried to recruit other minorities to bring [in] to bring about a balance. I think
overall, that if we had that, with everyone working towards that, it would make the
community more stable, and unified and diversified as one.

M: What do you see for St. Augustine in the future?

S: I see St. Augustine as being a very diversified community. But the change is
probably going to come from outside more so from within. I cannot, and I guess if
you look in the surrounding areas, we're seeing more and more persons
relocating to this area, either from the north or northeast, and also southern
Florida. As the community becomes more diversified in its population, with
different cultures and resources, we'll probably see the community being
developed to the point that certain things simply will not be tolerated, at least
that's what I hope to see anyway.

M: Do you see the city becoming more integrated?

S: I would say, yes, however in order for that to happen, we're going to have to take
some risk in involving persons in color in key roles, and when that happens, we
can probably attract [other minority residents.] For instance, if we had someone
[in the leadership] on the Sheriff's Department in St. Johns County who was a
black, someone in the police department with some status and position there,
and someone in the city and county government, and I'm not asking for token
individuals. Persons who come with credentials that would prove themselves
worthy of the assignment. I think as a whole, you will probably see the
community sort of rallying around that, and also become a magnet to attract
others to come and take a risk of investing in us. For the most part, right now,
when the young folks graduate from high school and they go off to better
themselves in institutes of higher learning, they are not stimulated and motivated
to come back to St. Augustine. So the question is, what am I going to do there?
There's nothing to do there. I wasted my time to go become better to do nothing.
That has to change. I think we're going to have to take some risks on investing in
people and involving the and people will respect that and honor

M: Final question. Today, do you still see St. Augustine as a segregated town?

S: I'm going to say yes and no [laughter]. In some instances yes, and others no.
And I can't help but go back to the police department. Usually, this is an area
where you would find . .. this is an organization or entity where they usually

SACR-3, Simmons, Page 14

would be able to pull from [multiple groups, thus] having integration take place in
law enforcement. That has been pretty much a given. In a time when you're
seeing major cities with blacks and non-blacks in key roles and here in St.
Augustine don't have any, basically. I would have to say its segregated.

M: I'm sorry, did you say non-blacks in key roles?

S: Yes, for instance, I'm not just saying the process of integration, we're talking
about humanity. And of course when you have Latinos. We're a very diversified
community, Latinos are here, Whites are here, Native Americans. So across the
whole spectrum, I guess you're going to have to dig deeper into the background
of some of the people to find out. I think it needs to be up front and well known.
And maybe this is a Latino in the community, not maybe but definitely, this is a
black, and they are in key roles. When you look for that, and for a community to
be integrated and diversified, you look for that. I think that's a drawback to the
city, actually. If its going to attract certain people, other won't come because we
lack [thorough integration.] The fire department is not, the police department is
not, the Sheriff's Department is weak, the school system is .... And I don't know
about the private sector, when you go up to Northrop-Grumman, I would
hard-pressed that you had more than twenty-five blacks in that large employer.

M: You also have to ask, what jobs do they have?

S: Right. Again, I think if it was well known, and I can say that because when we the
celebration of the Martin Luther King Day here in St. Augustine, and as
representation from Northrop-Grumman, they're not black. That tells me that you
probably don't have anyone in the executive role, senior staff role. In that sense, I
would have to say that the city still remains segregated. But in the sense of being
able to move about the area freely and patronize hospitals or other things of the
area, so you don't have to worry about when the doctor's offices are open, you
don't have to worry about that. But there's something subliminal that is there, and
if one looks hard enough, I think they will find it, and you're going to have be
[aware.] [laughter]

M: Well, thank you very much Pastor Simmons.

[End of Interview.]

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs