This past weekend, I attended the Second Annual International Take ’Em Down Organizer’s conference, from March 22 to 24, hosted by the TakeEmDownJax group in Jacksonville, Florida. The group that turned out—activists, organizers and aligned supporters there to engage, exchange and learn—was truly incredible.
For three days, the group had critical, necessary conversations about what this work means, why we do it, how best to carry it out, obstacles we face, ways to be and do better, failures and successes, future plans and goals, and the true meaning of liberation.
An amazing bus tour of Jacksonville was led by Rodney Lawrence Hurst Sr., a civil rights legend and author of It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke. We stopped by a remembrance of Vernell Bing Jr., a young unarmed black man murdered by Jacksonville police officer Tyler Landreville, who is still employed by the Sheriff’s Office. A rally held in Jacksonville’s aptly named Confederate Park—home to the Confederate behemoth currently being targeted by the Make It Right Project—drew a fantastic crowd, and I was honored to be included on the list of speakers. That was followed by a panel, a humbling experience for me to sit with so many key voices in this movement: Wells Todd of TakeEmDownJax, without whom this conference wouldn’t have happened; Michael “Quess” Moore of Take ’Em Down NOLA, the group that did the heavy lifting to take down Confederate monuments (despite New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu being given the credit) and that inspired Take ’Em Down chapters around the country; Maya Little, the UNC-Chapel Hill activist whose protest of Silent Sam gave the removal effort national visibility; and Rev. Ron Rawls of St. Paul AME Church in St. Augustine, Florida, whose thoughtful answers and uncompromising voice repeatedly brought down the house.
I cannot give enough thanks to TakeEmDownJax’s organizers—there are too many to name here, but there are so many dedicated folks—for putting together this inspiring event. You really put together something special. Thanks to all the incisive and committed folks who attended—including a special thanks to the brilliant folks from Take ’Em Down NOLA, who offered so much wisdom and love.
Check out pictures and footage below.