Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July, 2012 Trip to Jacksonville Beach

(Selected Photos from Facebook Album)

Spent July 2-4 staying out at an oceanside hotel in Jacksonville Beach, FL and the other two days in the city. What a fun trip to see my cousins this was (hadn't seen them since Christmas and could not let a year pass without fellowshipping in person)! It was also special to be in Florida in light of my grandparents' time living there during the 1940s in Pensacola and Daytona (and my grandmother's memories of seeing Mary McLeod Bethune, who is the subject of the first chapter of my new book). As my grandfather worked in construction helping to build barracks in Pensacola, FL, my grandmother worked "ship service" as part of the National Youth Administration (NYA) signing out uniforms to sailors, checking them off, and filling in information on ledgers, to the point that she says her hands ached, and she has so many fun memories of that time. It seemed like this rich history came full circle when my cousin married a guy in the Navy from New York City, whom she met when they were freshmen in architecture at Tuskegee. It has been inspiring for my grandmother, I know, to witness a new generation of young men discovering Pensacola and the Navy so many years later and to have it so closely connected to our family now. I saw Pensacola for the first time in 2009 and finally saw the famous Palafox St. myself where my grandparents had taken pictures against the backdrop of a carrier ship one Sunday afternoon during the 1940s, images that I reproduced on companion art quilts of them. After the time in Pensacola, they moved on to Daytona, where my grandfather helped to build beachfront homes. My grandmother didn't work in Daytona, but accompanied him there. (She had also lived in Florida for a while when her aunt took her there as a small child after she lost her father). My grandparents are both listed in the Florida census of 1945. The travel that my grandfather's construction jobs entailed and how my grandmother accompanied him to these places also makes me think of themes related to labor in some of Zora Neale Hurston's short stories and novels, as well as plays such as Polk County. A few years ago, we came across some photos of my grandfather on the beach in Daytona, Florida. I was thinking of the difference time makes, for back then, beaches in that area were segregated, with the exception of the one that Mrs. Bethune designated for African Americans. This week, we encountered kindness in our encounters on the beach that would have been unimaginable in Mrs. Bethune's day, like two young white women who rushed over and grabbed my bag and other things and quickly moved them to higher ground as I sat alone and they saw I was encountering an unexpected water deluge. In general, I love the sense of community and sense of fluidity (no pun intended) that one can feel on the beach and missed it when we left. God willing, I will see Daytona soon.

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