(March 14, 2018)
“Past Ten and still no
Students “Walking Out” ‘cross street
at Sanford Middle!
- (Radio pre-reports suggested some elementary – at least one reported – getting students to participate in the 17-minute display. Sanford Middle School (Sanford, Florida, USA) is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) “Magnet” school which draws from throughout Seminole County. There are a good many such elementary, middle and one high school in town so designated “Magnet.” From the latter parts of the last century Seminole County has been under Federal department of Education mandates about racial desegregation. Instead of bussing – which for a time was used in some cases – local school board (and perhaps others up to and including the then still nascent Florida Department of Education) used the Magnet school concept to further its goal of achieving racial “balancing” by attracting non-Black students to attend Sanford schools. Sanford – and nearby environs are estimated at 40 percent Black by population. Sanford – and presumably Seminole County – actually was desegregated in 1965. There were fewer than a half-dozen Black students from the former Sanford-located Crooms Academy enrolled at Seminole High in Sanford. I was there. Those students were assigned to the sophomore class. To my everlasting shame I did not walk over from the Junior side of the gymnasium’s assembly that day to welcome those students to SHS. My friend Jim Hay began a move to welcome any new students of similar melanin content and was roundly shunned by so-called White students (melanin deficient) for his efforts, of which I was unaware. When I returned to Sanford following my days as an active-duty Marine (1971) and joined the staff of the local newspaper I was at Seminole High in the mid-1970s to witness what was then-termed “a race riot” but what I saw was a bunch of kids of all kinds, colors and sizes, running amok and going only moderately agog between the then-one-story wings of classrooms emanating from the central office complex and bounded on the other side by flagpole and Auditorium with the lunchroom well off to the East below the Auditorium. The only “fighting” took place well to the North, away from the Office and between two wings of classrooms. In 1969, while home on USMC leave I escorted a young lady friend to a Titusville High School-hosted SHS football game. When the Sanford school’s by-then fully integrated band began playing the SHS “fight song,” DIXIE the Titusville High stands erupted and fisticuffs – mostly of a light nature – ensued. My date and I gathered up the SHS cheerleaders, of whom one was my date’s younger sister, and stood apart from the roiling not-quite melee. The Marine dress uniform may have inhibited somewhat, but I doubt that greatly: we were fifty yards from the 50 or 60 such people of many so-called racial persuasion who participated the the free-for-all. All this is preamble to the “so what” I now get to. One more note – during the 1960s Sanford Blacks and Not-Blacks regularly engaged in open-aged (14-35, I’d guess) wide-open tackle football games on Sunday afternoons behind the town’s former New York Giants’ stadium which was located between the town’s toney Mayfair Lakeside old-established white neighborhood and the easternmost reaches of the town’s supposed and actual uppercrust (somewhat) black neighborhood of Georgetown. When some sailors from the nearby U. S. Naval Air Station showed up circa 1967 many went back to base limping: the next week a USN ambulance joined up for the festivities. You see, since the middle ’60s of which I am personally aware, Sanford Blacks and Whites played no-pads tackle football against each other on Sundays. Orlando, Daytona Beach and St. Augustine rioted. We played football. Not much difference when the offensive and defensive lines of both teams sometimes approached 15 or more men and boys – but you get the picture.
- Sanford does not so much riot and watches outsiders try to riot for us. Witness the Trayvon Martin Contretemps of several years past, and other such encounters by out-of-town “organizers” trying to “stir things up.” Things need stirring up. But with out own cooks, if you please. Oh, yes: Crooms Academy was closed for a time when everying – Black and White – went to Seminole High. Then came Lake Mary High School and Winter Springs High to siphon off muchly Black students – so as to keep the racial quota balance in tune one supposes. Crooms for a time became a ninth-grade-only center to feed freshman to Seminole High, and later it too became a technology-oriented school to presage the way for Seminole High to become an International Baccalaureate (IB) – and a medical technology adjunct to support a still-winning interscholastic sports establishment. Seminole High was and remains a charter member of the Florida High School Activities Association.)