February in Florida is a strange time of the year. It’s not really hot and it’s not really cold. Some days you might need a light jacket due to rain and other days you feel like the sun couldn’t be warmer. For Trayvon Martin the day had been partly cloudy, a high of 77 degrees F, and it began raining in the evening. He was walking home from the 7-Eleven with a bag of Skittles in one hand and an Arizona Tea in the other. He was shot and killed for looking suspicious.
I spend a lot of time in Sanford, Florida where Trayvon lost his life. The town is quiet, small and holds a dark history. Along the path against Lake Monroe you’ll find a beautiful park full of friends playing basketball, walking their dogs, and getting in some exercise. You can spot alligators and sometimes a manatee in the lake. It’s one of my favorite spots.
Jackie Robinson, famous black baseball player, was in Sanford just 66 years before Trayvon met his fate. He was not welcome and he did not stay long, but not because he didn’t want to. Robinson was forced out of the small town twice due to the color of his skin. The house where he stayed still stands in Sanford – but there are no historic markings or plaques for him – only the memories of those who were there and have written about it.
Racial tensions run high in this Florida town – and many others. Whether it was in 1946, 2013, or today – racial injustice still persists throughout America.
I currently live in Jacksonville where we have the Kingsley Plantation. I visited in February of 2020 when we were exploring the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve – a long stretch of obscure Florida that many don’t even know exists.
The Kingsley Plantation is a well-preserved home from 1798 along with 25 slave cabins that are not so well-preserved. The big, white house stands tall and beautiful with reenactments of what a kitchen looked like then and different artifacts that I assume were also found on the property. The cabins, however, are in ruins and will make your guts turn when you realize that the system decided to preserve the house first and foremost instead of these cabins.
When you’re walking in the half-moon of 25 cabins you’re reminded of the privilege white people have – as if there aren’t enough reminders.
The Kingsley Plantation is the home of Zephaniah Kingsley and his slave wife Anna Madgigine Jai, who lived on the plantation from 1814 to 1837. He bought Anna when she was only 13 and by the time she was 18, they had 3 children and were married. Her children were also slaves to Kingsley. This not only makes Kinglsey a slave-owner, but a pedophile.
Florida – still under Spanish rule – made Anna the business partner to Kingsley where she was actually able to own the plantation herself and all of the slaves on the property. The Spanish saw slavery in a different like that Europeans and figured you could either buy or earn your way out. Don’t be deceived thought, the Spanish were just as cruel to slaves as Europeans.
In 1832, Anna, her two sons, and 50 freed slaves moved to Haiti and founded a plantation there to live out their days. Anna’s two daughters moved down to Jacksonville and married white men.
Black Lives Matter. From the slaves that lived in Jacksonville during the 1800’s to the young men and women that are being shot and lynched across America.
If you’re a writer, photographer, politician, student, mother, father, or whatever – it is your time to be active. Donate to organizations, participate in rallies, share on your social media. As long as you are doing your part – you are with the movement.
You can donate to the Timucuan Parks Foundation here and learn more about the Kingsley Plantation on their website. I urge you to visit the plantation and learn about the history. I urge you to visit Sanford, Florida and witness the community that lives there.
Do your part and never forget that #BlackLivesMatter.