Photos: Katherine Lewin
Words: Jared Olson
Under the cold bluebird skies of Jan. 15, 2018, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, St. Augustine demonstrators gathered in front of the squat brick walls of St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal church. The purpose: to celebrate the memory of King, a civil rights hero, in a town where he and his followers were hated, abused and jailed.
Roughly 200 marchers, a mix of races and ages, shivered under American flags and waited for the annual procession to begin. The route took them from the steps of the historically black church, where Dr. King spoke out against racism, to the downtown market square, where black slaves were once auctioned off.
Two demonstrators carry the American flag through the streets. The crowd held an air of ambiguity about the continuation of Dr. King's legacy. Many demonstrators agreed that progress has been made in the decades since King's death. But others believe that in light of the recent controversy surrounding Confederate-era monuments downtown and the economic segregation of St. Augustine, the local divide of race is still strong.
Tony, a longtime resident of Lincolnville, watches the marchers walk by. Aside from the controversial movement to remove the Confederate Monuments in the downtown Plaza de la Constitucion, many have remained sharply critical of the town's gradual "gentrification" that has resulted in the majority of the local black population being shoved into the rough West King Street neighborhood.
"People will still be so blatant to say something to me based on the color of my skin," Cody Tucker said. He brought his two young daughters to the demonstration. "They don't know who I am. We always experience some kind of discrimination... people following you in stores. Police stopping you for no reason... You try not to make it affect you, you try not to be scared. But it does affect you, obviously."