Racial equity movement had gains and losses in 2021 in Alachua County – Gainesville Sun – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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The symbolism of statues can be as heavy as their weight, so the coming replacement of the Old Joe confederate monument in downtown Gainesville with one honoring the late African American historian Patricia Hilliard-Nunn is meaningful.

But other actions and inaction have been steps back for social justice in Alachua County, activists say.

A Gainesville City Hall and City Commission environment that was so intolerable that employees and Commissioner Gail Johnson stepped down is cited as one example.

A special mural: MLK Center mural honors late UF professor, historian Patricia Hilliard-Nunn

Sculpture plans announced: Sculpture honoring UF professor who shined light on lynchings to stand in place of Old Joe

Editorial: Passing over Tina Certain as School Board chair sent the wrong message

The perceived snubbing of Alachua County School Board member Tina Certain to be chairwoman is another.

No repercussions from the failure of Alachua County Jail staff to take pregnant inmate Erica Thompson to the hospital when she told them she was in premature labor is still another. Her baby, Ava, was born in the jail and later died.

“We still have a serious problem with race relations in Gainesville,” said county NAACP President Evelyn Foxx. “We have come along, but not long enough. We were hoping that things would get better but in some ways it’s getting worse.”

Kiara Laurent, spokeswoman for the Gainesville chapter of the Dream Defenders, said the Thompson case is part of a proven history of medical professionals and healthcare institutions to diminish and delegitimize Black women’s pain.

An internal investigation found that jail staff did not violate any policies.

“No accountability by the sheriff’s office once again allows for tragedies like this to continue,” Laurent said in a text message. “These are our loved ones whose stories and pain will go unheard and unrecognized. Authority is not separate from accountability. If people are under the custody of the sheriff’s office and jail, then they are under their care – thus making them accountable.”

Sheriff’s Capt. Kaley Behl said Sheriff Clovis Watson ordered the internal investigation, which usually starts with complaints from outside the agency.

Behl added that as a result of the case, changes may be made.

“Any time you have something tragic happen you review the way you do anything just to make sure you are operating under best standards,” Behl said. “Sometimes unfortunate things happen and it’s not necessarily someone’s fault…We are looking at our admissions policy to see how we can improve upon health care. There is a bid process this year for health car


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