July 31, 2013

The Jekyll Island Authority Needs Diversity

The Capitol Impact report by Tom Crawford in the June 12, 2013 edition of Flagpole should be required reading for all of our elected officials in the Georgia state government.  I am assuming they can all read.  

Aside from the sarcasm, it is vitally important to all Georgians that we work to preserve Jekyll Island State Park on that beautiful barrier island for all people for all time.  It was purchased with the tax dollars of all Georgians and continues to be supported by the tax dollars of all Georgians. Upon its purchase by the state of Georgia, it was emphasized that 65 percent of its land should remain as a state park in its natural environment, and that it should remain affordable for all Georgians. Developers, investors and other profit-seekers have long lusted after its beautiful natural beachfront and current hotels in process of construction now are not going to be affordable for average Georgians. 

Our major problem with retaining the island of Jekyll in its natural environment lies with the leadership of the island—the Jekyll Island Authority. The JIA members are appointed by the governor, yet does anyone know of any black Georgian who has served on the JIA? It is primarily a state park, but how many of the JIA members now have degrees and experience in state park management, ecology, biology, botany or any scientific field that might enable them to plan wisely for the future of a sensitive barrier island off our coast that is constantly threatened by sea rise, as is every other coastal island on our eastern coast? How many women, Latinos or average middle-class Georgians serve on the JIA?  

There is much history of African-Americans on Jekyll, in part because the last ship bringing enslaved Africans to the U.S. unloaded its illegal cargo on Jekyll Island. The old hotel reserved for black visitors to Jekyll under segregation was razed this year. A few markers have been erected in a park on the southern end of the island to commemorate the illegal cargo of the ship Wanderer that unloaded enslaved men, women and children there. 

It is time for all Georgians, including especially the legislative black caucus and Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, to speak out against any attempts to reduce the land on Jekyll that must be kept in its natural state and against any attempts to erase or fail to recognize the history of black Georgians and Americans on Jekyll Island.