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'It's disrespectful:' Activist criticizes Jacksonville Bicentennial planning, calls for diversity

Ben Frazier, Northside Coalition, says the Bicentennial planning doesn't include enough Black voices. Jacksonville Historical Society responds.
Credit: WTLV
Ben Frazier, Northside Coalition, says plans for Jacksonville's Bicentennial celebration should be more diverse.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville’s Bicentennial celebration is approaching, with the city gearing up to celebrate 200 years of existence.

One local organization is speaking out, saying the celebration set for June 11 isn’t inclusive and doesn’t have enough Black people in on planning.

“What’s happened here,” asked Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition. “They’ve failed to involve and failed to include African Americans in the planning process, and it’s a hot mess."

Frazier is a local activist and head of the Northside Coalition.

Alan Bliss, from the Jacksonville Historical Society, sat down with First Coast News and agreed with Frazier.

“Do you feel that there needs to be more African American representation in the Bicentennial,” asked First Coast News' Destiny McKeiver.

“We have always felt that and beginning last year when we formed a Bicentennial task force… we invited participation from across the community, including organizations that have a predominately Black focus,” said Bliss.

The conversation about representation in the Bicentennial planning comes as the outdoor celebration date of June 11 approaches.

Bliss says the big celebration is only one small portion of a yearlong plan of events.

“The Bicentennial is really a whole year, and we have been tying our programming to it since January,” he said.

The Bethel Church downtown and Edward Waters University are on board with Bicentennial plans, but even still, Ben Frazier says the Black community of Jacksonville is under-represented in the overall plan.

“This Bicentennial should be about all of Jacksonville’s people, not just white people,” he said.

First Coast News reached out to the City of Jacksonville for a comment about planning efforts in relation to Frazier's claims.

The City of Jacksonville clarified that the city is not leading the planning of Jacksonville’s Bicentennial celebration, but rather the Jacksonville Historical Society is. 

Here is a list of all the local companies and groups involved:

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