Johnnie Mae Chappell was shot and killed in March 1964 on the side of a Jacksonville road. The 35-year-old African-American mother of 10 was looking for her wallet as four white men drove past. One of them aimed a gun out the window and fired. Her family still seeks justice fifty years later. In a radio feature that debuted on the podcast Criminal yesterday, Lauren Spohrer told the story of the Civil Rights-era murder, and it’s worth a listen. Spohrer is a native of Jacksonville. She learned about Chappell's killing growing up here, as her eyes were opened to as some of the city's dark and painful history. Her father, Robert Spohrer, represents the Chappell family pro bono, and he spoke often about the case and the legal hurdles that make prosecution difficult.
In the story on Criminal, "Can't Rock This Boat," Spohrer interviewed her father, Chappell's youngest son Shelton, and the former JSO detective Lee Cody, 84, who cracked the case with his partner Donald Coleman. Cody and Chappell have tried for 20 years to convince the state of Florida to reopen the case. Robert Spohrer explained that the law limits the state's ability to do that.
"It doens't make a whole lot of sense. We know that 50 years ago there are men out there who 50 years ago were involved in a brutal murder. They confessed to their participation in that murder. and yet the state of Florida, for a number of reasons, cannot and will not bring them back to a courtroom. And that's the most frustrating thing for me, is to try and sit and talk to Shelton and his brothers and sisters and explain how that can be," Robert Spohrer said.
Spohrer also interviewed me, as I wrote a cover story about this case in 2006. (It appeared in both Folio Weekly and Orlando Weekly.) Spohrer remembered the story, and so do I. I interviewed the man who fired the gun that killed Mrs. Chappell, and the only one of the four men in the car that night who was tried. Like all the men, J.W. Rich was …
Most of us saw a tragedy unfolding: The grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, the fires that burned in storefronts, the police and National Guardsmen subjugating rioters with tear gas. It was a day that brought ignominy on the city of Ferguson, the state of Missouri, and the United States of America itself.
But the person manning a social media account associated with the Duval County Republican Party seemed downright exuberant: At 10:34 p.m., as tear gas flooded the streets of Ferguson, @JaxGOP excitedly tweeted: “No true bill! May God bless and protect Officer Darren Wilson and his family. Facts are facts.”
Facts are indeed facts, and I wanted some. I wanted to know who tweeted this and why. I wanted to know if that person spoke for the party — @JaxGOP is no longer the Duval GOP’s official feed (that’s @DuvalGOP), though it apparently still carried the logo until the hullabaloo that followed this particular post (see the image above), at which point someone saw fit to post multiple messages stating that @JaxGOP is no longer the official account — and if not, if the tweeter had been asked to resign for posting such an irresponsible, tone-deaf message. And I wanted to know what “facts are facts” meant in this context.
Despite my best efforts, and two conversations with party principals, answers weren’t forthcoming.
The first was with events chairwoman Karyn Morton, who repeatedly wondered if she should even be talking to me. “Quite frankly,” she said, the tweet came forth “from an individual who didn’t even realize she was posting on the Duval GOP site.” The tweet, she explained, was quickly replaced with the Kumbaya hashtag #PrayForFerguson — which I suppose is more acceptable, because with cops like that, God knows they need all the prayer they can get.
The Twitter …
The iconic blue Main Street Bridge will be closed the night of March 29 for the filming of a music video by rapper Rick Ross and his song, “Box Chevy.”
Jeffrey Harper, executive producer of Miami-based Dre Films, said the bridge will be operated on a hold and release basis from 8 p.m. March 29 through 5:30 a.m. March 30.
“We don’t want to inconvenience the citizens of Jacksonville,” he said, explaining that during breaks in the shooting, traffic will be let through.
The permit for the filming the video for the sexually explicit song was issued by the Florida Department of Transportation since it controls the bridge. The permit said boat traffic would not be affected.
Melissa Bujeda, a spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said the production company will have to pay five off-duty officers and supervisor to handle traffic control on the bridge.
Harper said the producers chose Jacksonville because it is mentioned in Ross’ song. In addition to filming on the bridge, they are also filming at The Florida Theater, because both are iconic in Jacksonville. He expects the video to cost about $30,000.
First there were skinny jeans. Then came the jegging. American Eagle Outfitters recently upped the tight denim ante with jeans that don’t shrink in the wash, eliminate worry about plumber’s crack, and will never give you a wedgie: Skinny Skinny Jeans.
Jacksonville native and 2007 Douglas Anderson School of the Arts graduate Jillian Rorrer, now an actress based in New York City, debuted the new product for an American Eagle April Fool’s Day promotional video. Rorrer modeled the “jeans,” which were actually nothing more than body paint (and some well-placed underwear), before hidden cameras and unsuspecting customers in a New Jersey American Eagle store in March.
“Every kind of reaction happened. There were some people that were really annoyed by it, and then there were people who believed it,” Rorrer said. “There were these two cute little blonde girls who were like, ‘yeah, maybe I’ll try it!’”
Rorrer also sported the airy denim look April 1 on NBC’s “Today" show, as cohost Savannah Guthrie interviewed American Eagle marketing executives about the “cheeky” prank.
Rorrer said she lost nearly 70 pounds and began a healthy lifestyle regimen while in high school at Douglas Anderson, which helped prepare her for her painted-on performance and sparked an avid interest in nutrition and fitness.
“I realized that food is not just something that I kind of care about, it’s something that I really care about. My whole life, I’ve loved food!” Rorrer said. “For so long I misunderstood what real food was and I was ashamed to love food.”
Now, in addition to acting and working several part-time jobs in New York, Rorrer co-operates funfitfoodies.com, a diet and healthy lifestyle blog. Rorrer says she hopes her fast-paced, driven lifestyle and acting education will help her land a dream role on a cable drama series.
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Brian W. Taylor, former chief operating officer and chief commercial officer for ocean shipping line Horizon Lines, has been unanimously chosen by the Jacksonville Port Authority Board as its top choice for new chief executive officer.
The board directed that contract negotiations begin immediately with Taylor. Details on his potential contract were not released.
For about 30 years, Taylor led Horizon Lines, the nation’s largest ocean shipping and integrated logistics company and most recently was vice president of sales and operations for New Breed Logistics in High Point, N.C.
In April, the Board’s last unanimous selection, Juan Kuryla, backed out after deciding to stay in Miami, where he was deputy port director. The Board had offered him a salary of $300,000.
The Board has been scrambling to find a new CEO after Paul Anderson resigned last December to become CEO in Tampa. Roy Schleicher, who has been serving as interim CEO, was also a finalist for the post. JaxPort is seeking to have its harbor deepened from 40 feet to 47 feet, while competing with other East Coast ports.
Taylor, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., holds a Master of Business Administration in Economics and Financial Management from Concordia University in Montreal.
Clay Yarborough, Guardian of Our Civic Virtue, really wants to put this whole MOCA thing behind him. Last week — after Yarborough had lost his bid to defund the museum, and in the process cemented his rep as a local laughingstock — he met with MOCA director Marcelle Polednik and all parties “declared the matter closed.” And then today, he released a statement to the good folks at Metro Jacksonville about that meeting. It reads as follows:
I apologized to Director Polednik for not contacting her initially. I also learned the director and board are responsible for content and have the ability to safeguard children from mature material without stifling expression, so I asked whether anything would be done to protect children exposed to a large photograph of a naked woman without having to pay admission when they enter the taxpayer-owned, public building.
Ironically, after volunteering that her child has never seen a television and when they go into private homes where a television is on, she requests it be turned off, Director Polednik’s exact response was, “Regrettably, no.”
She and Board Chair Gellatly expressed it would reflect poorly on them if they were willing to compromise.
Though I unwaveringly believe this weakens Jacksonville’s moral climate and hope the board will, at-minimum, consider a disclaimer similar to what is used in other public forums, there are other important issues that we must move on to address.
Did you catch that passive-aggressive bit I highlighted there? Because David Kammerman, Polednik’s husband, sure did. In a comment on Metro Jax co-publisher Stephen Dare’s Facebook post about the statement (which Dare reposted on his website), Kammerman lit into the City Council president, as follows:
Beyond his inability to get the facts right, Clay Yarborough is a public official who has dragged private individuals — my family, …
A quartet of superheroes, Superman, Spiderman, Batman and Robin, dropped in this week on some real-life superheroes — youngsters facing health challenges at Nemours Children’s Clinic.
Delighted children watched as the superheroes dropped in with ropes and buckets to clean the windows on the 11-story tower on the Southbank of the St. Johns River on Monday and Tuesday.
Employees from City Wide Maintenance of Jacksonville donned the capes at the request of clinic staff and took time during their lunch hour to meet and greet the children.
Who says superheroes don’t do windows?
Dixie Egg Company of Jacksonville has donated 86,400 eggs to the Second Harvest North Florida food bank to help put food on the tables of the hungry for the Easter season.
“We are thrilled to donate much-needed proteins to the Second Harvest Food Bank just in time for the Easter holiday.” said Jacques Klempf of Dixie Eggs.
“This is an amazing blessing for us at this time of year,” said Bruce Ganger, executive director of Second Harvest. “Eggs are excellent sources of nutrition and proteins for those who are hungry and for those who have food allergies and dietary restrictions. This is the perfect gift at the perfect time.”
The donation equals 7,200 dozen eggs.
Folio Weekly cover story, “Problems at the Core,” follows proponents and critics in depth as they debate the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Florida’s schools. Yesterday, Florida’s Board of Education voted to allow districts to choose their own teaching methods and materials in line with Gov. Rick Scott’s stated policy of local control for public school curricula. It does not change the standards upon which those curricula are to be based, i.e., CCSS.
The Florida Department of Education adopted CCSS in 2010, began implementing them in 2011, and on Oct. 15 addressed the appendices to the Common Core Compact.
Florida’s Board of Education voted 5-1 to allow local districts to voluntarily decide whether or not they will adopt the Common Core appendices, Florida Times-Union reporter Matt Dixon said. He said an editing error removed the word “appendices” from his story in the Oct. 16 Times-Union. There is no indication at this time that Florida will ditch CCSS, i.e., the goals upon which local curricula will be based.
The appendices would have extended the 45-state Common Core Compact, or memorandum of understanding, to matters going beyond just the standards, or learning benchmarks, into the realm of curriculum. “Standards” are “what” students should learn, while “curricula” are “how” they learn those standards, i.e., by which teaching strategies and course materials. Curriculum matters, proponents have said all along, are to be determined by local districts.
Scott suggested the move toward local district control of curricula in a letter to board chairman Gary Chartrand dated Sept. 23. That same day, Scott declared in an executive order that Florida would withdraw from the 18-state test-development consortium, Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC), and abdicate its position as fiscal agent for …
One of the more interesting local electronic artists on the rise: the enigmatic Shoni, whose sound blends a classic shoegazer sensibility with downtempo beats and an ethereal aesthetic. She has many great things planned for 2014 -- but one more major event planned for 2013: a video release party at Rain Dogs for her new song "Space Bars", available on Spotify.
The video that she will premiere Wednesday evening, she informs Folio, has high production values, reminiscent of a Hype Williams joint. It took two days to shoot, and when Shoni saw it just last night, she tells Folio that "it gave me chills."
The local media was clamoring for an interview with the reclusive Shoni... but Folio Weekly snagged an exclusive, in-depth Q&A. Read on to find out more about the event, her influences, how she creates music, and the Ludacris cover that started off what Shoni fans call Shonimania!
Folio Weekly: Tell us about the event you have at Raindogs 12/18.
Shoni: The Space Bars music video premiere is being hosted at Rain Dogs on Wed, Dec 18. There will also be live performances by Shoni, Ritual Union, and Ascetic (all female-fronted music projects that employ digital instruments).
FW: Why did you pick Rain Dogs for this event?
Shoni: We chose Rain Dogs for the music video premiere because of its relationship to the music and arts scene here in Jacksonville. It’s quickly becoming a haven for members of the local arts community with its open mic nights and intimate appeal. I like the energy there.
FW: What does it mean to “employ digital instruments”? Do all of you have similar sounds?
Shoni: What I and the producers I work with create is music through the medium of technology. Sometime I’ll sit down with an electric guitar and work out chord progressions and sometimes I’ll start my work on a recording program using MIDI inputs. The result …