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Join us for the 1st annual Stetson Kennedy Folklife and Floridiana Festival
11, May, 2013
MATHESON MUSEUM, Gainesville FLA- To aquaint the public with the folklore of north Florida from the mid 20th century backwards using Stetson Kennedy's life and work as a lens. Join us 10AM to 5 PM for lectures Demos, events and of course music.
Admirers Flock To Stetson Kennedy's 93rd Birthday
FRUIT COVE - The guests came in cars with bumper stickers that said things like, "Obama '08," and "The Meek are Getting Ready," and another asking if people wanted to pave or save Florida.
They brought gifts that included a painting, a book and a 12-cup Mr. Coffee coffee maker.
It is difficult deciding what to buy a celebrated literary figure for his 93rd birthday, songwriter Frank Thomas confessed of his friend Stetson Kennedy.
What do you buy for a Florida Artists Hall of Famer, an honor that put Kennedy in the company of writers including Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams?
So Thomas, who like Woody Guthrie wrote a song about Kennedy's exposure of the Ku Klux Klan, opted for the practical. The author's coffee machine wasn't working, so Thomas got his 'ole buddy Stets something he could use to brew his java.
"How do you pay a man back for what he's done and what he's been through?" Thomas said. "He put his life on the line."
Sunday's occasion at Kennedy's home at Beluthahatchee Park also arrived as a sight-impaired Jacksonville man delivered the first copy of an audio version of Kennedy's book "The Klan Unmasked," as made for the Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Library Services.
"Is this the talking book?" Kennedy asked, signing the first such audio edition of his work while taking a few minutes for an interview.
The book, one of several he's written, is Kennedy's account of infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. First published in the 1950s, it raised controversy upon a 1990 re-release when it became known that events Kennedy wrote of firsthand were embellished or happened to another undercover operative. The author said then he used the most compelling writing style he could, and regretted not explaining his methods in an introduction.
He mostly talked Sunday about what made the day's celebration dear to him. With so many birthdays behind him, Kennedy focused on how he wanted to be remembered after he'd seen his last.
"I hope I made some difference but today is very special for me because I couldn't prove that I made a difference but I can prove that I made some friends," he said.
The writer sat on the deck of the house that will become a museum and on park land that the government has bought and will preserve for the public's use after his death. An avid environmentalist, Kennedy also spoke about creating the man-made lake above which he sat "with his own hands and a $25 chain saw."
After a while, Kennedy's better half, Sandra Parks, reminded her husband of the 100 or so guests he had waiting. She said her wish for his birthday was "another five years" of living, joking: "As long as he's got a book in line and is adored, he's not going anywhere."
Several well-wishers gathered on the deck, listening to Kennedy answer questions including what advice he'd give young people who want to make a difference in society.
He said he blames institutions like schools and the media for perpetrating a culture of whiteness. He suggested young people form committees and confront such employers to "call the attention to their whiteness." Such a group could recommend a "talent bank of qualified people" so African-Americans could fill more roles.
The author also recalled seeing the thousands who came to see President Obama speak in Jacksonville during the presidential campaign, saying he never thought he'd see such a day.
Then the small man wearing the blue leisure suit, sensible brown shoes and a rumpled bucket hat askew on his head excused himself. The spiral ham, biscuits, white-iced chocolate sheet cake, and other goodies couldn't keep his guests satisfied forever.
So the birthday boy accepted a handshake, then walked away with a wide gait, a swing in his arms and determination in every step. There still were books to write, friends and fans to adore him.
Rocking The Boat: Studs Terkel's 20th Century
In this 15 minute tailer, Studs Terkel, Hazel Wolf, Stetson Kennedy and others talk about their activism in the last century. ROCKING THE BOAT: STUDS TERKEL'S 20TH CENTURY, is an educational DVD which began as a PBS documentary for KCTS, Seattle in 1998. It is adapted, with permission, from Studs Terkel’s book COMING OF AGE.
ROCKING THE BOAT takes a close look at the social progress achieved during the last century and how it was achieved, as seen through the eyes of 95 -year-old oral historian Studs Terkel (who was 85 years young when the production was filmed) and nearly a dozen of his contemporaries. There will be an accompanying Web site in addition to this Google Video work-in-progress
Stetson Kennedy Awards
Click the link below to see some of the awards Stetson Kennedy has received over his lifetime.