The wicked web we weave
Besides questionable sourcing, incomplete bid solicitation, and allegations of cronyism, in making the award, there have also been questions raised about the historical accuracy of the material presented in the Journey video, itself.
And as to the “bums rush” given anyone else who might have been interested in producing a better documentary, there may have been a more disturbing underpinning. The six-day blitz, from quote to purchase order, wasn’t the first communication with the 450th Commemoration staff at City Hall, as Historic City News soon learned.
Go back a couple of months, to October 2013. The e-mail we uncovered indicated that Dana Ste. Claire was communicating with that 21-time EMMY award-winning television documentary producer we mentioned; a man who’s training as a journalist stressed accuracy and truthfulness. CB Hackworth of Atlanta, confirmed the exchange of about a dozen e-mails that we had uncovered, and two face-to-face meetings with Ste. Claire at the controversial Florida Cracker Café, leased from the City by former mayors Joe Boles and Len Weeks.
In our interview with Hackworth, the producer told us, “I was working on the documentary After the Storm, which is critical of the present-day racial situation in St. Augustine.”
Hackworth Media had filed for and was granted access to the trial of former city commissioner Errol Jones. His company paid a videographer to tape the two-day proceeding. Hackworth filed a public records request for city police records dealing with Jones’ arrest, as well as a breakdown of city employees, by race, and arrests by the police department by race. Hackworth told Historic City News that the City did not provide the documents responsive to that request.
Nonetheless, Ste. Claire initiated a telephone call to Hackworth. He invited him to come to St Augustine for lunch, during which time, he asked Hackworth to produce the video for “Journey”. Hackworth said he “expressed disapproval of his concept for the exhibit” and declined.
As background, Hackworth shared with Gold his opinion on how St Augustine’s 2014 activities, including the Journey video and exhibit, should have been produced and presented to the public.
Hackworth sees the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act as “the climax of the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine”.
He observed that Journey was the opportunity for the City to acknowledge and embrace the accurate, historical events that occurred locally, relating to the significant historic events that occurred nationally. He believes the City did that poorly.
“I was already aware of events to coincide with the 50th anniversary that were being planned in cities like Birmingham, Selma, and even Memphis, where Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated,” Hackworth said. “I cautioned Dana that St. Augustine was missing a golden opportunity.”
Hackworth’s impression was that Ste. Claire was going to present an overwhelming amount of unrelated material. It was as if he wanted to highlight the accomplishments of “black folks” and recite a fictional narrative that portrayed St. Augustine as a wonderful place for African Americans to live — except for that “little bump in the road” that was the racial unrest of the 1960’s. “I said it was wrong to pander to that mentality,” Hackworth said.
Ste. Claire continued to ask Hackworth to give “Journey” a chance and to work with the City on it. Although Hackworth said that he declined, again, Ste. Claire indicated that he felt he could change Hackworth’s mind. It was only a couple of hours after lunch, when Ste. Claire sent the first e-mail to Hackworth, Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.
Polite decline aside, two days latter —
Subject: RE: Journey
From: “Dana Ste. Claire”
Date: Fri, October 04, 2013 1:46 pm
To: “CB Hackworth”
Great! And thanks C.B. I look forward to our next conversation, and possible collaboration. Here are the office notes on Reverend Wright. Let me know when you want to take a trip over and we’ll set it up.
Mrs. Patricia Murray is the daughter of Reverend Thomas A. Wright, organizer of early efforts of the St. Augustine’s Civil Rights Movement. Barbara Vickers referred her.
The Reverend resides at The Atrium Independent Living Facility in Gainesville. His telephone number is 352.XXX.XXX. He is 93 and hard of hearing; Mrs. Murray says it’s best to contact him first so he can be prepared with his hearing aid. He also uses a walker, and has lunch at 12 noon every day, so stay away from this time. Mrs. Murray asked if we would contact her first so she can be present to assist. Her number is: 561.XXX.XXXX.
The Reverend sponsored early lunch counter sit-ins. He was threatened many times i.e. firebombing, etc., by Boss Manucy. Mrs. Murray at age 22 participated in several of the marches in the early 1960s. We’ll want to interview her, too. Probably during the same session at the retirement center.
See if we can set this up with a videographer for the interview. Draft questions and review them prior to the interview. We may be able to engage C. B. Hackworth, the PBS producer, to videotape. Mrs. Murray says her father is alert and sharp, but he is 93, so interview soon.
On the morning of October 5th, Ste. Claire sees Hackworth at a charity breast cancer run. Inexplicably to Hackworth, Ste. Claire continues to discuss a contract for the “Journey” video project, despite Hackworth’s objections.
Subject: Woolworth image
From: “Dana Ste. Claire”
Date: Mon, October 07, 2013 4:42 pm
To: “cb hackworth”
It was nice seeing you this Saturday along the way. I walk with my mother-in-law every year … she’s a BC survivor.
We watched your “Crossing in Saint Augustine” documentary again this past week. There is a great image of the Woolworth counter and sit-in. Do you have an original photo or a high res picture of this that we could scan for the exhibition? I have only seen grainy versions of the photo.
Can we get together soon to talk about the Journey video project via contract with you?
Thanks and regards,
The next day, Hackworth responds and reiterates his previously expressed reservations about “Journey”.
Subject: Woolworth image
Date: Tue, October 08, 2013 2:42 pm
To: “Dana Ste. Claire”
From: “cb hackworth”
It’s been awhile since I watched the documentary myself, so I’m not sure which shot we used of the Woolworth protest. Please describe it and I’ll let you know. It likely is the same photograph you have, with extensive Photoshop work done to clean it up — but I’m not 100% positive. Regardless, it probably still exists on a drive somewhere.
I am in St. Augustine through the end of this week, but my class meets on Fridays so that’s out. I could probably get together sometime tomorrow or Thursday, but otherwise it would have to be later in the month.
As previously indicated, I’m certainly willing to discuss the “Journey” concept with you further, although you already know the reservations I have about wrapping the Civil Rights movement up in the entire history of African Americans.
The year 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. I really hope St. Augustine follows the example of other cities, like Birmingham, which wholeheartedly are acknowledging and embracing similar anniversaries for exactly what they are.
I do believe the rich culture of African Americans in St. Augustine and Florida are important to any 2015 celebrations.
However, my best suggestion continues to be that you should go into the community and solicit input from minority residents as to what they would like to see happen in 2015. I do not presume to speak for any particular group or individual but myself, and I am always surprised, and usually enlightened, when I hear what others have to say.
On another note, I am glad to hear your mother is doing well. It looked like a nice event on Saturday.
Two hours later, Ste. Claire writes to Hackworth, again. Praise aside, Hackworth reported that he felt uncomfortable with the role Ste. Claire seemed to be taking with him — especially in light of the fact that, unless directions change, Hackworth is not interested in being associated with the video or exhibit. Hackworth specifically was puzzled as to why Ste. Claire would want to refer him to Florida Normal as a paid consultant when he wasn’t looking for work.
Subject: RE: Woolworth image
From: “Dana Ste. Claire”
Date: Tue, October 08, 2013 4:30 pm
To: “cb Hackworth”
We pulled a still from your Crossing documentary to show you what image we are looking for in high res. The only one that I’ve seen is very grainy, so if you photo-shopped this, you’re very talented!
Thursday to meet is better for me after I get through with several morning meetings. You want to try for lunch again? My treat. Florida Cracker is my excuse to have fried seafood! Say 11:30 p.m.
I hear you loud and clear on the exhibition concept. Journey is designed to be comprehensive, mainly because of our varying and developing degrees of collaboration with several Smithsonian museums and our build-up to the Tapestry: The Cultural Threads of First America exhibition in 2015.
But I give you my personal guarantee that the Civil Rights component in the VIC exposition center will by far be the largest, probably roughly half with the theater, touchscreen kiosks, etc. Unless something else emerges, I’m pretty sure this will be the largest exhibition on St. Augustine Civil Rights in 2014.
We just want to do it the right way, and the very best way is to have you part of it. Maybe on Thursday before or after lunch, if you have time, we can drive down to the VIC so I can show you what we are planning.
I understand your last point. I have always maintained that Journey has to be a story about African-American history told by African-Americans, something you do very well. Our first Advisory Council meeting is on October 30 at 3:30 in the De Aviles Room. We will be listening closely re: fine-tuning the subject matter. You are more than welcome to join us, if you can.
On another note, I have been having good conversations with Florida Memorial University who, at our urging, is planning on organizing a small reunion of Florida Memorial College students who participated in the Civil Rights marches and protests in the early 1960s.
It will be a good time to capture stories maybe via your video program. They are organizing an institutional archive for the first time, as well. If you don’t mind, I would like to recommend you to them as a contract consultant. Let me know if you are comfortable with this.
Thanks and regards,