Report: Derek Boyd Hankerson, Executive Producer
Hankerson-Henry Productions, LLC
Special to Historic City News
From the birth of Christ and the establishment of the church mission to the birth of freedom and the founding of the first militia, St. Augustine, as one of the oldest North American settlements, is rich with history and markers of a proud past.
Hankerson-Henry Productions, LLC recently released the documentary, “Gullah Geechee Corridor and the East Coast Greenway” a celebration of the dynamic and diverse past and present of the historic city of St. Augustine.
The story of St. Augustine, while definitely being an inspiring and “feel good” film, is based on facts — historical facts we Floridians can be proud of — and for this reason Hankerson-Henry Productions, LLC fully supports Florida State Representative Mike Hill’s H.R.97 bill, the “Soldiers’ and Heroes Monuments and Memorials Protection Act,” to protect all “remembrances” built on public property on or after March 22, 1822.
As Representative Hill states in his Fox and Friends interview on Saturday, December 29, 2018, H.R.97 bill does far more than protect “Confederate” statues that have become a favorite target of a small in numbers and small in mind uninformed and ill-intended mob
Never mind that “Confederate” simply means “together” or an “alliance” or that the Confederate Flag of the South is a variation of the first flag of freedom that flew over the Spanish Garrison of Fort Mose as early as 1565. Never mind that Florida’s original battle for freedom against the British Crown was won in Fort Mose in 1740 as a precursor victory to the American Revolution. These facts become inconvenient truths to a crowd who perpetually wants to define the entire Black Identity as oppressed slaves of racist white Americans.
As the Executive Producer, Director, Writer, and Narrator of the “Gullah Geechee Corridor and the East Coast Greenway” film and St. Augustine resident, Derek Boyd Hankerson is one black man tired of his existence
Fact: Black American history, especially here in Florida, is a rich and free history. It is so much more than 1865 (Civil War) and 1964 (Civil Rights). Representative Mike Hill’s important legislation that is on its way to committee is the antidote to the toxic notion that “remembrances” are evil. Monuments and historical markers serve as critical, timeless reminders of what we all overcame as united Americans like the real story of Fort Mose, often referred to as Bloody Mose, where Spanish and European settlers joined forces with free Black militias and Seminole warriors.
But let’s not be reminded of the truth. God forbid we should all get along or appreciate that we were united before we were divided by our ethnicity.
As we celebrate the holidays season, those of us blessed to live in the beauty of Florida’s Northeast coast year-round appreciate what too many tourists seem to miss — that the birth of Christ and the birth of freedom and our new world began here in St. Augustine. We would not have the latter without the former. And in the spirit of Christian love and unity, the origins of St. Augustine were both colorless (all are equal in the eyes of God) and colorful (Africans, Europeans, Native Americans).
For the uninformed outsider, they might be interested to learn while visiting here, that St. Augustine was founded by Spanish and African explorers, named after San Augustin, a native Algerian. The early military was perhaps the first ever multiracial, multicultural militia to exist in the New Americas.
Fort Mose was home to the first black settlement. It is impossible to separate the growth of our now thriving Florida communities from the contributions of not only of the European explorers but also of these early African settlers who arrived as early as 1565. From militias to law enforcement to the founding of the historic black college, Florida Memorial University, the early black settlers believed in and supported peace, law, and education for all.
What out-of-towners may not realize is the fact that blacks in Florida were free and emancipated centuries before President Lincoln made any proclamations. West and Central Africans had already acquired their own freedom in St. Augustine thanks to the Edict of 1693 and a 1738 Proclamation which became the first civil rights legislation in the new world.
Freedom and faith are the foundations on which St. Augustine was built. Look no further than the abundance of references to Christmas, Christ, or Christianity. If you peel back the paint in most churches in St. Augustine, you will find the name of a local Christian leader proudly displayed on the wall. At Shiloh Baptist on King Street, such names include prominent blacks in the community like current St. Augustine resident, Derek Boyd Hankerson’s step-grandfather who was Arthur Pathe, first cousins R. H. Fields, E. J. Brooks, and Rev., E. H. Hankerson.
Hankerson’s grandfather Reverend J. H. Hankerson Founded Shiloh Baptist Church in Port Huron, MI., and it is a sister church to the one founded on King Street with the same name.
These black Americans did not play the victim card in the past nor do they now. Many families earned their freedom in St. Augustine and most know the truth about how the blacks earned freedom and Independence here starting in 1565.
Not only is St. Augustine the birthplace of Christianity, as the oldest occupied settlement in North America dating back to 1565, it is also the original headquarters of the Florida National Guard.
The rich history and culture of St. Augustine that residents and tourists alike enjoy year-round is why Hankerson-Henry Productions, LLC whole-heartedly supports Florida State Representative Mike Hill’s Bill H.R. 97.