Husband and wife artists Eric and Caila Moed have collaborated with Samuel Maddox and Main Made Studios of Jacksonville to install an 11-piece sculptural bike rack called “Changing Perspective” along East Ocean Street between Bay and Forstyh Streets. The racks spell out “DUUUVAL”, and incorporate elements of Jacksonville’s rich but often uncelebrated black history. The art was commissioned as part of Phase II of the Downtown Investment Authority’s (DIA) Urban Arts Project, with funding from the City of Jacksonville and JEA, and administered by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.
Heard extensively at Jacksonville Jaguars football games, at concerts and just about any street corner across the country where Jaxsons celebrate their city, a loud chant of “DUUUVAL” (the consolidated-county that encapsulates Jacksonville) has become a unifying force in Jacksonville.
From left to right: Robert Cole, James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson. In 1899 James Weldon Johnson wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”, which brother Rosamond set to music. The song became known as the “Negro National Anthem.” The Johnsons later became major figures in the Harlem Renaissance.
In 1949, Ken Knight (pictured), was the program director WERD, the first-black owned radio station. He went on to become the first black man in the south with his own syndicated show on CBS. In 1962, Jacksonville named Ken Knight Drive in his honor. Image courtesy of Da Radio Lady.
The name “Duval”, standing in for Jacksonville, has long been been heard at backyard barbecues, in schoolyards and referenced on stage at local hip hop performances. DJ Easy E of the former hip-hop and R&B radio station 92.7 The Beat popularized the memorable “DUUUVAL” chant in the early 1990s. He elongated the word and would end on-air performances or radio spots with a booming “Duuuval” punctuated with an echo effect. The chant stuck in local vernacular, and began to be repeated throughout every corner in the city. The broader country was introduced to the term in 2004 during an airing of Monday Night Football between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers. Former Jaguars linebacker Mike Peterson introduced the team’s defense to a national television audience with a simple warning “Welcome to Duval. Prepare to be hit!” The Jaguars have since embraced the “DUUUVAL” chant, bringing it to an even wider audience.
The emphasis on the “Duuuval” chant is particularly poignant on the “Changing Perspective” installation, as the art takes a unifying element of local culture and seeks to literally change one’s perspective on a mostly forgotten element of Jacksonville’s vast history. Each bike rack includes a written description of a historical place relevant to Jacksonville’s black history, along with a directional arrow and a distance from that street corner to each site highlighted.
“Changing Perspective” builds upon another public art installation that celebrates the contributions of Jacksonville musicians to specific musical genres. That work celebrated local musicians and bands including James Weldon Johnson, Ma Rainey, Pat Chappelle, the Quad City DJs, The Allman Brothers Band and The Classics IV.
Jacksonville was once a thriving place for African-Americans and other immigrant communities, despite Jim Crow-era policies designed to limit economic opportunity for people of color. Today, Jacksonville’s changing demographics may be seen as a catalyst for embracing that element of the city’s history that hasn’t been widely taught in local schools. Duval is becoming more diverse by the year, and is on the cusp of becoming a minority-majority city, with non-Hispanic whites making up only around 53% of the population and dropping. According to The Florida Times-Union, Duval County had 6,300 fewer white people in 2017 than in 2008, but 93,000 more African-American, Latino, Asian and other nonwhite residents.
After decades of ignoring history, the streets of Downtown are finally beginning to celebrate a culturally authentic representation of the people who have made Jacksonville what it is today. To learn more about Jacksonville’s Black History, click on the articles listed below.
Additional Jacksonville Black History
Article by Mike Field. Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.