“I have an olive branch in my left hand, I have a baseball bat in my right—I haven’t decided which one I’m going to use,” said Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce Chairman George Hawthorne. “Which one am I going to use for Mr. Jerralds? It’s that simple.”
Last week, Pensacola City Councilman John Jerralds held a meeting to discuss the viability of the GCAACC and what direction the organization should be taking. Hawthorne—who Jerralds threw out of the meeting in short order—intends to address the councilman’s actions during tomorrow’s council meeting.
“I’m going to pray on it this evening,” Hawthorne said.
The local African-American chamber’s chairman said that the recent events are indicative of varying strains of thought within the black business community. He said he represents the strain stressing “inclusion,” while Jerralds preferred the “segregation” strain.
“This is an epic discussion and fork in the road for Pensacola,” Hawthorne said.
According to Hawthorne, the councilman is operating under a “notion that everybody is racist.” As opposed to working jointly with the white business community, the chairman said that he thinks Jerralds would transform the chamber into a more fractious body.
“You know, a march-down-Palafox-Street type of organization,” he said.
Hawthorne also responded to Jerralds’ accusations that the GCAACC does not adequately represent the area’s black-owned businesses and was not a regularly functioning body.
“We fluctuate between 20 and 200 members,” Hawthorne said, adding that the chamber’s board of directors had not met “this quarter,” but would be meeting in July.
The chairman did not provide further information about who sits on the GCAACC’s board. He said he would need to check with board members prior to revealing such information.
Hawthorne also spoke about his desire to shift the chamber to a privately-funded model. Under such a model, the chamber would not receive any funding from the city of Pensacola or Escambia County.
But tomorrow, Hawthorne will primarily be addressing Jerralds March 16 meeting. The GCAACC chairman believes his rights were violated when the councilman called police officers to remove him from the room. He also wants to hear from city officials about Jerralds holding the meeting at city hall, tossing him from the meeting while invoking his position as a councilman, while also framing the issue as “not city business.”
“If, in fact, there is not a redress of the issues, then I’d have to get a legal ruling,” Hawthorne said. “I have got to react to that. As usual, John Jerralds did not think this through.”