Tuesday, April 26, 2011
J.S. Futcher, The "George Washington Of JACC," Presents JACC A Copy Of Its "Birth Certificate"
Photos and blog post by John Hoff
J.S. Futcher, who might be described as the "George Washington Of the Jordan Area Community Council," spoke at the April 13 JACC board meeting and presented a copy of the history book he authored: They're Closing Our Library: From Jordan Branch To North Regional.
The book describes, in well-documented and meticulous detail, how grassroots community organizing around the issue of a potential library closure led to the founding of what became the Jordan Area Community Council (JACC) and created the groundwork for today's highly-developed system of Minneapolis neighborhood associations. Futcher, a science teacher who took on a leadership role in light of a crisis caused by the planned library closure in the mid-1960s, described his book as being like the "birth certificate" of JACC and was moved to tears when discussing the...
...long and difficult but worthwhile struggle to help North Minneapolis not only retain a public library but actually get a much bigger and better facility than the original. This was, however, not to be a "one issue movement." When members of JACC got a taste of success from neighborhood organizing around the library issue, they didn't stop and the movement spread across the city.
Futcher's book, which was many years in the making, reproduces copies of newspaper articles and other forms of documentation to show, in detail, how the struggle over the library became a broader neighborhood-based social movement. The author's use of sources is meticulous, so much so that one is reminded of a graduate thesis or a science textbook. If the original documents contain what the author considers mistakes or contradictions, Futcher is careful to point this out; such as an instance where a gathering took place in the afternoon instead of at noon.
I managed to quickly read as far as Chapter 6 while the JACC board meeting took place and the book was free for my browsing. It is an amazing and important document which anybody who seeks to change North Minneapolis for the better should read. The book made me aware of historical patterns and some old, not-quite-buried issues that might need to be revived, once again, such as a collection of historical books that was more-or-less snatched away from the North Minneapolis library and spirited away to the main library where these books remain today.
The author made mention of books being available for sale at a program called "Emerge" but I have not been able to confirm this firsthand.
I will note that the timing of this book presentation is interesting. The author completed the book a couple years ago, but talked about being busy with family matters and moving to a different address to explain why he had delayed so long in presenting the book to JACC even though many other individuals and organizations received copies.
From where I was standing and watching, I strongly suspect there was an aspect of the author not wanting to "cast his pearls before swine," that is to say: the "Old Majority" who used to run JACC and mismanage its finances, then sued (with spectacular non-success) for control of the organization.
With JACC now in the hands of decent, conscientious people who aren't mismanaging the organization, perhaps the author felt it was an appropriate time to make his book presentation.
That's my hypothesis and I'm sticking to it.
One thing the author is extraordinarily careful to document are his own claims of being the founder of JACC. Based on my reading of the documentation--which is extensive--J.S. Futcher has every right to make this claim.
The historical beginnings of many important things are lost, vague or unknown because nobody took the time to record history or, even more important, to organize and edit and write history.
But JACC doesn't fall in that category.
The author reading from his notes.
This is the original "Clean Sweep" flyer for what has become an annual event in Jordan, Hawthorne, and other neighborhoods.
The artwork on the cover of the book is not random: it comes from the original petition to protest the closing of the Jordan Branch library in the mid-1960s.