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.


Anonymous said...

Where is this book available for purchase? Must reading...

NE Minneapolis

Johnny Northside! said...

We hear it is available at a local program called "Emerge" but still trying to get more info on that. Megan is looking into it.

Johnny Northside! said...

I think they can be purchased directly from the author. Let me work on getting his address and the price, OK?

Ben Richardson said...

Is there any way to get UROC to help pay some of the library fees?
Seems like a better use of their money than half the other projects they have going on.

Johnny Northside! said...

Received the following by email and I am adding it to the comments.

Mr. John Hoff aka Mr. Johnny Northside

It’s been a little more than a year since I appeared at the JACC executive board. I was not aware that you were intently recording my presentation. Did I actually meet you? Unfortunately, neither was I aware of your blog. Somehow our son found it and passed your website address on to me.

Frankly, I was thrilled to read it. Thank you for the time and effort to record this incident for placement on your blog. I now have written an entry for your Tuesday 26 April 2011 blog, but I am thinking I may be too late. My comments are past their timeliness. Below I have placed a copy of my blog entry in case I don’t succeed in getting it copied on your April 26th blog. I guess I did succeed in attaching my comments to you blog


24 April 2011 BLOG COMMENTS by J. S. Futcher:

In a very belated response, I am honored to be characterized as the “George Washington of JACC” and in awe of being distinguished as such. I appreciate this accurate review of my book, and my presentation of it to the JACC executive board.

It was my aim never to make JACC appears as if one person was running or controlling the organization. Consequently, I refrained from stating I was the founder or the organizer of JACC. But now after many years, in this book, I give myself due credit.

When I went about distributing my book to the other northside community groups in the spring of 2009, I was informed by several community organizers and activists that the JACC organization was undergoing an “internal restructuring.” Therefore, before presenting my book to the official JACC board, I waited until the “restructuring” was complete. Of course I was disappointed in the delay because in a sense this book belonged to JACC.

As I sat at the board meeting listening to the proceedings while waiting to give my presentation, I was struck by how this night’s meeting was so much like executive board meetings in the ‘60s, 70s and ‘80s—trying to move along a tight agenda; individuals and groups wanting a few minutes of the board’s limited time, reports from the officers, and, of course, the old and new issues that must be acted on. My hats off to the past and present Jordan Community citizens who so freely give of their time hoping to make a better community.

I hope this book gives to the Jordan Community some perspective as they grapple with their never ending issues and concerns.

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled to discover my "hypothesis," mentioned in the post, was essentially correct though Mr. Futcher phrased things much more diplomatically.

"Internal restructuring" indeed.