Eracism: locals tell stories of Panama City's segregated past

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In honor of Black History Month, Panama City locals came together to talk about progression, but also to discuss a part of Panama City's past.

George H. Hines Jr. was born in Panama City in 1953. At that time, it was a different place due to segregation.

Hines remembers when schools in the area integrated.

"We got secondhand books, I'll say from first grade 'til I was in the seventh grade I got secondhand books," Hines said, "books already written in, people's names, answers to questions."

At the Bay County Government Center, locals shared their experiences of growing up with the tough realities of racism.

Matthew Shack, another Panama City local, recounted having a white friend named David as a young boy. Both were introduced to racism while trying to see a movie together one day.

"He invited me to the movies, but our parents, they didn't tell us that we couldn't be friends with one another," Shack explained. "So we became friends. It wasn't until we grew older that we realized that there was such a thing as segregation."

Almost 200 people came together at the Eracism event, which means to erase racism.

Many of the messages shared Thursday night were meant to prompt young people to continue the fight against hate and discrimination, similar to the Civil Rights Movement.

"My only take is for people to work together and be together. We live in the same neighborhoods. We go to the same churches sometimes. We got the same Jesus, the same fight," Hines said.

Many say the stories shared of separate water fountains and segregated seating have the power to unite future generations.

Some say those stories can empower those willing to continue working toward a society without racism.

"David, my friend--and I don't know whatever happened to him--he didn't see color. He just saw me as his friend," Shack said.

Nine seperate, local organizations co-sponsored the Black History Month event.

Kevin Warren, CEO of The Life Group was the night's keynote speaker.