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West Palm Beach woman's fight for racial equality spans generations

Edith Bush, 87, has been on front lines in Florida since Jim Crow era
Posted at 4:50 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 16:51:18-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Black Lives Matter. Those three words now represent a global movement for racial justice. In Florida, those on the front of the fight for racial equality and equity claim the term Black Lives Matter is more than one movement; it's a message that spans decades.

At 87 years old, West Palm Beach resident Edith Bush won't stop walking towards justice.

"Because I see the young people out there fighting for the same thing that we fought for over 20 years ago," she explained.

During the Jim Crow era, Bush was on the front lines in Florida, fighting for racial equality. She's served as the executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee since it began in 1981.

"Our organization won recognition from the state of Florida for our work in the Civil Rights movement," Bush recalled.

From pictures with John Lewis, Al Sharpton or Martin Luther King III, Bush's West Palm Beach home documents her dedication.

"When people walk in this door, I want them to see what we've been through," she said.

Edith Bush
"When people walk in this door, I want them to see what we've been through," Edith Bush says of her West Palm Beach home, which is adorned with photographs documenting her dedication in the fight for racial equality.

Now, 52 years later, a new movement is mirroring the past.

"It was just exciting to see them take over where we had stopped and them to keep on going," Bush said.

One of those leading the fight in South Florida is Weidmayer Pierre.

"Some people say I'm too young to know what I'm talking about," the 19-year-old said. "But, I mean, when you see it, it's on social media. America watched George Floyd die for eight minutes and 46 seconds."

Pierre is the co-founder of the Reformer's Movement.

"We educate people on why it's important to vote and try to build the bridge between police departments and communities," he explained.

His group has organized dozens of Black Lives Matter protests throughout South Florida.

"We're not saying our lives are superior," Pierre said. "We're saying that we should be treated equal."

Weidmayer Pierre
"We're not saying our lives are superior," Weidmayer Pierre, the 19-year-old co-founder of the Reformer's Movement, says. "We're saying that we should be treated equal."

Charlene Farrington, executive director of the S.D. Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach, said civil rights leaders of the past are passing the torch.

"People have been protesting mistreatment of Black people and saying, in so many words, that Black Lives Matter for years," Farrington said.

Farrington said, similar to the murder of Emmett Till in the 1950s, the killing of Floyd reignited the push for racial justice.

S.D. Spady Cultural Arts Museum, 'Where Black History is Celebrated'
A sign outside the S.D. Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach reads, "Where Black history is celebrated."

"The old African saying, an injury to one is an injury to all," she explained. "I think what's happening is young people are starting to understand that, and so they are leaving the small issues aside and now starting to advocate for the larger issues, which is why our civil rights movements that are going on today are starting now to look like they used to look in the 50s and 60s."

At the Box Art Gallery in Lake Worth, the walls are lined with pictures from recent protests and marches. Pierre said he is happy the pictures paint one difference.

"Everybody coming together in unity -- Black, white, Hispanic, Republican, Democrat," he said. "We've had Republicans march with us. So it's like, party aside, people first. That's what it's about."

For these activists, Black Lives Matter is a movement that transcends decades.

Edith Bush at Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark Memorial in West Palm Beach
Edith Bush remembers her decades-long fight for racial equality at the Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark Memorial in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Love can overcome hate, light can overcome darkness and judge a person not by the color of their skin but the content of their character," Bush said.