For a recent episode of The Beacon’s new podcast, “Now You Know,” DeLandite Don Johnson joined Beacon staff writer Eli Witek — the two are pictured above in The Beacon’s recording studio — for a conversation about living and growing up in DeLand, as well as being one of the first Black students at DeLand High School in the 1960s.
Johnson’s mother, with help from the McEniry family, who worked at Stetson University, placed Don and his brother Elvin at DeLand High School in the 1960s, before Florida was forced to begin to integrate schools. Johnson explained what he experienced, and a pivotal moment that changed his life in school.
Don Johnson speaks about some of the lessons he learned:
“You can’t judge people in categories. You’ve got to judge them one at a time. I wanted to get this out. But if you see an injustice happening to somebody, and if you don’t say anything, then you’re just as guilty as the person who’s doing it.
“And this is what I shared with my classmates. At the 50 years, when I went to the reunion, I said, ‘You guys spoke up for me.’ You said, ‘This guy’s with me.’
“Until we speak up for each other and stand together, it’s gonna continue to be like it is. By the end of my highschool years, I had formed a bond just about every one of my classmates.
“I mean, there were still some knuckleheads, you’re gonna have knuckleheads anywhere you go. But not that many.
“I really don’t blame the kids. Because they only know what they were taught. They only felt what was instilled in them.
“You gotta start somewhere. Dialogue is one way. History is another. Dark and painful as it may be, it must be told. I could have come here today and told you a story of kumbaya and how things were all rosy and we just got along.
“But I didn’t want to share that with you. I wanted to share with you the bumps and the bruises and hardships.”
To listen to more episodes of “Now You Know” click HERE or search for the show wherever you listen to podcasts.