October 2023 Articles

Book Banning in Duval County

Story by: Mauricia Brown 

More than 100 books about race, gender and sexual identity have been banned in Duval County Public School this year, according to PEN America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to literature, free expression and human rights.  

The books were removed in accordance with HB 1467, which was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. The law stated that “school principals are responsible for overseeing compliance with school library media center materials selection procedures at the school in which they are assigned.”   

904WARD, a Jacksonville nonprofit, partnered with Yellow House to install public bookcases called Little Free Diverse Libraries across the city. Those shelves are stocked with books for both students and adults and aim to highlight narratives, authors of color and other diversity-related topics.  

904WARD works to create racial healing and equity through deep conversations and learning, trusting relationships and collective actions.  Inside Jacksonville spoke with the nonprofit’s staff about their perspective on book banning. 

For a full list of banned books in Duval County, according to PEN America, visit here.  

Behind the Inspiration and Toys of Slice of Life International

Story by: Theresa Hardman

On November 1, 2022, the beautiful beachside gem Slice of Life International first opened its doors.This eclectic store offers a beautiful variety of runature, home decor and various clothes and knick nacks, but the star of the show is the expansive and unique toy collection inside.  

Owner Terri Cavoli is a long time lover of toys, and after a change in careers led her to teaching, she found herself collecting all sorts of toys to bring in to her classroom. Here she built beautiful words and stories with the kids and her toys and combined the importance of teaching with the joy of play.  

After a car accident left Cavoli unable to speak for long periods of time in the classroom, she was left with an abundance of toys in need of a purpose. This inspired her to put her collection on display at Slice of Life International. 

“I had all these toys for every kind of theme and topic, for the classroom, plus I had my own vintage toys, so I said you know what why don’t I open a toy store” said Cavoli.  

Steadily growing her collection over time, from a plethora of Barbie, Hotwheels, Littlest Pet Shops, Lego, a multitude of boardgames and more, she really has something for every age and interest.  

In addition to her storefront, Terri also posts her products on Facebook Marketplace, which draws in collectors of unique toys. Cavoli divulged how on multiple occasions she has had many people from out of town come to visit her shop for a specific piece in her collection.  

Cavoli has been able to combine her love for all these beautiful toys into a charming business, with the pleasure of watching kids and adults alike come into her store and found something that sparks joy. She keeps the joy of make believe and playing pretend alive and well as she sells nostalgia for all who visit.  

Find Slice of Life International at 1328 3rd Street North in Jacksonville Beach and on Facebook at Slice of Life International LLC. 

River City Pride lifts the rainbow flag amid Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislative crackdown

Story by: Carter Mudgett

Amid a state-wide anti-LGBTQ+ in Florida legislation, Jacksonville’s River City Pride is working to push back against the hate and fight for the community. 

When Mayor Donna Deegan was elected and turned Jacksonville blue, it marked a major win not just for diversity initiatives in the city, but for the LGBTQ+ community too. Established as a nonprofit in 1989, River City Pride has been a long-standing champion of LGBTQ+ rights in not just Jacksonville, but the entirety of Florida. 

The organization celebrated their annual River City Pride Parade in early October, capping off week-long festivities. Mayor Deegan made clear her commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and diversity as grand marshal of the parade. 

Thousands of residents and many businesses marched in the parade itself, waved rainbow flags from the sidewalks and participated in week-long festivities. 

“The shift recently, especially with the election of Mayor Deacon, kind of shows that Jacksonville is no longer being that good ol’ boy hub and being controlled by the far right that has kind of made it feel unfriendly to [the LGBTQ+] community,” said River City Pride President Travis Guthrie. 

There were 725 anti-LGBTQ plus bills introduced across America this year, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank researching equality and opportunity.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has waged a war on diversity, equity and inclusion since January. DeSantis signed a record six expressly anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, more than the last seven years combined.

Yet, even in the face of legislative pushback, the mayor’s participation in Pride celebrations this year threw a spotlight on the river city, making it clear that diversity was something to be celebrated in Jacksonville, not ousted.

Dogtoberfest: How Dog Owners Come Together to Support a No-Kill Animal Shelter  

Story by: Kara Scarbrough

On a lively Friday night in downtown St. Augustine, a wide variety of dogs accompanied their owners dressed as anything but a dog. From pumpkins to alligators, these dogs were dressed to impressed.  

For the last four years, Colonial Oak Music Park hosts Dogtoberfest, a night filled with music, food, drinks and of course, dogs. Customers are encouraged to dress their dogs for a chance to win the costume contest.  

The real winner of Dogtoberfest is Ayla’s Acres No-Kill Animal Rescue.  

“We have about 50 animals in foster care,” said Fran Charlson, executive director of Ayla’s Acres. “We need to be able to get them vet care, food, and anything that they need.”  

The shelter consists of paid staff and volunteers who all work to take care of the animals in their sanctuary. Other than dogs, they have horses, cats, birds and more that have to be cared for daily. Dog owners in attendance that night appreciated the mission of this shelter.  

“Some of those dogs, just like humans, they know what a bad life is,” said Mathew Spyker, as he looked down Tyson, his well-behaved dog sitting nicely beneath him. “When they get a kind owner that can show them love, compassion and grace, you know that they’ll be affectionate and they’ll be dedicated to them for the rest of their lives.” 

From Dogtoberfest, the rescue benefits from a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction. Colonial Oaks also sells a “Rescue Drink,” from which Ayla’s Acres receives $2 from every sale.  

According to 8-year volunteer Sharon Kramer, Dogtoberfest is not the only event put on by Colonial Oaks in support of the rescue.  

“They have events all throughout the year and sometimes will benefit us,” said Kramer. “Sometimes they will benefit other organizations in Saint Augustine and Saint John’s County.” 

Most of the dogs in attendance were tuckered out before the end of the night, but the music kept the park’s energy up, along with the funds raised for the shelter. 

Jax Filipinos: Going Above The Bamboo Ceiling 

Story by: Katrino Reyes

Jax Filipinos may have been recently formed, but the impact they bring to the Filipino American community is already felt all around the First Coast.  

Jax Filipinos is an organization that aims to preserve and share the Filipino culture in Jacksonville. Although they only have formed in 2023, the organization has already been doing events for the Filipino American community.  

For October’s Filipino American History Month, Jax Filipinos went all out and organized big events that bring the Filipino American Community together. These events include the Christmas ornament workshop called Sip-N-Parol, the Filipino food showcase called Taste of The Philippines, and the Filipino American History Month Fiesta.  

“I think, you know, as we’re getting there now into the first, second, now third generation of Filipinos, it’s becoming more important to understand where you came from,” said Sharol Noblejas, president of Jax Filipinos. 

Jax Filipinos is still active even outside of October as they are holding more events throughout the rest of the year and the next, most notably art exhibits featuring Filipino artists in November and a 5K run on January. They also plan on launching an initiative called Jax Filipino Cares, which aims to help Filipino overseas workers to settle in their new home in the United States.  

“When we formed and talked about Jax Filipinos, we were trying to meet the needs of the community,” Noblejas said. 

Jax Filipinos is a prime example of preserving culture and identity and the importance of togetherness, and they intend to continue to make an impact with the strong Filipino American presence in the First Coast.  

Destigmatizing periods one pantry at a time 

Story by: Mallory Pace

Around 1.8 billion people across the globe menstruate each month, according to the National Institute of Health, yet a staggering 500 million experience period poverty. Jacksonville local and reproductive justice advocate, Alyx Carrasquel, has taken action into her own hands by creating Jax Period Pantries to give back to the people in her community. Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products, hygienic facilities, waste management and education. 

What began as a blossoming idea and growing passion for reproductive rights turned into a tangible contribution for Carrasquel as she now manages and stocks two period pantries across downtown Jacksonville. Inside the eye-catching storage spaces, the public is free to take its contents, which include a variety of pads, tampons, liners and more, depending on stock. One is located outside of The Walrus, a vegan restaurant in Murray Hill. Another was recently set up outside of Cultivate and Femme Fire Books in Riverside.  

After creating an Instagram page in search of help from the community, she received enough products to start the first pantry. From there, she set out to find a location or business that would welcome her idea, and The Walrus happily agreed. The owner suggested putting it in a small nook just outside, so Carrasquel got to work building the custom pantry, where it now comfortably resides.  

As an advocate for reproductive health, Carrasquel isn’t naive to the fact that these products should be accessible and affordable. She said that these products are wrongfully seen as a luxury, despite being a basic, essential need for half of the world’s population.  

“Since lawmakers are not doing what they’re supposed to, mutual aid is what comes next,” she said. “We only have one another, which is one of the reasons why I decided to start the pantry. And I couldn’t be doing this without all the support that I’ve received.” 

Without access to affordable menstrual products, people are left to either make-shift their own or misuse them, like leaving them in for longer than recommended. Amy Howell is a women’s health nurse practitioner at the University of North Florida and she explained that the most common risks associated with misusing products are yeast infections, which can occur if someone is unable to change their products regularly.  

Other risks include urinary tract infections, bleeding through clothing, or worse, toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal complication of certain bacterial infections, and is most commonly seen in people who leave tampons in for too long.  

The stigma around periods significantly contributes to a person’s inability to receive help with their menses. A 2021 study from State of the Period, found that 76% of students say there is a negative association that periods are gross and unsanitary and 65% agree that society teaches people to be ashamed of their periods. Despite being a normal bodily function, people often feel shame or embarrassment to ask for help obtaining products or regulating their menstrual cycle.  

“Periods are not dirty, and one of the ways we can advocate to the stigmatized is just talking positively about periods,” Carrasquel said. “There’s no shame in having a period, and there’s also no shame in needing products for it.” 

Echoing, Howell said that while we have come a long way with destigmatizing periods and accessing products, there is still a long way to go.  

“Women still don’t feel that they can talk about this or access support or products that they need because of that stigma of there being something embarrassing or shameful about menstruation, which is really just fundamentally flawed,” she said. 

Increasing awareness and education about periods and its supplies is crucial to making menstrual products and services the basic healthcare necessity that it is. Carrasquel’s Instagram page, @Jaxperiodpantry remains an informative resource for education and support. Information on donations and more can be found on the Instagram page as well.  

As a community, it’s important to be there for one another and provide the help everyone deserves. We could all take a page from Carrasquel’s book and be the helping hand for others, one pantry at a time.