Kennedy, Parks Wed In Weekend Ceremony

From the St. Augustine Record
November 29, 2006

Photo By Loren Kennedy Undaunted by the calendar and feisty as a young pup, Stetson Kennedy is, once again, a newlywed. On Friday, he tied the nuptial knot with Sandra Parks, owner of Anastasia Books on King Street and a former city commissioner.

This was Kennedy's sixth (possibly seventh?) walk down the aisle. "I'll leave it to the historians to decide how many times I've been married," said Kennedy, noting that his pat answer when the question was posed to him in the past was "not nearly often enough."

"It's been a long time since I applied for a wedding license," Kennedy told the small gathering of guests in the upstairs banquet room of the Reef Restaurant in Vilano Beach. In fact, he said, he'd recently applied to St. John's County for two licenses.

Although he had no problem acquiring a wedding license, Kennedy wryly admitted that he had to "jump through some hoops" to get his driver's license. "It's good through 2012," he said, "and with Sandra by my side, I hope to stick around long enough to get my money's worth."

The couple was married in a quasi-Quaker style wedding ceremony, with prayers led by Rev. Jewell Kutzer of St. Augustine.

"Stetson and I have enjoyed attending the Jacksonville Quaker meeting at Bolles' Bartram Campus recently," Parks said. "There is a great sense of peace there that we wanted to emulate at our wedding."

With guidance from guest Wendy Clarissa Geiger, who regularly attends the Quaker meeting with her father, Alfred Geiger, family and friends sat in companionable silence for about 10 minutes, and then randomly began sharing thoughts and prayers with the bride and groom.

"If our lives speak for us, Stetson's life yells and sings and dances," was the sentiment shared by his bride as the emotion-filled time of sharing came to an end and the couple stood to exchange wedding vows and rings.

Their simple vows, written on a colorful scroll created by Colombian artist Ana Maria, pledged them, with God's help, to be loving and faithful spouses as long as they both shall live. "Ana painted our lives into this beautiful scroll," Parks said. "Stetson and I have taken different, but similar paths, to get where we are today."

One is their mutual commitment to justice and equality, Kennedy and Parks got to know each other when she came to his legendary Fruit Cove home Beluthahatchee, four years ago. Parks was there to recruit him for the 40th anniversary observance of the St. Augustine civil rights marches (in which he participated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). "I was so taken by the man, the place and the vision that it was over a week before I remembered why I was there," the radiant bride said.

Parks earned her master's degree in curriculum at the University of South Florida and completed advanced studies in education at Harvard. She serves as a curriculum and professional development consultant on teaching critical thinking, traveling annually to present workshops at universities and school districts across the country. Since 1985, her instructional publications geared to increase minority student participation in gifted and advanced academic programs have been used in public schools in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Illinois.

Well before his bride was born, Kennedy was doing his own critical thinking regarding the effects of racism on society. Although he "invented independent studies" by dropping out of the University of Florida back in the 1930s, Kennedy's lifelong literary battle with bigotry has resulted in the publication of several books, including "Palmetto Country," "The Klan Unmasked," "Southern Exposure," "The Jim Crow Guide" and "After Appomattox." He has earned international acclaim, both as an infiltrator of the Ku Klux Klan back in the 1940s and as an on-going civil rights change-agent

Eyes twinkling, the groom lifted his champagne flute in a classic Kennedy-style wedding toast: "Here's to a day when the entire family of man can come together and enjoy the same sort of peace and fellowship our families share tonight."

Following dinner, in lieu of the traditional wedding cake, guests were treated to the Reef's signature dessert, Tiramisu (Italian translation: "Carry me up to heaven.")

The newlyweds, now residing in St. Augustine, will spend their honeymoon working together on Kennedy's memoir, "Dissident at Large," and making plans for his next keynote address. In February, they will travel to Washington D.C. where he will address Defense Logistics in observation of black history month.

"And, as soon as things settle down," noted the indomitable bridegroom, with a grin, "we plan to do a little honeymoon island hopping."


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