Sunday, 1 December 2019

Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four by Josh and Barbara Venkataraman

Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four by Josh and Barbara Venkataraman
Self published on the 15th October 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book will take you through my incredible four year quest for justice for The Groveland Four and teach you how to pursue your own causes, whatever they may be. It is a primer for positive action, a journey through Florida's past as well as its future. Some of the things you will learn: everything takes more time than you think, nothing ever goes according to plan, help can come from unexpected places, time is on your side, everyone is connected to everyone else, you can reach your tipping point for success and not even realize it, your goals can change along the way, and flexibility is key. Let's get started, shall we?

***Proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to establish "The Charles Greenlee Memorial Scholarship" to benefit a child with an incarcerated parent.

I didn't know anything about the historic case of the Groveland Four prior to reading Accidental Activist. Four young black men had been accused of raping a young white woman in the town of Groveland in 1949. Over sixty years later, and despite the men's innocence having been established in the meantime, the four were still legally considered guilty of the crime with the two who hadn't been killed spending almost their entire lives in prison as a result. Josh Venkataraman read a book about the case, Devil In The Grove, as part of his university studies. He then took the decision to contact the book's author, Gilbert King, and started his attempt to reverse this long-standing miscarriage of justice.

As a fairly prolific petition signer and disgruntled-email writer myself, I could empathise with Venkataraman's desire to effect change. I've never actually felt strongly about anything to start my own petition though so I was very interested to follow his journey. This book details the myriad steps and connections he needed in order to keep everything moving forward and I was surprised by just how long everyone involved needed to keep plugging away in order hit that critical moment when the campaign suddenly took on a life of its own. Particularly disappointing, of course, was the lack of will of several politicians (although others did all they could).

As an example of what one might expect when undertaking such a campaign, Accidental Activist is an excellent resource. Venkataraman writes in an accessible style with his enthusiasm and dedication shining from every page. I appreciated that although this was a legal fight, the book is not written in legal language so I could always understand what was going on! I would have liked more information about the original case and interceding years because I had to quickly google this early on. Accidental Activist is specifically a memoir recounting Venkataraman's experience however so including all that would have altered the balance of the book.

I feel a strong sense over the past few years that individual efforts are creating real change in the world and it's so encouraging to see young people standing up against wrongful actions too. I hope Accidental Activist inspires other readers to follow in Venkataraman's footsteps.

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  1. I didn't know anything about that but it does sound like an interesting read.

  2. I wonder how many other similar cases are out there, unknown to most of us. These things are always shocking to me.

    1. It was awful to read about such a blatant case of injustice - one of the accused men was actually in police custody at the time of the alleged assault! Seeing young people like Josh prepared to take on such a fight does give hope for the future