The "Sealing of the WhiteHouse Ceremony" October 21, 2008

The Dozier Ceremony Oct 21, 2008


Pictures of Ceremony:

The Florida Reform School was started with lofty ideals. A reform school where the young offender of law, separated from vicious associates may receive physical, intellectual and moral training, be reformed and restored to the community with purpose and character fitting for a good citizen an honorable and an honest man with a trade or skilled occupation fitting such a person for self-maintenance.

Evil crept in, first money when they realized the farm could produce a good crop yet more boys were needed. The law was changed to pick up boys, especially African-American, to be picked up for the slightest offense, smoking, drinking, skipping school in order that they might produce more crops. Flogging came out of the cruelty of the turpentine, lumber camps, and phosphate mines. Men were sent to the boy's school who had experience.

It only created boys filled with helplessness, anger, and rage. This would be taken out on wives, children and the public and could burn through generations. A woman called me and thanked us for getting this story to the press, "At least she said, she now knew why her husband had whipped her and their daughters so viciously with his belt." "I said, "So your father was at the Florida School For Boys then?" "No," she replied, "His father was."

A man called in and said that as a boy, his father made him lie down on a bed and grasp the headrails, turn his head to the wall and go through the same scenario that was used in Dozier. He said he now understood why his father had done that, but he could never forgive him.

The Dozier Ceremony Oct 21, 2008

In October 21. 2008 the gates of the Dozier School (FSB) were opened so a group of five men, now in their sixties, could be taken to a ceremony that the State of Florida and the Juvenile Justice Department had sanctioned. There, amid roughly 50 spectators, the men were to speak of their experience in front of the "white house" punishment room which had been closed for four decades. They could speak of the past, not the present, that being the only restriction. The White House Boys Survivor’s Organization hosted the memorial and press conference:  in attendance and participating in the Memorial are, Roger Kiser, Robert Straley, Michael O’McCarthy, Dick Colon and Bill Haynes.

The ceremony was conducted with the presentation of a plaque which promised that these types of abuses would never happen or be tolerated again. The men were taken to a graveyard with 31 unmarked crosses amidst the woods, accessed by a dirt road. There were crosses made out of steel pipe welded together but had no names or markings. We would find out later that the original crosses had been pulled up and the small plot used to plant vegetables. They were found thrown and broken in a pile in the surrounding weeds. Later on, they were replaced with the steel pipe crosses and placed  where they thought the bodies might be according to "folklore."

The Plaque was unveiled which acknowledged the tribulations of the boys and the men placed the tree in a freshly dug hole and covered it up. This was done in the memory of the boy's suffering. Ceremony Pics:
The Plaque text:

There were about forty to fifty in attendance, a group from the Governor Christ's office, some of the staff at the Dozier facility and staff from other facilities. Later, in talking about that day they would all agree that among the people that attended, most did not realize what had been the purpose of that small whitewashed building they walked by every day to their jobs. The WhiteHouse had been closed for four decades.

At the 2008 Sealing of the WhiteHouse Ceremony, out of nearly fifty attendees, five young black girls, employees at Dozier, came up to me and said how sorry they were that I had been beaten. I was surprised by their collective grace, a simple and beautiful quality. They were innocent and kind, living in a different time from the Marianna of six decades ago. I was surprised that they had come up to me, an old white man whose ancestors may have had slaves and said that. I, later on, realized this was an act of grace.

They then took the “tour” of the WhiteHouse with the press and the audience. Many people cried out: "Oh My God!" and "It must be true!" The WhiteHouse had the look of a dungeon, dank and dark, moldy and unclean with a very oppressive atmosphere. One boy had written on the wall "19 times." Michael could only stay a few minutes. Straley stood in the exact place where he had stood fifty some years ago, awaiting his turn at the end of a line of boys. Roger exclaimed how surreal the whole experience seemed.

Unknown to the DJJ, Brendan Farrington Lead reporter for the Associated Press was in attendance as well as Rich Phillips, CNN and Ed Lavandera, CNN. Carol Marbin Miller and her camera crew were there to film the ceremony. The story went nationwide and worldwide the next day to most USA major newspapers, The UK, India, Whales and other countries.

"When we left the ceremony that day we felt a deep and emotional sense of relief, we had been given an apology, however, meager, we felt it was a beginning. Never, in the history of Florida had former inmates been allowed back inside an institution to reconcile a wrongdoing by the State. The State of Florida had admitted to some degree to the floggings that had happened in this frightening white cinder block building. We felt somewhat vindicated for the past transgressions perpetrated against us and hoped we could finally move on with our lives.

When the story went nationwide on the Associated Press the next day, CNN and the Miami Herald, the officials at Dozier had a news conference and said the Ceremony "Was neither an admission nor an apology." The very next day the facility blatantly denies us closure and acts as if the ceremony never occurred and their expressed words rang with little or no remorse.

Then what was it? Why was the ceremony even conducted? Damage control appears to be the reason for a continuation of denial of events of the past. The cover up began on that day and continues to this very day as more abuses are uncovered; yet are without, admissions or apologies, nothing changes it would appear. The FDLE merely followed suit and "the white house was once again whitewashed and a broader cover-up has begun." Those empty promises and dishonest words meant nothing to the state.

Senator Al Lawson stated at a Jackson County Chamber of Commerce meeting in Marianna that he would try to have the plaque removed from the notorious "white house" punishment room. The citizenry of Marianna felt it was a "stain" on their town. As well it should be as they surrounded the boy's school with a wall of silence. They knew the boys were being brutalized, but put jobs and money over human compassion and dignity. This went on from the time it opened in 1900 to 1968 when O.J. Keller finally stopped the floggings.

December 08, 2008 - In order to further pressure the state to begin to investigate the allegations of the horrific abuse that had taken place in the White House, and to force them to identify the bodies in the unidentified graves, and the allegations of the murder and disposal of a large number of other children, Michael O’McCarthy and Robert Straley of the White House Boys Survivor’s Organization put together a press conference at The Capitol Rotunda Plaza Level
Tallahassee, Florida. Roger and Dick take a sealed request for the same to the office of State Attorney Bill McCullum. RELEASE TEXT TO REPORTERS

The request was that the Department of Justice and Governor of the State of Florida, Charlie Crist, order the state's Attorney General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice to immediately begin an investigation into the cause of death and identities of the remains believed to be covered in 31 unidentified graves found on what the State called the colored boys side of the Florida School for Boys at Marianna, now known as the Dozier School for Boys.

Attending were Roger Kiser and Dick Colon, along with Michael O’McCarthy, three of the four founding members of the “White House Boys.” Straley is absent due to illness but was able to do the press release at his home office, notifying by phone and email all of the press in Florida. A former inmate, Bryant Middleton was also present with Roger Kiser and took a copy to the Attorney General's Office.

Brendan Farrington of AP who happened to be walking by, approached Michael O’McCarthy at the conference telling him he was headed to the Governor’s Office on an unrelated matter and would provide Governor Crist with information regarding the WHB and their press conference. Thus, word of the press conference reached Florida Governor Charlie Crist that morning.

December 09, 2008 – Governor Crist called for an immediate investigation into the allegations of the White House Boys Survivor’s Organization by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department Law Enforcement. This is a short take on what happened from Sept 28, 2007--May 1, 2008. To those who would try to take credit for the grueling fifteen months of work, building two websites, finding the trail of abuse in the Florida Archives, the Florida Memory Collection, court cases and newspaper archive articles, Michael taking the story to Carol Marbin Miller, attending the "Sealing of the White House Ceremony and in a final act, sending out a press release to Governor Crist to ask for a official investigation to all reporters, read by Michael O'McCarthy of the Original White House Boys:   Link: You can't change history

To read the month by month history of how this was taken to press from Sept 28, 2007, to May 1, 2008,    CLICK THIS LINK

Meeting Gus
by Robert Straley

The Sealing of the White House Ceremony on October 21, 2008, was one of the most important days of my life. The fact that there were only five of us saddened me as I thought of the thousands of boys who had gone through that door and were brutally and unmercifully whipped by men less than human.

When we parked and stepped out onto the ground facing the White House I remember Gus Barreiro came up to me to shake my hand. I said "I want to thank you for this day, it means so much to all of us," He replied, "No, It is I who should be thanking you." That remark struck me to my soul because I knew he meant it from his heart and was one of the few extraordinary people I would ever meet who was in a position of power, and with a good and honest spirit, truly stood up for the children in the institutions of Florida who could not stand or speak on their own. Now the entire nation knows the story of the White House Boys and we all owe Gus Barreiro much for putting his job on the line, for those children, now old, he never knew.

When Gus Barreiro received the stories of the past abuses from Michael O'McCarthy he secretly conducted his own investigation from within the Dozier School for Boys. When he realized the allegations were true he negotiated with his superiors to arrange the "Sealing of the WhiteHouse Ceremony". Although the staff was against the idea, they knew they dare not deny abuse had taken place and the ceremony was arranged.

They thought it would just be five old men, a plaque, and a tree planting but the next day the story went nationwide and the truth of the "white house" atrocities was revealed to the nation.

Without the persistence of Gus Barreiro, who realized he was putting his political career on the line, the horrors of the "white house" would have never been revealed.

Gus Barreiro was not just fired from his job, he was set up by his own peers in a manner that they thought would destroy his career. They could no afford to have Gus Barreiro in any position of power, ever again.

"Gus Barreiro's courage through this ordeal cost him his job with the state of Florida, but the truth about the Arthur G. Dozier School For Boys was finally revealed".

Robert Straley