Geri Clark's Destiny

Davie's first black elected official has had to conquer the town's racist past... and her own fear

It was devastating, Galor says. "I truly believe he wouldn't be here in Davie if that hadn't happened," Galor says. "He would probably be playing football on Sundays."

But that was just the beginning of Richard's travails. The following weekend, Isiah talked Richard into going to the game. He had bet the Wildcats would lose without Richard. The police thought they were there to cause trouble. A Davie police officer ordered the brothers to leave.

As Isiah and Richard walked out of the stadium, Davie cops swarmed them, Richard says. While he lay on the ground, the officers kicked him. "They were trying to put me in as much pain as possible," he says.

Sherri Cohen
Richard teaches his young charges focus, discipline, 
and that pain is not all bad at the Police Athletic 
League in Potter Park
Sherri Cohen
Richard teaches his young charges focus, discipline, and that pain is not all bad at the Police Athletic League in Potter Park

The brothers were arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest without violence. The charges were eventually dropped, and the town later settled a lawsuit the brothers had filed demanding compensation for the unnecessary collar. Richard says he and Isiah each got about $5000.

Richard still hoped to play college football, but his NFL dream was dashed the following year. Trying to gain control of a skittish horse, Richard was smashed into a fence, crushing two vertebrae.

Even months after leaving the team, the fight with Melita troubled Richard. When Richard ran into an assistant coach from the school, he felt he got some answers. The coach told Richard that team boosters pressured Melita because the black player received all the attention. Melita says that never happened: "We just had a rule: No matter who you were, if you didn't practice, you didn't play."

But the experience tested Richard. It forced him to hold up his head, to remain true to his values, to keep pushing, drop by drop, inch by inch, to claim his place in the world. "I thank Coach Melita, in a way," Richard says. "He put a fire in me that I didn't have before.

"I decided to stay here and fight these bastards within every inch of my life."

Geri Price moved to Davie in 1979. She was 13 years old. Her mother, Nilda, was divorced. Mrs. Price supported herself and her three children with a secretarial job at Austin Tupler Trucking in Davie. The children had to pitch in to make it work. Geri missed her dad, even though she never really knew him. She built him up as a heroic figure. Cried every birthday when he didn't call. Still does.

And Geri had another pain locked up inside her since childhood. Something horrible had happened. Something she didn't tell her mother about until she was an adult. She declined to discuss it with New Times. "That's private," she says. She was so young when it happened, Geri says, that she doesn't know what kind of person she might have otherwise become. She shaped her personality around it, dealing as best she could. Her sister, Sandra, was outgoing. Her brother, Kenny, was an athlete. She had great empathy for the suffering of others. And she also became an artist at avoiding further trauma.

There was plenty in Davie that she found threatening. Back in the Bronx, people crossed ethnic and racial lines more freely. Or it seemed that way. Davie was Deep South. For someone like Richard, who grew up here, it might seem that the races were mixing. But to her, everyone stayed separate -- blacks with blacks and whites with whites. With her tawny skin, Geri didn't feel she had a natural group. The white kids thought she was too black. The black kids thought she was too white. That's the way it felt to her. Plus, she was poor. She couldn't buy her way to cool. Instead of trying, she withdrew. Studying. Curling up with a book in her bedroom. That's when she felt safe.

Teasing was her biggest fear. In high school, anyone different was a target. "I felt like I had the word victim printed on my forehead," she says. Geri avoided the cafeteria. "You might be sitting there eating lunch and some jerk decides to pick on the table where you're sitting." She bonded with other girls who were outsiders. Among these outcasts, there was no color line. Her best friend, Tracy, was a white girl with bright-red hair. "For some reason, a girl with red hair gets teased," Geri puzzles. Geri, Tracy, and Robin ("my crew") would head to the library during lunch. Geri made good grades, sure enough, and set up a pattern of avoidance she continued until Richard became determined to break it.

When prom time rolled around, Richard had a plan. "I wanted to take a good girl," he explains. "If I take somebody to the prom, it better be one worth spending my money on."

Even after she accepted his invitation, Geri still wasn't sure if Richard liked her or just needed a date. She got an answer a short time later, when he kissed her on the way to class. That kind of sealed it.

The course of their love, though, wasn't about dinner dates or bouquets of flowers. It was about being there, about family. "That was romantic to me," Geri says. Knowing that Geri's mother struggled to make ends meet, Richard pitched in. "He did things without being asked. He did things he really didn't have to.... He would come over with groceries for my whole family. You don't find a lot of young men who would do that," she says. "Nothing is more important to him than family."

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