Originally published Wednesday, December 20, 2006 in the Florida Times Union Newspaper – by Tonya Weathersbee,, (904) 359-4251

Before Betty Burney (far left in pic below) became a politician, she was an activist.  And it’s refreshing to see that her two years on the Duval County School Board haven’t changed that.  ”I think that if you have a passion, and if you can articulate that passion to the rest of the board, you can get things done,” Burney told me. ”All you have to do is keep kids in the front of your mind.”

No doubt Burney has been doing that. Much of Jacksonville – and even some of the country -  got news of the extent of her activism recently, after Outback Steakhouse on Jacksonville Beach hosted a reception for her to raise money so she can publish more copies of her book, If These Chains Could Talk. Burney wrote the soft-cover book about a year ago, which chronicles how juvenile inmates at the Duval County jail began their descent into crime. Burney’s book is a far cry from being a glamorization of the thug life, because the juveniles tarnish the allure of crime by talking about the bleakness of life behind bars. They also tell other juveniles what they should do to avoid a life of incarceration. ”What the kids [in the book] are saying to other kids is stay in school, listen to your teachers and avoid the things that they did,” Burney said. ”Many times, when they hear it [advice] from another kid, they listen more.”

More kids may get to check out Burney’s book. Duval School’s Superintendent Joseph Wise wants to make it a part of the curriculum for eighth- and ninth-graders. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office recently donated $25,000 confiscated from drug arrests to provide books for the schools. ”The response has been tremendous,” Burney said. ”Teachers, parents, a lot of folks have been calling.  I even got a call from a dean at a middle school in New York City who wants to purchase books for her entire school. She said: ‘I saw myself in a lot of what the kids were saying. … I’ve been a good teacher and I’ve been a bad one. This book is a reminder for me.’

To read the complete article on this outstanding book, please visit Straight Talk >


© Betty Burney, "If These Chains Could Talk"- All Rights Reserved. | Powered by Wordpress & Blacksonville