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November 2010

Speak On It: A Call for Social Action (Part 1 in a series)


by Roderick Vereen

Keynote address delivered at the Church of the Incarnation in Miami, FL on the occasion of the observation of Social Justice Sunday, November 14 2010.

It is indeed a pleasure to once again to be in your presence. As some of you may recall, during my Congressional run I visited with you and introduced myself as a Candidate for the United States House of Representatives for District 17.  Well, as you know, that race is over now and I did not win but I am happy to report I am still standing.  My feelings were a little hurt but I’m ok.  For those of you that voted for me, I thank you for your support. For those that didn’t, I simply say…God Bless you too.

In preparing to come before you today, I was advised this is Social Justice Sunday and  my speech should center on social issues, and although I set my compass towards discussing social issues, I found it more advantageous to discuss “social action,” which I think will bridge the divide. In doing so, I pondered over my Congressional run from start to finish and thought it not robbery to enlighten you as to why I did what I did. So here we go…

Although I am a democrat, I changed party affiliation to that of a non-party affiliation, referred to as an independent, when it was time to qualify.  In the beginning, there were 13 of us vying for the Congressional seat.  At that time, I was not satisfied with either political party, Democrat or Republican.

I am not one of those voters that vote party line simply for the sake of the party. Reverend Al Sharpton once said that we (referring to African Americans) are about the party that is about us.

Historically, Blacks used to be mainly Republicans until the Republican Party stopped being about  Blacks.  We must also be mindful the Ku Klux Klan started in the Democratic Party. Born as a pro-slavery political party under Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Party maintained a pro-slavery-anti black American stance through the 19th century.  After the Civil War, the Democratic Party gave birth and nurtured the first Ku Klux Klan and supported Jim Crow laws and customs. And while history is history, over the years, the Democratic Party, including Thomas Jefferson, changed its and his position on slavery and the treatment of the “Negro.” Ergo, the shift by Blacks to the Democratic Party.

When you take a good look at the political structure today, it is easy to see that African Americans are still neglected by both parties. We still face the same issues no matter which party is in power.  Be mindful that Congressional District 17 has always been run by the Democratic Party, starting with William Lehman, then Carrie Meek and then Kendrick Meek.

What was important to me at the time was to get the message out that we are not a monolithic people and our votes cannot be taken for granted simply because of our party affiliation.

Although I filed as an Independent, my qualifications were not limited to party affiliation but to the position as that of a law maker for all people of District 17. Over 16,000 voters agreed with me and voted for me. Not enough to win the race but enough to make my voice heard.

Case in point, during the last campaign, Alex Sink, who ran for Governor, failed to attend the NAACP forum for the candidates after agreeing to attend.  As a result, Bishop Victory Curry ridiculed her over the airways on his radio station advising her that she cannot take the Black vote for granted. They later made up and he gave her his support once again. When she attended the NAACP banquet last month, of which I am a Silver Life member, Congressman Alcee Hastings, the keynote speaker reminded her yet again the Black vote cannot be taken for granted and simply because she was a democrat she could not assume that she would get the Black vote. She eventually lost her race for Governor. How the lack of the Black vote played into her losing the race has yet to be determined.

While I did not win my race either, I walked away with a wealth of experience as to the political process, knowledge as to the membership of the “who’s who” of Miami and with great hope for the future of this district. I had the opportunity to meet people I’ve never met before.  I heard about problems I did not know existed before, but more importantly, I experienced first-hand what Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote about in his book “Why We Can’t Wait.”

In Chapter 8 of his book, Dr. King stated that “Negroes have traditionally positioned themselves too far from the inner arena of political decision. Few other minority groups have maintained a political aloofness and a non-partisan posture as rigidly and as long as Negroes. The Germans, Irish, Italians, and Jews, after a period of acclimatization, moved inside political formations and exercised influence. Negroes, partly by choice but substantially by exclusion, operated outside of the political structures, functioning instead essentially as a pressure group with limited effect. That was exemplified in the past election, when one out of ten black residents in District 17 voted and only 48% of the registered voters in Miami-Dade County voted as a whole.

Dr. King stated “The Negroes’ real problem has been  they seldom had adequate choices. Political life, as a rule, did not attract the best elements of the Negro community, and White candidates who represented their views were few and far between. However, in avoiding the trap of domination by unworthy leaders, Negroes fell into the bog of political inactivity. They avoided victimization by any political group by withholding a significant commitment to any organization or individual. That concept has been termed “Social action” or in that case “Social inaction.” (Part 2 of 4 continues tomorrow...)


Rising Star Seeks to Lead Florida Democratic Party

[Repost from Vanessa: Unplugged!]

Andrew-Gillum The 2010 General Election is over and the beat down taken by the Democratic Party is well documented. Since that debacle, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP), Karen Thurman, resigned – as many Party leaders wanted. Her replacement, if left to traditional Party leadership, will be Rod Smith. You know Smith from other political bids, his latest as running mate for Alex Sink who was beat out by political newcomer Rick Scott in the race for Governor.

Enter one Andrew Gillum, 31 year-old Commissioner in Tallahassee. Tall, handsome, intelligent, articulate and charismatic. Oh and don’t let his youth fool you, he has been involved in politics for much of his life. Gillum, who I met when he was student government president at Florida A&M, has stepped up to challenge Smith to lead the Florida Dems. He may be just the new blood the Democratic Party needs, if not, the 2012 elections may be tantamount to Slaughter Round Two.

Here is Gillum’s  announcement of his candidacy:

Fellow Democrats,

In order to win, the Florida Democratic Party needs a fresh start.

Our previous losses were not due to a lack of work ethic. I know because I was on the ground with you, fighting, raising money and knocking on doors. We lost because we failed to communicate a clear, concise reason to vote with us locally and statewide.

Somewhere along the way we forgot why we were fighting.

When I was growing up, my mother Frances held down two jobs. She was a school bus driver and in-between her morning and afternoon shift she worked at a local dry cleaners, pressing and washing other people’s clothes. It was her battle with unfair labor treatment, and the support of her local union, that taught me the value of organized labor, and the power of everyday Floridians working together to take care of one another.

My father was a construction worker, his face and hands weathered by long and rough days working on construction sites in Florida. His decades of hard work meant nothing when he fell ill, because his blue-collar employers refused to provide him healthcare. That’s what inspired me to fix our broken healthcare system, insisting on real reform.

These are the types of Floridians that lose their voice when we lose elections.

When you cast your vote for the next Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, you face a tough choice. And it should be tough. Millions of Floridians like my mother and my father depend on having an aggressive, viable opposition party in Tallahassee and a party that will protect Democratic wins and gain members in the US Congress and US Senate.

The choice you make in January is not about who wants to elect Democrats the most, it’s about the entire future of our party in 2012 and beyond.

My entire adult life has been dedicated to building the bench of our party and raising money for candidates who fight for everyday Floridians. When I won my first election nearly eight years ago, I became the youngest City Commissioner in Tallahassee history. Since then, I have organized statewide, and I’ve raised more than $6 million in support of progressive officials and college leaders around the country.

I’ll bring this same energy to our party, which faces numerous challenges.

First, we cannot afford another disastrous redistricting by the right-wing Tallahassee Legislature. If it weren’t for gerrymandering after the 2000 elections, our outgoing Chair Karen Thurman would still be in Congress fighting for economic recovery, healthcare reform, and jobs.
If given a chance to lead, I have the confidence and competence to execute a winning plan for our party that will once again make us a competitive force in Florida politics.

Fundraising – Restructure our fundraising operation to support both local and statewide candidates. We can’t win statewide unless we win locally. I will strengthen our fundraising base by launching a small donor initiative to recruit every registered Democrat in Florida to make a small donor gift to the Florida Democratic Party, with proceeds split between the state party local DECs.

Staffing Structure – Conduct a complete assessment of the party staffing and strategically restructure our organization to incorporate a robust Communications, Research, and Policy Department and a Constituency & Outreach Department, to include college & youth, caucus and elected official outreach.

Building the Bench – Launch an initiative with local DECs, beginning immediately, to recruit and train local candidates and campaign managers, field organizers, finance directors, communications staff, and volunteer coordinators.

Redistricting Plan – Assemble a talented panel of attorneys and redistricting experts to create a counter redistricting proposal that will ensure an equitable plan that fully incorporates the intentions of Amendments 5 and 6.

Fighting the Radical Right – Create an opposition research team to closely monitor the actions of the Republican Party and its leaders to expose corruption, double standards or efforts to force its ultra-conservative agenda on Floridians.

I want to be your voice.

One of the most important considerations for the Florida Democratic Party right now, unfortunately, is perception. That’s why we need an entirely new voice. As a young, energetic elected Democrat, I will help deliver our fresh message to Floridians.

In order to bring about the fresh start we need to win, I’m asking for your vote.

It goes without saying that the FDP has some damage control to do to maintain the loyalty of many black voters who felt slighted and taken for granted during the 2010 mid-term elections, especially in South Florida. There is rising dissatisfaction with the Republicans and the Democrats but the Dems have the most to lose and if the FDP leaders continue to be out-of-step with Florida voters, the Democratic bloodletting will continue.

Related Links:

Rising Star Andrew Gillum, 31, Enters Race for Florida Democratic Chair

Andrew Gillum in challenge for Florida Democratic Party chairman post

Tony Hill: State Democrats need "fresh blood"




Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ (M-DCPS) graduation rate improved by nearly four percentage points to 72.1 percent for the 2009-2010 academic year.  This is the highest graduation rate M-DCPS has achieved since the Florida Department of Education began tracking graduation statistics with modern methods in the late 1990’s.  The District’s rate of improvement for the year exceeded the statewide rate.

“This is definitely a strong step in the right direction,” said Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho.  “The results are a combination of expert teaching and strong school leadership.  This positive development complements the increased student achievement that was demonstrated earlier this year through higher FCAT scores and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, which showed our students are surpassing their counterparts in all other major urban areas.  This strong increase in graduation rates is a significant achievement that deserves community celebration.”

The improvement in the district’s graduation rate was made possible by a detailed plan to address new high school accountability standards.  Online credit recovery courses were made available to students to help ensure students could make up needed coursework.  Additional periods in the school day provided students with course acceleration and credit recovery opportunities.   High school counselors were given professional development in how to help students recover needed credits.  The district also focused more attention on the importance of graduation early on, beginning with middle school, to provide those students with smoother transitions to high school academics.  Additionally, a comprehensive summer school program offered students opportunities to make up coursework. 


MDC Students Awarded Academic Scholarships for Community Service Work in AmeriCorps Program

Eighty-seven student mentors and volunteers will receive as much $2,000 for their work in the community

Miami, FL – More than 80 Miami Dade College (MDC) students who work as mentors and volunteers for a variety of charitable causes will receive academic scholarships as a result of an $111,970 federal grant from the Florida Campus Compact (FL/CC) AmeriCorps Program. The federal grant was recently awarded to MDC for the sole purpose of providing scholarships and stipends to students who engage in at least 300 hours of community service. The award to MDC will be split into two programs: the FL/CC AmeriCorps Program and the Students in Service AmeriCorps Program. The student scholarships will be awarded based on the level of service, number of hours served, and the award amount.

The FL/CC AmeriCorps Program, which will be awarded to 62 MDC students, is designed for college students who serve as mentors to at-risk youth with the goal of helping their mentees gain the skills and knowledge needed for college access and success. Additionally, two out of the 62 students will be selected for leadership positions and will earn a $2,675 scholarship, a $5,200 stipend, and must commit to a minimum of 900 service hours. The remaining 60 students will receive a $1,132 scholarship when they complete their community service hours.

Twenty-five MDC students will be selected for the FL/CC Students in Service AmeriCorps Program, which supports a broader range of service opportunities beyond mentoring. The students may choose to serve in areas such as environmental protection, human services, public safety, counseling, nursing/EMT, education and more. These students will also receive a $1,132 scholarship for a minimum of 300 community service hours. 

“We are very grateful to Florida Campus Compact and the AmeriCorps program because this initiative will allow 87 of MDC’s most civic-minded students to gain leadership skills, serve the community, and earn much needed college scholarships,” said Josh Young, director of MDC’s nationally acclaimed Center for Community Involvement and the lead administrator of the program.

The 87 students are currently being recruited to fill these positions and must complete their service hours by the fall of 2011. Students interested in applying for either FL/CC AmeriCorps Program must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and able to provide sufficient documentation; at least 17 years of age with no record of felony; enrolled at MDC; have a valid e-mail address; and must attend a pre-service orientation conducted at one of MDC’s eight campuses.

For more information or to apply for about the Florida Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program, contact Josh Young at 305-237-7477 or [email protected].


History of South Florida Class Returns to MDC for Spring 2011 Semester

Class will uncover the secrets of Coconut Grove, backstory of Miami’s historic places, pioneers, and more


Miami, FL –The wildly popular History of South Florida (AMH 2079) class at Miami Dade College (MDC) is available once again for history buffs beginning Jan. 6, 2011 at the Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. Notable historian and MDC faculty member Dr. Paul George will teach the class, which will include classroom lectures, visits to historical libraries, repositories and exhibits, video and slide presentations, and tours of Greater Miami’s historic neighborhoods.

During the 16-week course, students can expect to learn about the Bahamian settlers who developed Coconut Grove; the Julia Tuttle and Henry Flagler deal that led to the development of the Florida East Coast Railway; the impact of the Great Depression on South Florida; the backstory of Miami’s historic places and other pioneers; the Tequesta Indians’ significance to the city of Miami; the great real estate boom of the 1920’s; Key West’s role in the region’s history; the Cuban refugee success story; Miami’s emergence as an international city; and much more.

The course also accounts for three credits toward teacher recertification.

The class will be held every Thursday evening at the Wolfson Campus from 5:40 to 8:10 p.m. beginning Jan. 6 through April 21, 2011.

Dr. George is widely recognized by the media and the South Florida community as the region's foremost historian. He is often interviewed regarding key historical facts about the region and beyond.

WHAT:               Class: History of South Florida (AMH 2079)

WHEN:              Thursdays, Jan. 6 through April 21, 2011

            5:40 to 8:10 p.m.

WHERE:                MDC Wolfson Campus,

300 N.E. 2nd Ave., Bldg. 3, Room 3218, downtown Miami

COST:               $258.57 for the entire course

For more information or to register for the History of South Florida course (AMH 2079), visit or contact Dr. Paul George at 305-237-3723, [email protected].

Miami-Dade County School Board off to positive start

NewDistrictLogo The Miami-Dade County School Board held it’s first official full board meeting last Wednesday, on Thanksgiving Eve, since adding three new members and the retirement of long-time member Dr. Solomon Stinson. The meeting was a tad lengthy for a day before a holiday but the dynamics of the Board is forming and a new sense of actual advocacy for the public education was exhibited.

Let’s hope this Board will inform and mobilize public education stakeholders and effectively strategize to develop an effective campaign for Miami-Dade County Public Schools for the upcoming Legislative Session.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also made a wonderful presentation acknowledging the increase in graduation rates at several MDCPS schools. He took the time to introduce all of the staff and parents in attendance for each school and that was a good thing. Although many were anxious to go home and prepare for Thanksgiving, it was a refreshing change to take time to thank the people who are making a positive difference at our schools.  


Will Frederica Wilson change the 'no hat' rule in DC? [POLL]

Frederica-wilson Frederica Wilson is headed to Congress as the elected representative for Florida’s District 17. She beat out a slew of candidates for the seat and continues to do what she has always done --- shake things up. She’s jokingly referred to as The Mad-Hatter in some articles because of her penchant for wearing hats. Unfortunately, or maybe not, for Wilson much media coverage has been devoted to her desire to change the rules and wear her signature hats in the House chamber.

There are two camps of people on this issue: one group fully supports Wilson who calls the current rules sexist and there are the other folks who find the hat wearing issue a ridiculous waste of time. Either way you look at the situation, Wilson is one of the best-known members of the congressional freshman class. Perhaps there really is no such thing as bad publicity.

Wilson was successful at changing the no hat rule at the State level; will she be able to do the same in Washington, DC?



Related Links:

Rep. Frederica Wilson Joins Two-Person "Cowboy Hat Caucus"

Frederica Wilson - You Can't Leave Your Hat On

Congresswoman-elect Frederica Wilson says hat ban started in 1800s but can be waived



Miami-Dade County Commission honors artists for cultural collaboration




The Miami-Dade County Commission  recently honored Prince Emmanuel Abiodun Aderele, Luis Ezequiel Torres and Community Builders Holistic Development Corporation for facilitating a cultural collaboration at the  National Endowment for the Arts /National Council for the Traditional Arts 2010 National Honors Awards Ceremony and Concert. The collaboration included performances at the Library of Congress and the Great Hall at Strathmore.

Prince Emmanuel Abiodun Aderele is a native of Nigeria West Africa the Grandson of His Royal Highness Oba Rufus Adesokeji Aderele Osemawe of Ondoland, Tewogboye II one of the longest reigning Kings in the Yoruba Kingdom of West Africa (32 years). The Prince is the International Artist in Residence at the Osun's Village and African Caribbean Cultural Art Corridor, a project of Community Builders Holistic Development Corporation, whose mission is to establish International Artist/Community Exchange Programs that facilitate International Trade and Global Understanding and reinforce the significance of Ancient Traditional art and culture.

The initiative focuses on the preservation of the traditional cultural heritage of South Florida's African and Caribbean Diaspora communities. It will ultimately drive tourism, trade and commerce while providing pathways to develop communities economically

2010 National Council of Traditional Arts Folk Heritage honoree Ezequiel Torres, a master of the making and playing of the Afro-Cuban Bata drums used for the Orisha (the traditional religion of the Yoruba people of West Africa), found it befitting to showcase the talents of Prince Emmanuel Abiodun Aderele from Nigeria's Yoruba Kingdom, a carrier of the intangible living cultural heritage of his Yoruba ancestors.

Torres and Prince Aderele's recent collaboration during the 2010 NEA Heritage Fellows Concert at Strathmore, demonstrated the cultural bridge that preserved the sacred music, song and dance of the Yoruba Orisha. Despite the travesty of the transatlantic slave trade, the customs and Yoruba Orisha traditions traveled from Africa and have been preserved throughout the Diaspora.

Think of two African brothers, separated from birth because of slavery -- one raised in Africa, one raised in Cuba, and then reunited. These individuals honor their ANCESTORS by proving that despite slavery, and attempts at cultural ethnic cleansing, they will continue to honor their heritage and their cultural spiritual traditions.

Prince Emmanuel,  2010 National Heritage Fellow Ezequiel Torres, Chief      Styles and Brenda Damali Winstead[1] 
From left:   Prince Emmanuel Abiodun Aderele; Ezequiel Torres; Chief Nathaniel Styles of Community Builders Holistic Development Corporation and Brenda Damali Winstead


Don't miss Bruce Weber's exhibition Haiti/Little Haiti at MOCA


The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), North Miami presents Bruce Weber: Haiti / Little Haiti through February 13, 2011. This extraordinary exhibition of photographs of Miami’s Haitian community by celebrated photographer Bruce Weber is part of MOCA’s Knight Exhibition Series and includes approximately 75 photographs taken by Weber from 2003 to 2010. Bruce Weber: Haiti / Little Haiti is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami and is curated by MOCA Executive Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater.

In 2003, The Miami Herald published a magazine supplement of Bruce Weber's photographs of Miami's Haitian community. The photographs were Weber’s response to an unjust U.S. immigration system in which Haitian men, women and children were detained indefinitely unlike refugees from other countries who were typically released to family or friends while awaiting asylum hearings. The documentary film, The Agronomist, by Jonathan Demme, had been Weber’s call to arms.  In it, Demme chronicled the life of Haiti’s most famous journalist, Jean Dominique, the founder of Radio Haiti Internationale, and his murder by unknown assailants in 2000. Incensed by the violence, political strife, and poverty depicted in the film, Weber asked Demme what he could do, and Demme suggested turning his attention to what was happening to Haitians in Miami, where Weber had a home. Compelled to tell the story of the struggle of Haitian immigrants, Weber immersed himself in the Haitian community, which he has continued to chronicle through the present.

Bruce Weber is renowned for revolutionizing fashion photography and the same formal elements that make his fashion and celebrity photographs so forceful contribute to the impact of his Haitian photographs.  As Bonnie Clearwater notes, “The strong sense that the figures exist in real space and can be touched, caressed, and embraced makes us feel as though we know or would like to know each of these individuals, and consequently we become concerned with their fate.”

“In his fashion shoots he captures what he sees in the models – beauty, youth, strength. This holds true as well for his Haitian photographs.  These images convey what he sees and admires in the Haitian children and adults he photographs, -- their strength, pride, resilience, elegance and beauty,” Clearwater said.

Weber chose primarily to work in black-and-white for the project, but switched to color film when photographing Haitian Flag Day celebrations. Over the years he has built up a large archive of photographs of Haitian celebrations, church congregations, Little Haiti stores and boulevards, as well as portraits of individuals, groups, and families. Weber’s presence is welcomed in Miami’s Haitian community. 

Miami’s rising Haitian leaders, politicians, artists and entertainers have also posed for Weber.  He generally photographed these professionals in their element. The immigration crisis earlier in the decade made it imperative for Haitians to become more visible and influential. In his unique way, Weber has captured images of a dynamic, diverse and evolving community, bringing the Haitian neighborhoods of Miami to a wider international audience.

A catalogue featuring an essay by Bonnie Clearwater, poems by Edwidge Danticat, and writings by Bruce Weber and Alberto Ibarguen, will accompany the exhibition.

Bruce Weber: Haiti / Little Haiti is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami and is curated by MOCA Executive Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater.

The exhibition is made possible with major support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Media sponsorship is provided by The Miami Herald. The exhibition coincides with Art Basel Miami Beach.  Additional support is provided by Irma and Norman Braman.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 770 NE 125th Street, North Miami, FL 33161. For information, call 305.893.6211 or visit


Performer I missed at The Arsht but wish I hadn't: Concha Buika [VIDEO]


I've been reading some excellent reviews about African-Spanish singer, Concha Buika who recently performed at The Adrienne Arsht Center. The young woman is a mesmerizing combination of Nina Simone, Erykah Badu and Celia Cruz. She's bad. Check her out. 


Buika: The Voice Of Freedom

Official Website of Concha Buika

African Success Story: Concha Buika