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January 2016

Sunday Morning Problems in Miami

I wanted to start this post off with a statement on how the devil is always busy and how I should have expected some level of foolishness since I'd participated in Mission meeting yesterday and was preparing for church this morning in spite of very un-Miami like temperatures.

I didn't expect to find a bullet hole in the windshield of my car that travelled through to the back of my car, nipped the rear right headrest and shattered the back window. Hello. I didn't expect that but that's exactly what I found.

I remembered that last night, at about 11:38 pm, I'd heard a series of about five gunshots in rapid succession. I didn't hear a vehicle pull off. I didn't hear any talking or any screams so I waited a couple of minutes before going outside. There were no signs of alarm so I went back inside my home.

I didn't call the police. The sound was close but the shots seemed to have been fired north of my home. I was sure my neighbors would call. I was wrong.

I would later find out that some of my neighbors heard the shots and one neighbor heard a vehicle pull off and travel west. The shooting occurred in front of my home. The bullet that pierced my car was fired in a westward direction. It's possible that the shots were fired from a vehicle but it seems more likely that the shooter was on foot possibly aiming at the fleeing vehicle.

My emotions ran the gamut from anger to annoyance and then gratitude. The thought of someone or persons callously discharging a weapon that could have easy resulted in injury or death just ticked me off.

The reality of the hoops I would now have to jump through to have my vehicle repaired brought out my feelings of annoyance. Call the police. Call the insurance company. Glass everywhere. Do I get a rental car? An-noy-ing.

Then I thought of the number of times I have parked my vehicle or rolled my garbage bin to the curb or performed some other routine task at that hour. I could have been shot. I thought of the people in Miami who have died because of driveby shootings. I know it wasn't my time to be shot or killed and I'm good with that. I know that I am blessed and God still has work for me to do. My gratitude definitely overshadows my anger and annoyance.

The gun violence in Miami (and everywhere else) needs to stop but we already know that. I am a child of the Most High. No matter busy the devil is, God is in control. Always.

~ Va-Va

NAACP Statement on Supreme Court Decision in Florida Death Penalty Case

BALTIMORE, MD – The NAACP released the following statement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision in Hurst v. Florida. The Court ruled that Florida’s sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution.

Prior to the ruling, a Florida jury would make an advisory opinion regarding the application of the death penalty and then the trial judge would determine--after alone weighing aggravating and mitigating factors--whether the death penalty should be applied. The Court determined that scheme failed to comply with the Court’s prior decisions holding that a jury must determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, all facts required to be found before a sentence of death may be imposed.

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO:

“While we applaud the Supreme Court’s decision, which reaffirms that an impartial jury has the responsibility to make all factual findings necessary in cases serious enough to impose the death penalty, the NAACP remains unequivocally against capital punishment - it is racially biased and inhumane. Over the past several years, we have worked hard to abolish the death penalty in Maryland and we seek to continue this trend across the country. In states where it has yet to be abolished, a sentence of death must adhere to the Constitutional requirements set out by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In Florida alone, 12 people have been cleared from death row through DNA evidence in recent years and 400 people remain on death row in that state. Nearly all of those exonerated in Florida and across the nation have been black, brown, and or desperately poor. While many continue to debate the abolishment of the death penalty, it is undeniable that life and death mistakes of the justice system are almost always made at the expense of the lives of people of color and those without access to vigorous representation. The NAACP will continue to advocate for the abolition of a law that is biased, flawed and violates our Constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.”

From Adora Obi Nweze, President, Florida State Conference and National Board Member:

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v. Florida is a step in the right direction, with the ultimate resolution being the abolishment of the death penalty in Florida. As a board member of the Florida Innocence Project, we know that people of color are disproportionately sentenced to death row in Florida and across the country. Since 1973, 26 former death row inmates have been exonerated – those are 26 lives saved from a from a broken criminal justice system. It is unconscionable that we continue to employ capital punishment as a means of punishment when we know it is ineffective, flawed and makes no exceptions for fallibility.”

Florida A&M University Scholar & Recruitment Event TONIGHT in Miami

Parents, bring your children to this scholarship activity from Florida A&M University. It is geared toward 11th and 12th graders but the earlier and longer we can get our HBCUs before the eyes and ears of potential,students, the better of these schools will be.

More than $200,000 was awarded last year. Don't miss this opportunity for scholarship dollars. The FAMU Connection performing troupe will highlight the entertainment.


FAMU Scholarship & Recruitment

Wed., 01/13/2016


Booker T. Washington Senior High School

1200 NW 6 Avenue

Miami, FL 33136



MLK Youth Symposium to Highlight King’s Dream and Empower Youth


The W.I.S.H. Foundation (Women Involved in Service to Humanity) and Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority welcome middle school age and high school age youth to their fifth annual youth symposium presented in conjunction with national celebrations of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Students throughout Florida are granted MLK Day off from school. The MLK Youth Symposium is the perfect opportunity to engage youth in the meaning of the MLK federal holiday. Parents are encouraged to bring their children. Leaders of youth mentoring groups of all organizations as well as school and church youth groups are also strongly encouraged to bring their members.

This year’s theme, “Your Destiny Awaits You” sets the stage for an afternoon of education, enlightenment, inspiration and empowerment. Program organizer Dr. Cynthia Mitchell Clarke is delighted to present young civil rights activists, Umi Selah and the Dream Defenders to this year’s attendees. “Our students will better identify with other young people as our event unfolds. We expect the international reputation and rich experiences of the Dream Defenders will result in spirited dialogue and a positive impact on our youth,” said Clarke.


The youth will also participate in group discussions on two books by award-winning actor and best selling author Hill Harper: “Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny” and “Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny.” These books are considered must reading for today’s youth, as they are educational, uplifting and inspirational.


The MLK Youth Symposium is 2pm-5pm, Sunday, January 17, 2016, at Miami Carol City Senior High School, 3301 Miami Gardens Drive, Miami Gardens, FL 33056. The event is free and presented in partnership with the United Teachers of Dade, Vice Mayor Felicia Robinson - City of Miami Gardens, Councilman David Williams, Jr. - City of Miami Gardens, and Miami-Dade County School Board Member Wilbert "Tee" Holloway.


2nd Annual Zo's Winter Groove, January 16- 18, 2016


The 2nd Annual Zo’s Winter Groove will be held January 15 – 18, 2016 in the City of Miramar and Miami-Dade County.  This year is slated to be a event-filled weekend with activities for the entire family to enjoy.   



On Friday, January 15, 2016 Alonzo Mourning will kick off the Winter Groove Weekend with a Youth Summit hosted by Florida Memorial University that will include special presentations from Dr. Roslyn Clark ArtisPresident of Florida Memorial UniversityKevin PowellAuthor and Political Activist and Natasha EubanksFounder- Young Black & Fabulous.


On Saturday, January 16, 2016, Alonzo Mourning and friends will start the day with a 5K Run/Walk followed by a Family Fun Day and Health & Wellness Fair at Miramar Regional Park.  There will be lots to do for everyone including free Zumba and Yoga lessons, a CrossFit obstacle course for fitness enthusiast along with free sports clinics for youth ages 7-16.  All Family Fun Day activities are free and will also feature a kid’s zone, free health screenings and more. Delicious foods from various food trucks from Miami- Dade and Broward counties will be onsite.


On Sunday, January 17, 2016, Alonzo Mourning and friend Cedric The Entertainer will host the 2nd Annual Zo’s Winter Groove Comedy show featuring the Laff Mobb - Malik S., J.J. Williamson, Barry Ribs, Meme Simpson, and Marshall Brandon. The comedy show will be held at the beautiful J.W. Marriott Marquis in Downtown Miami and will kick –off with Red Carpet Arrivals and a VIP reception at 6:00 pm.


On Monday, January 18, 2016, Zo’s Winter Groove Weekend comes to a close with the Zo’s Hall of Fame Golf Groove at the beautiful Turnberry Isle Miami Resort & Country Club.  Golfers will include former and current players from the NBA, NFL and MLB. 


Zo’s Winter Groove benefits the Mourning Family Foundation and its mission to support education, mentoring and advocacy for youth and families in South Florida.

Knight Cities Challenge names 158 finalists, 11 in Miami


Finalists chosen from a pool of more than 4,500 applicants


MIAMI – Jan. 12, 2016 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced 158 finalists, including 11 in Miami, in the second annual Knight Cities Challenge a national call for ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.


Open to innovators of all types, the Knight Cities Challenge asked applicants to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful? 

More than 4,500 applicants from across the country answered the call proposing a range of ideas, including: opening up Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum, the world’s largest African American history museum, with a public plaza that provides a space for residents to connect on cultural and community issues; an app for Miami residents that allows citizens to discuss and vote on actions taken by local government; rain parks that engage residents to solve stormwater problems in flood-damaged Columbia, S.C.; a card game that encourages Charlotte residents to learn about their city and visit new neighborhoods.


Submissions came from many nonprofit and government organizations, as well as design experts, urban planning organizations and individuals focused on making their cities more successful. Each of the ideas focuses on one or more of three drivers of city success:


●     Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep the best and brightest;

●     Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects and break down divides;

●     Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.


A full list of the finalists is below.


Winners, who will receive a share of $5 million, will be announced in spring 2016.


“The finalists reflect what the Knight Cities Challenge is about: uncovering new civic innovators and motivating people to realize ideas—big and small—that can contribute to the success of their cities,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. 


Applicants have to follow only two rules: 1) A submission may come from anywhere, but the project must benefit one or more of 26 Knight communities; and 2) The idea should focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success, talent, opportunity and engagement, as outlined above.


Now in its second year, the challenge is part of a three-year, $15 million commitment that Knight Foundation announced in the fall of 2014. In March 2015 Knight announced32 winners of the first Knight Cities Challenge.


For more information, visit


Knight Cities Challenge Finalists 2016




Thrive Kitchen by Opa-locka Community Development Corp. (submitted by Aileen Alon): Creating a shared commercial kitchen and business incubator to stimulate Miami’s food entrepreneurs and cultivate talent in South Florida’s underserved communities.


First Taste: Little River by First Taste (submitted by Amy Rosenberg):

Enabling food entrepreneurs at a regular food flea market in Little River to showcase their products to the public and grow their businesses; the market will also serve as a gathering space for residents who want produce, international delicacies, and more.


Orange Blossom Parkway Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail for Proposed Hialeah Market  District by city of Hialeah (submitted by Annette Quintana): Creating an urban linear park connecting Hialeah Market Station and Hialeah Drive to provide residents with a space to walk, bike, play and connect.


Community Asset Platform by Center for Applied Transect Studies (submitted by Hank Dittmar): Creating an online platform that will map neighborhood assets and underused public areas (vacant lots, empty storefronts) and engage residents in redevelopment efforts; the platform would help connect residents to collaborate on projects, and highlight funding sources and other information.


DomiNest by IoCI (submitted by Malik Benjamin): Transforming Miami’s iconic “Domino Park” to bring people from diverse backgrounds and ages together for a game of dominos.


Living with Water: Miami Beach Blueways Connector by city of Miami Beach (submitted by  Judy Hoanshelt): Creating a kayak-sharing program that will build on Miami’s transportation network and introduce people to the city’s waterways and unique aquatic ecosystems; kayak stations would be located close to existing bike-share, car-share and transit hubs.


The Underline: Brickell Backyard Outdoor Gym/Sports Field by Friends of The Underline (submitted by Meg Daly): Creating a sports field and gym as part of The Underline, a proposed 10-mile linear park underneath the Miami-Dade Metrorail, to provide quality of life incentives to talented young adults.


BlockWork Miami by Engage Miami and The Miami Foundation (submitted by Nassar Farid Mufdi Ruiz): Providing an annual incentive for residents to transform their neighborhoods block by block; residents would nominate a block for revitalization and would restore it, if it’s chosen to  receive funding.


Open Source Democracy by Engage Miami (submitted by Gabriel Pendas): Creating an app that provides information on issues that the Miami-Dade County Commission and other municipalities are voting on, and allows residents to discuss and cast their own vote on how they feel about a particular issue.


Miami Civic User Testing Group by Code for Miami (submitted by Rebekah Monson): Ensuring that people building local government technology use real-world feedback throughout the development process by creating a user testing group that will identify user experience issues more quickly, while making websites and apps more accessible.


Biscayne Green: Pop-Up Park by Miami Downtown Development Authority (submitted by Fabian de la Espriella): Creating a pop-up park and urban forest along Biscayne Boulevard to drive momentum for “Biscayne Green,” a proposal to redesign Biscayne Boulevard to include a pedestrian promenade.


Sanders Campaign to Launch HBCU Tour at South Carolina State University


BURLINGTON, Vt - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign on Thursday will kick-off the 'Feel the Bern' HBCU tour at South Carolina State University in collaboration with Benedict College. Planned stops for the HBCU tour include, Tennessee State University, Alabama State University, Jackson State University, Florida A&M University, Virginia State University, Howard University, the Atlanta University Center and Benedict College. The South Carolina State University stop will feature Dr. Cornel West who will discuss a wide range of issues, including making public colleges and universities tuition-free and criminal justice reform.

Here is the itinerary:

Thursday, January 14
7 p.m. HBCU Tour, 
South Carolina State University, Recital Hall, Barbara A. Vaughan Fine Arts Center, 300 College Street, Orangeburg, South Carolina

Information for the public: Doors open at 6:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are strongly encouraged.

Resettlement Community Gives Hope to Haiti Six Years after Earthquake


Six years after the devastating January, 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the community of Leveque has emerged as one of the most successful resettlement communities in the country and a beacon of transformation.  

The once barren land where Leveque now sits was granted to Mission of Hope, Haiti (MOH) by the Interim Haiti Relief Commission after the earthquake as a place to rebuild homes for those who lost everything. Over the last six years, MOH built more than 600 block homes in Leveque through its Blue to Block program, enabling families to move out of the blue temporary tarp huts that were erected following the quake and live in a truly thriving community with a church, school, clean water, and sustainable farming. Over 150 hearing-impaired families have been integrated into the community as well.  

"These people not only have a new home, they have a new life. They have hope again," says Brad Johnson, President of MOH. "And it could not have happened without the collaborative effort of many partners, including New StoryInternational Deaf EmergencyWater Missions Intl and many others."

The cost of each home built through MOH is $6,000 and includes 3 rooms, a small plot of land for farming, a detached bathroom, and fruit trees.  The overall objective of Blue to Block is to build a community, not just a housing project. This has been accomplished by establishing a school, a church, clean water solutions, and agricultural training in Leveque. 

"Our mission is not just to change a village, but to change a nation. We want to empower Haitians to transform Haiti," says Johnson.

Mission of Hope currently works with over 420 indigenous organizations in Haiti and is committed to seeing the nation transformed through sustainable growth. To reach that goal, MOH trains and supports over 3,000 local farmers in sustainable farming techniques, feeds over 90,000 children a day, and hopes to have 100% of the food used in its food distribution program to be grown by Haitian farmers by 2020.  MOH also educates over 6,500 students and is currently building a technical school that will provide further education and job training.

Enough is Enough. End Corporate Welfare and Invest in Hardworking Floridians

Miami, FL—SEIU Florida President Monica Russo issued the following statement in response to Governor Scott’s State of the State:

“It comes as no surprise that Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-led Legislature have a jam-packed agenda that attacks hardworking Floridians rather than doing their sworn job to protect the interests of our most vulnerable.

“The solutions are there, but Gov. Scott and Republican legislators are choosing to pass laws that harm working Floridians instead of protecting them, like proposing a $770 million tax-cut for big business while shifting the burden on the people.

“Enough is enough. Instead of addressing the real issues that affect the lives of millions of hardworking Floridians, like increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and expanding access to affordable health care to protect more families from falling into poverty, Scott and Republican legislators are giving priority to growing corporate welfare for big business at the expense of taxpayers, separating families and criminalizing immigrant workers who put food on our tables and shape our cities' skyline and denying State workers the ability to collectively bargain -- one of the simplest examples of democracy.

“Too many hardworking Floridians don’t earn enough to support their families because they are underpaid and underappreciated. It’s time for our politicians to rise to the occasion and raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. If Rick Scott and the Republican legislators choose the path of boosting corporate welfare, hardworking Floridians, of which 52% live in poverty or earn less than $15 an hour, have more incentive than ever to vote for candidates who will cut off the funnel of money that continues to subsidize some of the state’s largest corporations and invest that money on the real economic engine – working Floridians.

“More than 4 million Floridians would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $15, and a vast majority of underpaid Floridians are voters. It is time for Florida legislators to step up to the plate and support underpaid Floridians struggling to make ends meet, or get out of the way.”

Terrence Jenkins Heads To The White House!

16825fa7-5a8b-421b-9575-7c1a17862686Former E! NEWS co-anchor, film/TV actor and acclaimed author Terrence Jenkins is headed to the White House.  Jenkins will host the first ever LIVE State of the Union pre-show broadcast straight from the theater of the Executive Office building today, Tuesday, January 12th at 8:00pm ET.  Jenkins is no stranger to the White House, recently moderating a panel discussion for the Champions of Change program which they recognize faculty and staff members at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Tonight's live pre-show broadcast can be viewed LIVE at starting at 8:00pm ET.
Jenkins has quickly become one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood; first as co-host of BET's hit show 106 & Park and more recently as the co-anchor of E! NEWS with Giuliana Rancic. Up next, Jenkins will STAR opposite Paula Patton in THE PERFECT MATCH, in theaters nationwide on March 11th. 
Originally a New York native, Jenkins' philanthropic efforts include being a spokesperson for Ronald McDonald's House Charities Future Achievers Scholarship Campaign, a mentor for Steve Harvey's "Disney Dreamers Academy" and an avid supporter of the Newark, New Jersey, Boys and Girls Club.