Black History

Juneteenth

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Today is a significant day in American history. It is the day commemorated as the end of enslavement of African Americans in the United States. So, as the story goes President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved Africans, that was effective January 1, 1863. The enslaved people in Texas were not officially notified until some two and a half years later on June 19, 1865. 

Of course there are various tales and opinions about why it took so long to notify the people in Texas. Of the states that seceded, Texas was the last of the confederate states to rejoin the United States. There are tales of the messenger being killed along the way. The delay was also likely attributed to the plantation owners who wanted to get another season of harvesting crops out of their slaves. It was about the Benjamins back then and, truth be told, it still is. 

Many people, Black and white, don't like to discuss the horrible period of slavery in this country. It's important that we know our history. It's also important we share our history with our children, even the unpleasant parts. The reality is that enslaved Africans built this country. In spite of the criminalization of educating enslaved Blacks, we not only learned to read, we create, we invent, we produce. On this day and everyday, let's be proud of what our ancestors overcame. Let's build on their legacy and not allow our families and children's consciousness to be poisoned today. Let's continue to fight for our true freedom.

 

 


Judge Rodney Smith Receives Lifetime Appointment to Federal Bench

Judge Rodney Smith
The Honorable Rodney Smith, Judge, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida

On June 12, 2019, at 2:43 pm ET, Florida Circuit Court Judge Rodney Smith ascended to the position of judge, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida via confirmation vote of 78-18 by the United States Senate. The position of federal judge is a lifetime appointment.

Smith’s confirmation is reason for many to celebrate throughout Florida and around the nation. He graduated from Miami Northwestern Senior High School, a historically-black public school in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood. To complete his undergraduate studies, he attended Florida A&M, a historically-black public university. He continued to reach his educational goals by earning a degree from Michigan State University College of Law, a non-Ivy League law school. 

His path to the federal judgeship began with the nomination by President Donald J. Trump for the judicial seat. Smith completed an extensive questionnaire and was advanced for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018. He was selected as one of ten finalists for federal judge. As part of the process, the committee sends a blue slip to senators from the home state in which the judicial nomination was received. A senator from the nominee's home state can approve the nominee and advance the nomination to the full Senate or disapprove or take no action regarding the nominee thus ending the process for the nominee becoming a federal judge.

Smith interviewed with Senator Marco Rubio and then Senator Bill Nelson. He also interviewed with White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice. He was formally nominated in May 2018, but upon the adjournment of the 115th Congress in January 2019, Smith’s nomination was returned to the President. He was re-nominated later that month upon the convening of the 116th Congress.

Fifty-one affirmative votes were required for Smith’s confirmation. With a final vote of 78-18, he received many more votes than needed. There was still concern that 2020 presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were among the 18 senators voting against his confirmation while Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders were among the four senators who did not vote at all.

Smith began his legal career as an Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office in 1999. He later practiced at several private law firms before joining the Office of the City Attorney for Miami Beach as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in 2007. He was appointed County Court Judge by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008. In 2012, Smith was appointed circuit court judge by Gov. Rick Scott where he served until his elevation to federal judge.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida includes the following counties: Miami-Dade; Broward; Palm Beach; Monroe; St. Lucie; Martin; Highlands; Indian River and Okeechobee. The Southern district has jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases in those counties that fall under federal law.

Smith is a highly-regarded attorney and highly-respected in the community. He is proof that faith, hard work and a great attitude can take you far in life. He is a member of several organizations including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, 100 Black Men of South Florida, Jack & Jill Dads, Boy Scouts of America; FAMU National Alumni Association, and 5000 Role Models of Excellence. Judge Smith and his family are active members of New Birth Baptist Church Cathedral of Faith International.

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Judge Rodney Smith was sworn by Judge Donald Graham on Monday, June 17, 2019 at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Courthouse in Miami.
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Judge Rodney Smith and son with Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson and fellow  5000 Role Models and staff.
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Judge Rodney Smith and fellow members of 100 Black Men of South Florida. From left, Judge Darrin P. Gayles, Stephen Hunter Johnson, Pierre Rutledge and Torrence Phillips. 
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Judge Rodney Smith with his brothers of the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
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Judge Rodney Smith with fellow FAMUans Kenneth Williams and Thomas Jones who are also his Alpha Phi Omega brothers and members of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association.
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Friends accompanied Judge Rodney Smith for his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018. From left, Christopher Norwood, Larry Handfield, Hans Ottintot, Samuel Mustipher and Robert Tyler.



 


Happy 93rd Birthday to the Honorable Carrie P. Meek!

Carrie P. Meek
Happy Birthday to one of the true living legends of Florida history, the Honorable Carrie P. Meek!

 

The daughter of Willie and Carrie Pittman, Former Congresswoman Carrie Pittman Davis Meek was born on April 29, 1926, in Tallahassee, Florida. Her grandmother was born a slave in Georgia. Her parents began their married life as sharecroppers. Her father would later become a caretaker and her mother, a laundress and owner of a boarding house. The youngest of 12 children, Meek grew up in segregated Tallahassee, Florida. An honors student and track & field star athlete, she graduated from Florida A&M University (then Florida A&M College) in 1946 with a bachelor's degree in biology and physical education. At that time, Blacks were not allowed to attend graduate school in Florida. The state of Florida paid her graduate school tuition for her to go north to continue her studies. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1948 with a Master's degree in public health and physical education.

After graduating from the University of Michigan, Meek was hired to teach at Bethune-Cookman University (then Bethune-Cookman College) in Daytona Beach, Florida, and then later at her alma mater, Florida A&M University. She moved to Miami in 1961 where she served as a professor, administrator, and special assistant to the vice president of Miami Dade College, then Miami-Dade Community College. The school was desegregated in 1963. Meek played a central role in pushing for integration. Throughout her years as an educator, Meek was also active in community projects in the Miami area.

Meek was elected Florida state representative in 1978. She would go on to make history as the first Black female elected to the Florida State Senate in 1982. As a state senator, Meek served on the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Her efforts in the legislature also led to the construction of thousands of affordable rental housing units.

In 1992, Meek was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida’s 17th Congressional District. This historic election made her the first black lawmaker to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction. Upon taking office, Meek faced the task of helping her district recover from Hurricane Andrew’s devastation. Her efforts helped to provide $100 million in federal assistance to rebuild Dade County. Successfully focusing her attention on issues such as economic development, health care, education and housing, Meek led legislation through Congress to improve Dade County’s transit system, airport and seaport; construct a new family and childcare center in North Dade County; and fund advanced aviation training programs at Miami-Dade Community College. Meek has also emerged as a strong advocate for senior citizens and Haitian immigrants.

Meek has received numerous awards and honors. She is the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degrees from the Florida A&M University, University of Miami,  Barry University, Florida Atlantic University and Rollins University. The Foundation that carries her name focuses on improving the lives of individuals in Miami-Dade County and throughout the broader community of  Florida.

We are delighted to join family and friends in celebrating the ninety-three years of awesomeness of the legendary Carrie Pittman Davis Meek and wish her many more.

[Biography adapted from The History Makers and U.S. House of Representatives History.]

 


African American Read-In at Miami Dade College Feb. 4

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Hey book lovers! The 2019 African American Read-In takes place at Miami Dade College’s North Campus tomorrow, February 4. The goal is to make literacy, education, and community a significant part of Black History Month.

This year’s African American Read-In presenter is Glory Edim author of Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves.

This event is open to high school and college students, as well as, local community members. RSVP here. 

 

If You go:

African American Read-In
Monday, February 4, 2019 @ 10:00 am
Miami Dade College North Campus
11380 NW 27th Ave, Miami, FL 33167 


Longest Running Local Public Kwanzaa Celebration Moves to The ARC in Opa-locka on 12/29/18

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Miami, FL December 23, 2018: For almost three decades the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association has celebrated the seven-day Pan-African holiday of Kwanzaa. This year, due to renovations at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center and the absence of many members traveling to witness the University’s famous marching band participate in the Rose Bowl and surrounding activities, it seemed the event would not take place. 

When one of the organization’s community partners found out the celebration was going on hiatus this year, the true Spirit of Kwanzaa took over and plans were quickly changed. On Saturday, December 29, at 3 pm, the 29th Annual Mary Williams Woodard Legacy Kwanzaa Celebration will take place at The ARC (Arts & Recreation Center), 675 Ali Baba Avenue, Opa-locka, FL 33054,

“We are deeply appreciative that Opa-locka Vice Mayor Chris Davis, the Opa-locka CDC, Zoe’s Dolls and Next Generation Dance Academy reached out to help. Their support lets us know our teaching the Principles of Kwanzaa at this celebration through the years, has not been in vain,” said Vanessa Woodard Byers, event chair, and daughter of the late Mary Williams Woodard, educator and Kwanzaa advocate for whom this celebration is named. 

Kwanzaa is a non-religious, non-political community-building and family-strengthening holiday. The community is invited to come out and learn more about it. There will be music, dance, poetry and other artistic demonstrations. One of the highlights of the event is the distribution of dolls by young philanthropist, speaker, and business executive, Zoe Terry. Through her company, Zoe’s Dolls, dolls are given to little black and brown girls as a vehicle for building self-esteem and pride in their self-image. 

The event is free but register online at KwanzaaMiami29.eventbrite.com. Donations of books and new, unwrapped educational toys, for children in the local community, are appreciated. Potluck food donations for the Feast are also welcome. It is hosted by the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association, the Dr. Arthur & Mary Woodard Foundation for Education and Culture and Chief Nathaniel Styles, Jr. of Osun's Village African Caribbean Arts Corridor in partnership with the Opa-locka CDC, Zoe's Dolls and Next Generation Dance Academy.

For more information, email Vanessa Woodard Byers at vanessawbyers@gmail.com or call (305) 343- 9088. Event updates are available on Facebook at Celebrate Kwanzaa in Miami and on Twitter at @KwanzaaMiami. 

HARAMBEE!

Here's video of last year's event courtesy of LaShannon of PrPlMiami.

 

 


A Moving Art Installation featuring South Florida’s Black Residents is set to tour the streets of Liberty City and Little Haiti

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MIAMI, FL - A South Florida photographer known for documenting Florida’s historically black neighborhoods is bringing her work back to the people she photographed  with a mobile photography installation.  Johanne Rahaman, creator of BlackFlorida, will unveil her latest exhibit, ‘From the South to the Southernmost- Liberty City to Little Haiti’ on a visible mobile LED screen truck that will tour these neighborhoods on Saturday, October 13, from 4:00pm to 9:00pm. Inspired by the relationships and familiarity to the people and the areas, Rahaman chooses to bring the exhibit to the streets instead of showing at an art gallery which can be considered to be “white spaces” and too “exclusive” for many.  This show is one of several more similar shows to follow in different neighborhoods.

The exhibition will feature images of community events Rahaman documented between 2015 and 2016 such as: Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parades in Liberty City and the monthly ‘Big Night in Little Haiti’ community festival along with the popular Rara processions.  The mobile show will also incorporate a musical score using music Rahaman curated while photographing inside the homes, churches, businesses and streets.  “While the visual show engages, the music will entertain and drive the pace of the exhibit”, says Rahaman. “I prefer to collaborate with a DJ from the communities that I'm featuring, who will curate a playlist that compliments the story of that community.”  ‘From the South to the Southernmost’ will begin at NW 7th Avenue and NW 79th Street, criss-crossing the streets and avenues to 54th Street, then across 54 Street to Little Haiti

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‘BlackFlorida’ is a photographic archive showcasing the nuances of rural towns and inner cities throughout Florida.  BlackFlorida is also one of 43 projects awarded The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Knight Arts Challenge 2017.

 


It's voting time! No excuses. Let's Go!

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Citizens of Wakanda, election season is upon us. Primary election day is August 28, 2018. If you are registered to vote in Florida, remember that you can vote by mail, vote early at any early voting site in your county or vote at your precinct on election day. See relevant information on the Miami-Dade County Elections site

Please see these resources from the League of Women Voters: BeReadyToVote.org and Vote411.org. Remember that the people who run things are those who vote. Blacks in Miami-Dade County are not expected to vote in significant numbers as long as Barack Obama is not on the ballot. Don't get mad, just vote. Wakanda Forever! 

This is how we should roll up in the polls to vote. #SquadGoals

Hidden figures

 Always remembering this:

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Choosing not to vote
 

 

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@vanessawbyers

 #InMyBlackPantherFeelings

 


Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated Installs 25th International President, Valerie Hollingsworth-Baker During Grand Boulé In New Orleans

 


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Valarie Hollingsworth-Baker, 25th International President of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated


WASHINGTON, July 25, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, a 98-year-old international women's service organization, held its Grand Boulé in New Orleans from July 18 – 22, 2018 with the purpose of bringing members together for business meetings, fellowship, community service, and rededication to its founding principles of Scholarship, Service, Sisterhood, and Finer Womanhood. During the Grand Boulé, Valerie Hollingsworth-Baker, Zeta's immediate past International First Vice President, was elected to International President, and will lead the organization into its centennial year in 2020.

The Brooklyn native is the Director of the Inforce Systems Division for New York Life Insurance Company in New York City, responsible for managing multi-million-dollar projects and programs, training personnel, and overseeing new product development as the chief administrator of one of the company's major subsystems. She is an alumna of Fordham University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree at the young age of eighteen. Hollingsworth-Baker has been recognized in the "Who's Who of Information and Technology" and "Outstanding Women of America" publications.

St. Augustine's Church, the NAACP, and the Hancock T&T Block Association where she serves as the vice president.

Mary Breaux Wright, of Houston, Texas, precedes Hollingsworth-Baker as Zeta's 24th International President.  Under her leadership, the sorority held record-breaking fundraising efforts for the March of Dimes, and made notable contributions to St. Jude, the American Cancer Society, Women's Veterans ROCK, and the Smithsonian African American Museum. Wright also led Zeta's international expansion, chartering chapters in Belgium, England, the United Arab Emirates, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated was founded in 1920 on the belief that the social nature of sorority life should not overshadow the real mission to address societal mores, ills, prejudices, poverty, and health concerns of the day. The international organization's 125,000+ initiated members, operating in more than 850 chapters, have given millions of voluntary hours to educate the public, provide scholarships, support charities, and promote legislation for social and civic change. For more information about Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, please visit www.zphib1920.org.


Dr. Steve Gallon III named Educator of the Year by Legacy Magazine

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Congratulations to Miami-Dade County School Board Member Dr. Steve Gallon III who was named the 2018 EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR by Legacy Magazine and recognized at a regal Wakanda-themed reception. Dr. Gallon is also the recipient of the National School Boards Association Council of Urban Boards of Education's (CUBE) prestigious 2017 Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award; was elected to the National School Boards Association's National Steering Committee and is president of the reactivated Miami Alliance of Black School Educators.

Congratulations to Dr. Gallon and all of the honorees of Legacy Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful & Influential Black Business Leaders of 2018.

 

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Overtown’s FolkLife Friday Open Air Market Celebrates the Soul of South Florida

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New Washington Heights Community Development Corporation presents FolkLife Friday Open Air Market Festival every first Friday along the 9th Street Pedestrian Mall located adjacent to the Historic Lyric Theater in Miami’s Overtown community. Powered by The Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, the festival is Overtown’s longest running and most consistent festival, celebrating over a decade of success highlighting South Florida’s movers and shakers, rhythms and vendors offering arts and crafts, foods and more.

FolkLife Friday returns Friday, May 4, with a new look, new sound and over 30 vendors offering custom created products from delicious Caribbean bites, freshly squeezed juices, skin oil and soaps, jewelry, artwork and so much more. Civil Rights Foot soldiers will also be honored by New Washington Heights President Jackie Bell and School Board Member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall.

Bell, the matriarch of Overtown and founder/creator of the FolkLife Friday festival is a walking talking community treasure. Having lived most of her life in Overtown, her love for the community and desire to maintain and share its glorious history is paramount. One vehicle to accomplish that goal is this festival she founded nine years ago.

Revamped with new hours, 11 am to 8pm, it precedes the Lyric Live Talent Showcase at the Historic Lyric Theater, and will now include a Happy Hour from 5 pm to 8 pm, complete with full bars, appetizer samples, “Sip n Paint” with MUCE Art and live music featuring the “Larry Dogg Band”. Songstress Maryel Epps will kick off the day’s entertainment at 11:30 a.m.

 

If you go:
Friday, May 4, 2018
11 am – 8 pm
9th Street Pedestrian Mall
NW 9th Street, Miami FL 33136
(Adjacent to the Lyric Theater)

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From left, Nicole Gates, owner of Lil Greenhouse Grill in Overtown and community matriarch, FolkLife Friday founder/creator Jackie Bell.