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In Remembrance of Two Fallen Hometown Heroes on Memorial Day: Staff Sgt. Edmond L. Randle, Jr. and Sgt. La David Johnson

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Today we observe Memorial Day, previously known as Decoration Day, to honor men and women who died in active military service to this country.

The very first Memorial Day was on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, S.C. when formerly enslaved Africans held a ceremony to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp.

They spent the next two weeks digging up each body and giving them a proper burial to honor them for fighting and dying for their freedom. The gracious African Americans then held a parade of 10,000, led by a procession of nearly 3,000 black children dancing, singing and marching in celebration.

In keeping with the original spirit and honor of the first Memorial Day observance, we recognize the sacrifice of two heroes from Miami Gardens who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Edmond L. Randle Jr. and U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson.

Sgt. La David Johnson

Miami Gardens hero Sgt. La David Johnson gave his life after being ambushed in Niger on October 4, 2017. Johnson and his team members — Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright were killed. His death captured the attention of the nation and mainly South Florida when the current occupant of the White House politicized Sgt. Johnson’s death and insulted Congresswoman Frederica Wilson in the process.

Video of Sgt. Johnson’s beautiful then-pregnant wife, Myeshia slumped over his casket in tears as it arrived home and their adorable children at their father’s funeral, tore at the heartstrings of anyone who is a human being. For many in South Florida, questions remain about Sgt. Johnson’s death. Inarguably, the nation owes him and his team members gratitude and tremendous honor forever.

Sgt. Edmond L. Randle, Jr.

On January 17, 2004, Sgt. Edmond L. Randle, Jr. of Miami Gardens became the first documented South Florida soldier to be killed by anti-US insurgents in Iraq. Randle was one of three soldiers who died that day when a homemade explosive device struck their vehicle near Baghdad.
 
Sgt. Randle attended American Senior High for part of his high school years but continued the family tradition by graduating from Miami Central Senior High. Like his father, Edmond Randle, Sr., Sgt. Randle was a standout musician in the Marching Rockets Band at Miami Central and continued at Florida A&M University where he earned a music scholarship and was a section leader in the famous Marching 100. Because he wanted to be a pharmacist, he gave up his music scholarship and volunteered for the Army, which would help fund his educational plans.
  
Despite its origins, the African American impact on the shaping of Memorial Day is mostly forgotten and ignored by the mainstream. Let’s do our part in making sure all soldiers are remembered who gave their lives in service to this country. Let’s remember the origins of Memorial Day and especially never forget Staff Sgt. Edmond L. “Dakie” Randle and Sgt. La David Johnson.

 


Where is Kameela Russell?

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Miami Norland Senior High School teacher and test chairperson, Kameela Russell is missing. Born in the Bahamas, Kameela is a beloved mother, daughter and friend to many who are praying for her safe return home. 

Several of her classmates from Miami Northwestern High School and Florida State University speak of how smart Kameela is, as well as kind. She was born into a family of highly-educated people with many relatives in the medical field. Kameela was also musician. One of her instruments is the violin.

Contrary to rumors on social media, Kameela has not been found. Miami Gardens Police and other law enforcement entities have searched the Andover community in Miami Gardens where Kameela was last seen on the evening of May 15 when she went to pickup her younger daughter from her aunt's home. The aunt, Donna Blyden, thought she saw Kameela's car in the driveway. She texted Kameela but received no response. 

If you know anything about the disappearance of Kameela Russell, please call Miami Gardens Police Department at 305-474-6473. 

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Trayvon Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III vie for District 1 County Commission seat

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Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, broke local social media with the announcement of her run for the District 1 commission seat for Miami-Dade County (FL). She also garnered national attention from many media outlets as well as support from award-winning actress and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg from The View. Fulton’s decision disrupted plans of term-limited Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III and his supporters. Gilbert was perceived as a shoo-in for the seat held by Barbara Jordan for the last 16 years. Jordan is ineligible to run again as term-limits kick in for the first group of county commissioners.

Fulton, a former long-time county employee, gained international notoriety because of the fatal shooting of her younger son, Trayvon. Since that horrible incident, she has become a community advocate, author, public speaker, executive producer, member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and received an honorary doctorate degree. Although this is Fulton’s first run for elected public office, she checks all the boxes that are most essential regarding electability criteria --- name recognition and likeability.

During his tenure as mayor, Gilbert has been faced with law enforcement, sexual harassment and personal controversies but he is also credited with the business growth of the City of Miami Gardens and the return of the historic Orange Blossom Classic football game. It is also noteworthy that Gilbert has amassed more than $400,000 between his campaign account and political committee. While he faces a formidable opponent in Sybrina Fulton, Gilbert is not likely to shrink into the background. This race will be a battle until the end. 

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Unfortunately, there are already signs that this race will likely be very negative. In social media exchanges, supporters of both candidates are trying to have the last word in a situation that will be decided by the voters of District 1 in August 2020. The public discourse is expected. Politics is a contact sport and Miami politics can be particularly dirty. Stay tuned; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 


Documentary on Liberty City’s MLK Day Bike Riders wins funding from The Block, Oolite Arts’ new short documentary contest [VIDEO]

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Miami filmmaker Dorian Munroe receives $14,000 to produce film

MIAMI BEACH – Seeking to tell the stories of the Liberty City bike riders who fill the streets on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in an act of community and protest, filmmaker Dorian Munroe took home the top prize in The Block, Oolite Arts’ new short documentary contest.

Munroe received $14,000 from Oolite Arts to produce the documentary “These Kids This City,” which he began to shoot during the 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. This year, some of the bike riders, who were protesting redevelopment in Liberty City, were confronted by an angry man on the Brickell Bridge, who threatened them with a gun and racial slurs, and was ultimately charged with a hate crime.

“Growing up in Miami, I was always curious about this movement. Why Liberty City, and why on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? I’ve always seen it depicted negatively by the media, so this year I set out to see this movement first hand and to answer these questions for myself,” Munroe said. “In light of the hate crime and the viral video that captured it, this movement has been catapulted into the national spotlight.”

Munroe pitched his idea before a live studio audience and a jury of national and local film professionals for The Block, one of the ways Oolite Arts seeks to build a pipeline of local filmmakers. With stories from Hialeah to Westchester and the waters off Coconut Grove, each of the finalists received a cash prize for their film – with a total of $32,000 invested in the documentaries.

“Miami is a city of stories, and winners of The Block are helping to shine a light on them all over our county. We’re delighted to be able to give them the support they need to bring these stories to our screens,” said Dennis Scholl, Oolite Arts’ president and CEO.

All of the finalists will receive access to the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archive.The top three winners will receive help making their films from the University of Miami School of Communication’s Department of Cinema and Interactive Media. The Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation is the lead sponsor for this program.

"By supporting these filmmakers, we're supporting the communities whose stories they're sharing,” said Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, Oolite Arts’ Cinematic Arts program manager. “Homegrown films such as these allow us to understand ourselves and our neighbors across Miami more deeply."

 



The other winners, and their award amounts, are as follows:

Guadalupe Figueras, for “Isle of Mine” ($8,000)

What is it like to come of age on an island threatened by the effects of climate change? A group of Normandy Isle children explore their own future, by reconstructing an exact replica of their neighborhood on the gaming platform Minecraft. In this virtual world, the children rehearse future scenarios of climate change-induced disasters, in a telling re-enactment of their own trauma following Hurricane Irma. The mixed media documentary “Isle of Mine” will provide a way for them to express their feelings about the future, while imagining other possible solutions and outcomes for their hometown.

 

Ariana Hernández-Reguant, for Seminola, Hialeah” ($6,000)

Every two years on a summer Saturday, the descendants of Seminola’s original settlers gather at the Hialeah neighborhood’s central green for Cotson Day, a celebration of community and history. Once a vibrant community of about 2,500 African Americans, the neighborhood has been decimated in recent years. The film will document this history, and follow past and current residents preparing for the big day.

 

Annik Adey-Babinski, for “Mooring” ($2,000)

For more than 30 years, 500-plus residents have called the mooring field and anchorage off Dinner Key Marina home. After monster storm Irma shredded docks and sank boats in 2017, landlubbing city officials left the community bobbing in disrepair. In “Mooring,” Mike and fellow liveaboards will reflect on the current state of the neighborhood and its storied past, and face the precarious future of their unique community.

 

Vincent Rives, for “El Afilador” ($2,000)

El Afilador– the knife sharpener – drives around the neighborhood in what appears to be an ice cream truck, complete with its own jingle. Yet a muffled voice blares from the speakerphone, offering the man’s services as a knife sharpener. To those not from the Westchester area, it sounds unusual. Why is this man sharpening knives in his truck? Locals know the man has brought a humble blue collar job from Cuba to the United States, and is, just like everyone else, trying to make a living.

In addition to the five finalists, the following filmmakers earned a special jury mention for their submissions, and will receive $1,000 for their projects: Daniel Rivero, Vanessa Charlot, Nicole Martinez, Alicia Edwards, Nadia Tahoun and Matthew Abad.

 

The Block is part of Oolite Arts’ new Cinematic Arts Program, which provides training and opportunities for local filmmakers, including a Cinematic Arts Residency which offers funding for filmmakers to make a microbudget narrative film.

For more information, visit oolitearts.org/TheBlock.


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 community Kwanzaa Celebration continues at The ARC in Opa-locka [VIDEO]

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The Spirit of Kwanzaa lives in Miami-Dade County. On Saturday, December 29, 2018, it was demonstrated at The ARC (Arts & Recreation Center) in the beautiful City of Opa-locka, Florida. The 29th Annual Mary Williams Woodard Legacy Kwanzaa Celebration evolved into a true community event welcomed by various groups and entities beyond its local beginnings. 

More than 150 people were in attendance as the traditional procession of the Council of Community Elders was announced via drummer Jah Will B. Elders are not recognized because of age but due to their contributions to the community. Many are often unsung heroes. This year’s elders included Chief Nathaniel B. Styles Jr. who also served as event MC; HRH Iya Orite Adefunmi; School Board Member Dorothy Bendross Mindingall; Bernadette Cecelia Poitier; Rubye Howard; Thomasina Turner-Diggs; Eric Pettus; “Broadway” Cuthbert Harewood; James Wright; Amare and Amani Amari; Netcher Hopi Mose and Angela Berry.

Because of construction at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, where the event has been presented for many years, its consecutive presentation would have been interrupted were it not for Opa-locka Vice Mayor Chris Davis; Nakeisha Williams and the Opa-Locka CDC; and Nakia Bowling of Zoe’s Dolls. 

As is customary, the Nguzo Saba, Seven Principles of Kwanzaa and symbols of Kwanzaa were explained with the assistance of audience members and the Ivy Rosettes of Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority who also served as hostesses. Tracey Jackson delivered the welcome on behalf of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association. Remembering those who have transitioned is an important aspect of Kwanzaa. Dr. Natasha C. Stubbs delivered a moving recognition of local and national individuals who became deceased since last year’s Kwanzaa event. Entertainment was provided by the Next Generation Dance Academy and poets Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns and realproperlike. New World School of the Arts junior, Nicholaus Gelin, serenaded attendees with his trumpet during the feast portion of the evening.

“We enjoyed the event,” said a mother who traveled from Coral Springs with her son and his best friend to attend the celebration. They said they will attend next year and the boys want to participate on the program. 

The Kwanzaa Celebration is hosted by the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU Alumni Association, the Dr. Arthur and Mary Woodard Foundation for Education and Culture; and Osun’s Village African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor.

 



 

 

 

 

 


Happy Kwanzaa! Day 7: Imani - Faith

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Greeting: Habari Gani?! (What's going on?)

Response: Imani! [ee-mah-nee]

 

Today is the seventh day of Kwanzaa. On this day we celebrate the principle of faith. According to the Nguzo Saba (seven principles), faith means: "To believe, with all our heart, in our Creator, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle." 

We must have confidence in ourselves, in our leaders, teachers, parents and in the righteousness and victory of our struggle, faith that through hard work, we can regain our rightful place of prominence as a free, proud and productive people. 

Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration for a year-long practice. Remember the Nguzo Saba all-year-long!

Harambee!

Harambee!

Harambee!

Harambee!

Harambee!

Harambee!

HARAMBEE!

 


Happy Kwanzaa! Day 6: Kuumba - Creativity

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Greeting: Habari Gani?! (What's going on?)

Response: Kuumba! [koo-oom-bah]

Today is the sixth day of Kwanzaa. On this day we celebrate the principle of creativity. According to the Nguzo Saba (seven principles), creativity means: “to do always as much as we can in the way that we can in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.” We are a creative people. 

Harambee!


Kwanzaa Day 5: Let's Celebrate Nia (Purpose)!

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Greeting: Habari gani!

Response: Nia!

 

Today is the fifth day of Kwanzaa, the principle we celebrate is purpose. “To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.” 

This principle is about legacy. It clearly indicates that it is our responsibility, as a people group, to do what we must to build and develop our community to restore our people to their rightful place of prominence.

Pay attention. In communities throughout the United States, the legacy of the people of the African diaspora has been or is being destroyed. Let’s protect our communities. Let’s protect our legacy.

 

Harambee!