Current Affairs

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.
Judge Smith 5000 Role Models
Judge Rodney Smith and son with Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson and fellow  5000 Role Models and staff.
Judge Rodney Smith and 100 Black Men
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. 
Judge Smith with Kappa brothers
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.



 


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.

 


Broward County Elections Supervisor Dr. Brenda Snipes Suspended Without Pay by Gov. Rick Scott

Scott and Snipes

On Friday, November 30, 2018, twelve days after embattled Broward County Supervisor of Elections (SOE), Dr. Brenda Snipes, submitted her letter of resignation — effective January 4, 2019 — Florida governor and US Senator-elect Rick Scott issued an executive order suspending her from office. Scott’s Order cites reasons for the suspension; prohibits Snipes from receiving any pay or allowance; and appoints her replacement, Peter Antonacci.

 

Scott Exec Order
Page 5 of 5 of Executive Order filed by Florida Governor Rick Scott suspending Broward Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes and naming her replacement, Peter Antonacci.

 

Scott could have allowed Snipes to leave her position quietly, but no. Snipes has not been publicly humiliated enough for him; Scott wants her punished. During the midterm elections, Snipes became the face of election fraud, corruption and incompetence depending on to whom one spoke. After Scott quickly accused Snipes of fraud, without any proof, Republicans, the far right and some Democrats called for her to be jailed or fired. Snipes was accused of sabotaging Senator Bill Nelson, whom Scott defeated, and also being a double agent working for the Republicans.

Dr. Snipes and her legal team held a press conference yesterday. It was attended by a few black elected officials, some black ministers and several black women dressed in red as identified by mainstream media. For the record, the ladies in red and Snipes are members of Delta Sigma Theta, a black Greek-letter sorority. During the press conference, attorneys Burnadette Norris-Weeks and Michelle Austin Pamies refuted the claims outlined in Gov. Scott’s executive order. The suspension of Dr. Brenda Snipes is on the verge of becoming a one-dimensional racial issue when it is that and more. The suspension of Brenda Snipes is a power play. For whatever reason, white critics of Gov. Scott’s executive order were conspicuously missing.

 

Not condoning any missteps by Snipes and her staff, recognize what’s at play by targeting her and heavily-Democratic Broward County. The new Broward SOE has the power to easily suppress the vote just in time to deliver Florida and the presidential election to Donald Trump and other down-ballot Republicans in 2020. The SOE determines the early voting sites, hours, precinct staffing, etc.

Lest we forget, Dr. Brenda Snipes was appointed SOE in November 2003 by then Gov. Jeb Bush. She was subsequently elected in 2004 and overwhelmingly re-elected in 2008, 2012 and 2016. Does Gov. Scott not respect for the will of the people of Broward County? If the people were not satisfied with her performance, there were several opportunities to elect one of her opponents. As a candidate on the ballot, Scott really should not have made the inflammatory and potentially slanderous statements about her.

The immediate suspension of Dr. Snipes by Gov. Scott placed the final decision on her removal from office on the agenda of the Florida Senate and prolonging this unpleasant situation. Gov. Scott’s decision to suspend Dr. Snipes after she had already submitted her resignation demonstrates poor leadership. Suspending Dr. Snipes and withholding her pay is the height of pettiness and maliciousness.

 

@vanessawbyers

 

Related Link: Executive Order of Suspension 

 


Miami Kappas Get Out the Vote Saturday 10/27

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The men of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity will be hosting voter mobilization and education events across Florida on Saturday, October 27. The Miami Alumni Chapter’s event will be held at Miami Dade College North Campus, 3:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Come out and learn more about the ballot, cast your vote and fellowship with the brothers of the frat so nice they had to name it twice. Don’t miss the free food, entertainment, games and much more. For more info, visit #ItsAKappaPartyFL on Facebook! 

 

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@vanessawbyers
 

 


White Doctor Says Police Treated Him Like a ‘F&*%king Black Person’ [VIDEO]

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Lakeland, Florida medical doctor Jeffrey Epstein is tackled by Orlando Police as he has a meltdown at Orlando International Airport.

Jeffrey Epstein, a white medical doctor based in Lakeland, Florida acted a complete fool at the American Airlines counter at Orlando International Airport on August 16, 2018. After several minutes of berating the police officers who arrived to handle the situation, Epstein was tackled to the ground as he resisted arrest. Epstein went on to say he was being treated like an f&*%king black person.

When confronted by the media after he was released on bail, Epstein came up with a lame story about making the racial comment to make a point about how black people are treated by the police. Really? That’s the best he could do. Wow. Epstein, 59, described himself as a conservative Republican and a Trump guy. A Trump guy? Hmmm… Think on that for a moment. I guess we shouldn’t expect him to take a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and NFL players, now should we? 

Epstein lied. The police did not treat him like a Black person. He wasn’t beat up or shot. White privilege is real.

 

 

 

Va-va signature with butterflies

@vanessawbyers


 

 


EBONY Magazine Presents Its Annual Fashion Issue, Starring Issa Rae

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EBONY magazine releases its Fashion issue, featuring ISSA RAE on the cover. In the accompanying exclusive interview, EBONY has an intimate conversation with the producer and Emmy Award-nominated actor who took her award-winning web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, and grew it into a media empire, which includes Rae’s HBO hit series, Insecure. She also dishes on her determination to dispel the misconception that Black women can’t be weak.

“The ability to be vulnerable with your sisters and friends is so crucial and kind of outweighs the strong Black women narrative. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s just you can’t be that all the time,” says Rae.

In addition to the cover story, the Fashion issue also features the 2017–2018 EBONY HBCU Queens, who have royally demonstrated the ability to inspire, lead and give back to their communities. Readers will also get a glimpse at the latest in high-end streetwear; learn how to get Donald Glover’s fashionable look; actor Derek Luke dishes on his role in 13 Reasons Why and the importance of mental health awareness; and the Fall beauty roundup is filled with ’90s hair and makeup trends.

“The Fashion issue is all about providing a platform to showcase and celebrate the current Black players in the fashion world, whether seasoned or up-and-coming. For so long, Black people didn’t have a place to be recognized for their creativity and individuality—and EBONY is happy to provide this opportunity,” says Linda Johnson Rice, chairman emeritus of EBONY Media Operations. “This issue also celebrates young Black talent, like Issa Rae, who is breaking boundaries and empowering other women and people of color to jump feet first into the entertainment world.”

Get the September 2018 digital edition of EBONY via Texture, Google Play, Apple iTunes and Kindle now and on newsstands August 21. For more with Rae and behind-the-scenes content, visit ebony.com/InsideEbony.

 


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
 

 

Va-va signature with butterflies

@vanessawbyers

 #InMyBlackPantherFeelings

 


CALL TO ACTION: Murder of Markeis McGlockton and Florida's Stand Your Ground Law

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BALTIMORE  — The NAACP Florida State Conference calls on the U.S. Department of Justice to open an immediate investigation and immediately intervene into the murder of Markeis McGlockton.

 “We know the misapplication of this horrendous idea of a law of standing your ground was an excuse to allow George Zimmerman to get away with murdering a young Trayvon Martin; and now it’s being used as an excuse for the murder of Markeis McGlockton –a loving father who only sought to defend his family,” said NAACP Chairman and Florida native Leon W. Russell.

The alleged killer, Michael Drejka, was not arrested or charged by Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri based on the Sheriff’s acceptance of his claim of the right to kill McGlockton according to the “Stand Your Ground” law. The case has been referred to the State’s Attorney who will determine whether Drejka’s excuse for murder will be accepted or if he will be charged? Regardless of the State Attorneys decision, the National Office of the NAACP joined the NAACP Florida State Conference and the NAACP Clearwater, Florida Branch in demanding the Department of Justice step in and investigates this killing.

“In cases like this, where local law enforcement fails to protect its citizens equally, it is the duty of the Department of Justice to step in and provide those protections,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “We call on Jeff Sessions to do his job and to forcefully and clearly counter the growing attitude among many that its open season on Black lives.”

The Florida NAACP has continued to monitor the case and stand firm in its call for justice.  “This law must be changed. How many more black men and women have to die based on this inhumane law.” said Adora Obi Nweze, NAACP Florida State Conference President and National Board member.

“We’ve got to fight back against this law, it’s basically a license to target and kill Black people,” said Marva McWhite, NAACP Clearwater Branch President.

The NAACP will participate in a rally on Sunday against the killing that features the Rev. Al Sharpton.