Government & Law

Juneteenth

Juneteenth 1-2

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.

Smith swearing in
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
Kenneth Rodney Tom
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.]

 


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! 

 

Va-va signature with butterflies

@vanessawbyers
 

 


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

Wakanda the vote-2
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:

Right-to_vote-small

Choosing not to vote
 

 

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@vanessawbyers

 #InMyBlackPantherFeelings

 


Judicial Candidate Forum, Mon. Aug. 6 at New Birth

GSCBWLA Judicial Candidates Forum 2018

The Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association (GSCBWLA), the Dade County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the South Florida Chapter of the National Action Network, the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of Florida, and the Miami Chapter of Jack and Jill of America are hosting a free community Judicial Candidates Forum on Monday, August 6, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. at New Birth Baptist Cathedral of Faith International, located at 2300 Northwest 135th Street, in Miami, Florida 33167. 

All of the Miami-Dade County judicial candidates, who will be on the August 2018 Primary Election ballot, have been invited to this Forum.  During the August Primary Election, there will be two (2) contested circuit judge seats and five (5) contested county court seats on the ballot.  In addition to presenting the candidates, we will also be presenting a Judicial Candidate Resource Guide for voters. 


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

NAACP SYG - revised

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.


Hot Talk and Civics Lesson on Last Sunday’s Episode of Hot Talk with Jill Tracey

hot talk with jill tracey
Last Sunday night's episode of Hot Talk with Jill Tracey was the personification of HOT. It was LIT! Click Jill's photo to listen. The fireworks start about 56:15.

Last Sunday night’s episode of Hot Talk with Jill Tracey was smoking hot and took an odd turn when the anticipated discussion between the candidates in the upcoming Florida Senate District 38 race, incumbent Daphne Campbell and challenger Jason Pizzo, turned into a bickering session and civics lesson but not the way one would have anticipated.

Campbell-Pizzo

Campbell was a no-show. She sent Brian Dennis to serve as her surrogate. Dennis said her son fell and hurt himself and she decided to stay home with him. Maybe not the best move and does not convey the best message to her constituents but that's what was said. Dennis, a minister, is a well-known community activist and columnist for The Miami Times. After the explanation of Campbell’s absence, there was some levity regarding children being closer to their mother. Then, as Dennis was asked about Campbell’s platform, the conversation went downhill rapidly. Dennis accused State Rep. Roy Hardemon of not giving Campbell credit for the $2 million in funding garnered for the Poinciana Industrial Park. Dennis said the bill was vetoed but Campbell brought it back. He also referenced a Miami Times article on the funding that features Hardemon, Dr. Mae Christian, author of the bill and “Broadway” Cuthbert Harewood, a local businessman and community organizer. Dennis took issue with Campbell being excluded from the photo and media coverage regarding funding for the industrial park. 

Min. Brian Dennis on Hot Talk
Min. Brian Dennis speaks on behalf of State Sen. Daphne Campbell.
miami times poinciana industrial park
From left, "Broadway" Cuthbert Harewood, Dr. Mae Christian and State Rep. Roy Hardemon in photo from the March 22, 2018 edition of The Miami Times show the $2 million appropriation for the Poinciana Industrial Park in the 2018-19 State Budget. Min. Brian Dennis said Senator Daphne Campbell helped secure the funding but was not credited by Hardemon and was unfairly excluded from the photo.

Hardemon called in to give his take on the Poinciana Park funding issue and the bill that was approved during the last Legislative Session. Christian also called in. She reiterated that she is the author of the bill. She said she doesn’t have a problem with Campbell and accused Dennis of trying to cause trouble. The bickering denigrated to the point that Christian called Dennis a liar. She went on to disclose that the money has not been received. It was supposed to be handled by the City of Miami but the property on which the transport center is to be built is in Miami-Dade County. Christian said they have been unsuccessful in getting a meeting with County budget director Jennifer Moon-Glazer. She also mentioned other funds of more substantial amounts that Dennis should be looking into rather than only focusing on the $2 million for the Poinciana Industrial Park.

Jason Pizzo interjected with an analogy that basically explained that both chambers of the Legislature (House and Senate) are required to get a bill passed. A bill beginning with HB identifies it as a House Bill and SB means a bill originated in the Senate. Dennis promised to provide Jill with e-mails supporting his position. He also promised to look into the status of the funding. Community activist Tangela Sears also called in. She explained that Legislators in different chambers do not share publicity with the sponsors of their companion bills. It’s not a slight to the legislator in the other chamber, that is just the way things are done.

Hb2767

Without getting caught up on who got the credit for funding, there are indeed questions that need to be answered about the process and the funding for the Poinciana Industrial Park Intermodal Logistics Center. Researching myfloridahouse.gov shows that there might be some validity to the points Brian Dennis made. Hardemon’s HB 2767 indicates "indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration" on March 10 but included in the Appropriations Act, or State Budget, on March 11. That seems strange. Please note that there is no indication of a companion "Senate Bill" for Hardemon’s House Bill but Senator Campbell did submit a Local Funding Initiative Request via Senate form 1203. Folks more knowledgeable in the legislative appropriations process are following up on what happened.  [Download FY2018-19_S1203]

 

Hb 2767 status
Highlighted language of the history of HB 2767 shows it was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration on 03/10/2018 but included in the State Budget on the following day.
GAA
This is how the funding for the Poinciana Industrial Parl Intermodal Logistics Center is listed in the State 2018-19 General Appropriations Act (State Budget). Please note that the original request was for $25 million.

 

Here is a link to the show. Please take the time to listen to the entire show as it shares crucial information about the New Florida Vision PAC and the push to elect Andrew Gillum governor of Florida, the grand opening of Jonathan Spikes’ AFFIRMing Youth Center, comments on Pumps Pearls & Politics 2018 and other important topics. The heated discussion starts about 56:15 of the recording after Jill introduces the folks in the studio.

At the end of the day, most people will listen to the July 29, 2018 episode of Hot Talk because of the bickering. Let’s look at it as a teachable lesson and a learning opportunity. Most of us have a lot to learn about the detailed machinations of our government and laws. Let’s take the time to do so and hold our elected officials responsible for communicating with us about the laws they approve or disapprove. It is also crucial to note that the original funding request for the Poinciana Industrial Park Intermodal Logistics Center was for $25 million. How effective will the project be for $2 million? Or will it be another project in which funds are squandered in the Black community? #STAYwoke

 

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@vanessawbyers
 

 


 Florida’s Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates in First South Florida Debate Tonight

The first South Florida Gubernatorial Debate of the 2018 election cycle will be held this evening, June 11, at 7 PM EST at Miramar Cultural Center, 2400 Civic Center Place, Miramar, FL 33025. SEIU (Service Employees International Union) has partnered with several organizations to host this debate, dubbed the Florida Freedom Forum. Four of the five democratic candidates are scheduled to participate: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham, Chris King, and former Mayor of Miami Beach Philip Levine. Recently declared candidate, businessman Jeff Greene, is not scheduled to participate in this debate.

2018 dem gubernatorial candidates

If you are not one of those blessed with a ticket to watch it in person, not to fret, you can watch it online at the SEIU websiteor via their  Facebook page. There are also watch parties in TampaWest Palm BeachJacksonville, and Orlando. Join the conversation online by using the hashtag #FLFreedomForum.

PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor, a Miami native, and WLRN Public Media’s Luis Hernandez will co-moderate the forum.

alcindor and hernandez

Joining SEIU to host this event is a coalition of groups including Dream Defenders Action FundFlorida Immigration Coalition (FLIC) VotesNew Florida MajorityOrganize FloridaPlanned Parenthood Florida PAC, and Color of Change PAC