Marking “The Year That Changed The World,” Essence Releases First-Ever Quilt Artwork Cover — Capturing the Transformative Events Of 2020

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Striking Cover Image is a Visual Interpretation of the Challenges and Triumphs of the Black Community After Facing an Unprecedented Year Filled with Social Unrest, Police Brutality, Economic and Health Disparities, COVID-19 and More

 

The news of Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd has caused many to reflect on the seemingly endless challengesand endless hope, fight and resiliencethat the Black community has experienced and demonstrated, particularly over the past year. Chronicling “the year that changed the world,” ESSENCE—the leading and only 100% Black-owned media, technology and commerce company at scale dedicated to Black women and communities—today debuted its May/June 2021 issue cover as a striking visual interpretation that juxtaposes the challenges and triumphs of a community after an unprecedented year of heightened social and political unrest, police brutality, economic and health inequities, COVID-19 and more. The quilt artwork cover, createby contemporary artist Bisa Butler and commissioned exclusively by ESSENCE, is one-of-a-kind and the first-of-its-kind used by ESSENCE for a cover in its more than 50-year history.  Butler is widely recognized for her depictions of African-American identity and life in the American experience, combining portraiture and the highly skilled craft and tradition of quilting to deliver engaging pieces that spark dialogue.

 

ESSENCE assembled an array of notable voices—from activists, journalists, artists and writers—who shared their perspectives on witnessing history unfold, creating change and being champions for freedom. Guest contributors include: activist and author Tamika Mallory, who shared an excerpt from her upcoming book State of Emergency; CNN anchor Abby Phillipjournalist and scholar Clint Smith; Paris-based producer Robin Allison Davisrace, culture and identity writer Kovie Biakolo; writer/activist Kimberly Latrice Jones; activist Lynee Vanee Bogues; and more. The issue also features ESSENCE CEO Caroline Wanga’s debut column entitled “Plate Full of Parsley,” which accentuates power, equity and authenticity as key ingredients for a new kind of soul food for the sisterhood.

 

“Some events are so defining that they continue to transform generations long after they occur, and such have been the collective events of the past year,” said Latraviette D. Smith-Wilson, Chief Strategy & Engagement Officer, ESSENCE.  “Whether those sworn to protect us having no regard for our lives, health and economic disparities heightened under a global pandemic, violent attacks on the U.S. Capitol and American democracy and more, we have witnessed a deluge of inhumanity that has only been rivaled by the resilience of our humanity.  This is what our incredible team has captured throughout the pages of ESSENCE’s  May/June Issue and what we are so honored that Bisa Butler has visually interpreted through the colors, textures, fabrics and patterns of this amazing quilt artworkthe first of its kind for an ESSENCE cover. Each stitch tells the story of these times and threads together the narrative of the work left undone and the future of social justice and racial equity that we must create.”

 

ESSENCE’s ongoing focus on social justice, economic inclusion and equity issues will be highlighted this week in its upcoming airing of the 2021 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Awards, on ESSENCE.com and ESSENCEStudios.com this Thursday, April 22. Building on its years of providing platforms to ensure Black creatives were recognized when others ignored them and that they continue to “receive their flowers” for their contributions to Hollywood and global culture, this year’s experience, with the theme “Mastering Our Stories,” will focus on the resiliency of Black women in Hollywood through the years—including during the unprecedented pandemic. 

 

ESSENCE’s May/June issue will hit newsstands on Tuesday, April 27. For more on this issue, visit ESSENCE.com. 

 


Beacon For Change Receives 21 Computers and 14 Projectors for The Beacon School in Freeport, Grand Bahama

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Beacon For Change, Inc., a charitable organization, announced a donation of 21 computers and 14 projectors from Carol A. Gardner, CPA, President of TACOLCY Economic Development Corp (TEDC). This donation of electronics will be delivered to The Beacon School in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

The Beacon School currently serves a student population of 104 who have  a variety of special education needs. The student body includes children with Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, communication disorders, low impact visual impairments, and attention deficit disorders. Sonless Martin Jr., Chairman of Beacon For Change, expressed his gratitude for the donation from TEDC, “We’re so thankful for the donation, especially during these trying times,” said Martin. He is confident  the equipment will assist the institution tremendously as they navigate virtual schooling.


NAACP Florida State Conference Infuriated with Gov. DeSantis’ Signing HB 1 Into Law

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NAACP says this proposal is racist and discriminatory for black and brown Floridians.
 
Yesterday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1, his censorship and repression bill, into law as America awaits a verdict in the trial of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. The bad optics, but likely intentional timing, and an all-white contingent of supporters in the background at his press conference in Winter Haven, sends strong messages on who this bill targets. 
 
“Today is a sad day for Florida. The Governor signed H.B. 1 into law. The bill is racist, discriminatory, unwise, unlawful, and unjust. The Governor put his stamp on this discriminatory law filled with criminalization and civil rights disenfranchisement aimed at Black and Brown Floridians. We won’t sit silent on this issue and we won’t let this stop peaceful protests across the state of Florida,” says Adora Obi Nweze, President of NAACP Florida State Conference and member of the National Board of Directors.
 
HB 1 is effective immediately.
 

Miami Gardens City Council Says ‘No’ to Homeowners and Paves the Way for Formula One Racing

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On this past Wednesday evening, by a 5-2 vote, despite significant constituent opposition, the City of Miami Gardens Council followed through on what residents feared. They reversed the decision of last year’s council and voted in favor of a resolution that paves the way for Formula One Grand Prix racing to be held in Miami Gardens for at least a decade starting in 2022. 

Public comments at the council meeting were overwhelmingly in opposition to bringing Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium. There were reminders about environmental concerns, noise, and the vague promises delineated in the resolution. Individuals who spoke in support of the resolution had business ties to Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins organization. Owners of small, black-owned businesses shared testimonials on how the Miami Dolphins organization made it possible for them to operate during the pandemic. 

The last two in-person commenters at the council meeting, Shirley Gibson, the first mayor of the City of Miami Gardens, and Barbara Jordan who served as Miami-Dade County Commissioner for 16 years, brought out some crucial points on why the resolution and Formula One are detrimental for Miami Gardens.

Mayor Gibson also advised the council to read the resolution, especially the threat to the future of the Jazz in the Gardens concert weekend for which the city has earned international notoriety. “Jazz in the Gardens is not worth what we are going to lose,” said Mayor Gibson. She also reminded the council, as did others, that $5 million over a decade is not a lot of money. 

Commissioner Jordan pointed out the unrealistic financial benefit to the City since many of the Formula One patrons would likely be shuttled to Hard Rock Stadium and spend their money in the all-inclusive stadium environment rather than patronize surrounding small businesses in Miami Gardens. 

Despite last year’s unanimous council vote rejecting Formula One, it was a foregone conclusion when Mayor Rodney Harris introduced the proposal via mainstream media that a sufficient number of council member votes had already been secured for its passage. Many residents questioned what changed since then. It would be easy to blame it on new members to the council, but two of the four new council members voted no - Shannon Campbell and Shannan Ighodaro. The remaining two new members - Linda Julien and Robert Stephens and the three veteran members - Mayor Harris, Vice Mayor Reggie Leon, and Katrina Wilson voted yes. 

Optics matter

It’s not lost on observers that Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins organization made smart, strategic moves that used black people to represent them and speak in favor of Formula One, thereby placing the all-black governing council of the City of Miami Gardens in the precarious position of direct conflict with their constituents who are also mostly black.

I caution you to think critically and be careful as news is reported about this situation. Some media outlets reporting on the issue will have you believe the Miami Gardens homeowners are unreasonable. Still, the devil is in the details of the resolution the council eventually approved. 

It’s also important to remember that the City of Miami Gardens is embroiled in this situation because residents in the City of Miami no longer wanted Formula One racing in their community for many of the same reasons the residents of Miami Gardens don’t want it in their neighborhood. What’s terrible for one community is good for another community? Really? 

It’s embarrassing that a majority-black-led city would accept the trinkets, yes, trinkets as Commissioner Jordan referred to them, it will receive from multi-billionaire Stephen Ross and almost grovel when speaking of the Miami Dolphins philanthropic community endeavors as if they are the only organization feeding people in need. Like many businesses who do the same, they also write these donations off on their income taxes. No doubt, the gifts that were supposed to be given freely actually came at the cost of some folks integrity or exposed their lack thereof. 

It would be a mistake for Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins organization, and anyone else to think the homeowners, UP-PAC and the NAACP will quietly accept this latest vote. Stay tuned.

 

Related Links:

City of Miami Gardens Council Meeting April 14, 2021, on YouTube

Formula One: The Racing Event that Refuses to Accept “No” from Black Homeowners 

 


Formula  One: The Racing Event that Refuses to Accept “No” from Black Homeowners

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In 2018,  Formula One Grand Prix racing on city streets was rejected by residents in downtown Miami due to excessive noise, environmental pollution and traffic chaos. In 2019, real estate developer, sports team owner and philanthropist Stephen Ross sought to move the multi-day event to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Residents rejected the event for many of the same reasons it was rejected in downtown Miami. It’s 2021; rather than find another location for the racing event, Ross appears to have been strategic and waited long enough for supportive leaders to be elected or selected to the Miami Gardens City Council to approve his event.

At tonight’s Miami Gardens City Council meeting, Mayor Rodney Harris will proffer a resolution that is purported to satisfy Ross and concerned residents. His resolution addresses major critical concerns surrounding noise and environmental pollution. Moreover, his resolution also indicates the event will not be held on 199 street or 27th avenue. There are also promises of $5 million to the City, funding for STEM programs at schools, opportunities for local restaurants and paid internships for students.

Those all sound great to most people, but the devil is in the details. First of all, on its surface, the body of the resolution appears to have been crafted by the Dolphins organization. Secondly, that $5 million amount might sway many people, but it translates to $500,000 or less per year over a 10-year-period. In the multi-billionaire world of Stephen Ross, that’s less than chump change, don’t sell yourself cheap, Miami Gardens. Thirdly, if this is such a great idea, why did residents have to find out via local media?

A town hall meeting or workshop with the mayor, council members, and the public could have been an excellent vehicle for introducing this resolution. There could have been dialog, and questions could have been asked and answered if it was all above board. Instead, this resolution seems rushed, forced, and shady. Instead, residents and a coalition of organizations — Miami Gardens Families Unite, UP-PAC (Unrepresented People’s Positive Action Council), and the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP continue to protest Formula One racing in Miami Gardens.

Not surprisingly, local politicians who seek support from Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins organization for philanthropic purposes and are trying to walk a fine line regarding this situation. It’s simple, though; the Black community should never be for sale. Not for toy drives or a luncheon or frozen turkeys or backpacks. Not for anything. Will the Miami Dolphins discontinue their philanthropic efforts if the Miami Gardens City Council rejects the mayor’s resolution? No, that would be bad public relations for the Miami Dolphins organization.  

Pay attention. A protest is scheduled at 4 p.m. today at Miami Gardens City Hall. The City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live on the City’s website via the Agenda Web Portal at  /Portal/Video.aspx and YouTube Live. City Council Chambers are closed to the public, but an exemption will be made for one individual at a time to enter Council Chambers to address the City Council during the Open Public Comment portion of the City Council meeting on a particular item.

The mayor’s resolution is Agenda Item 12.1. It is toward the end of the printed agenda but could be taken out of order. If you wish to give public comment, pre-register with the City Clerk no later than 6 p.m. by emailing mbataille@miamigardens-fl.gov.

 


Dr. Steve Gallon III Unanimously Elected Chair of CUBE, Steering Committee

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Miami-Dade County School Board Vice Chair Dr. Steve Gallon III was unanimously elected Chair of the National Steering Committee of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) at its annual business meeting held virtually on Thursday, April 1, 2021. After considering his nomination and his service as Vice Chair over the past year, Dr. Gallon was elected, without opposition, by school board members representing regions from around the country.

 

Dr. Gallon, who has served as a teacher, principal, district administrator, and Superintendent of Schools was first elected to the National Steering Committee of the Council of Urban Boards of Education on April 7, 2018, in San Antonio, Texas, becoming the first Miami-Dade School Board member to be elected this committee in more than a decade. In addition to Chair, he will continue to serve his term representing the southern region of the United States.

 

For more than 50 years, CUBE has been at the forefront of helping urban school districts strive for excellence. Established in 1967 by the National School Board Association’s (NSBA) Board of Directors, CUBE is a national membership organization guided by Steering Committee members who represent a diverse group of urban school board members dedicated to the needs of children in urban centers and who provide guidance and leadership to carry out the vision of the organization.

 

CUBE’s mission is to create opportunities for urban school board leaders to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective policymakers and advocates for equity and excellence in public education. CUBE currently represents over 100 urban school districts in 32 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its member districts educate nearly eight million students in almost 12,000 schools with a collective budget of $99 billion. 

 

CUBE helps urban school board leaders find solutions to challenges at the local level and seeks to improve their policy-making effectiveness. CUBE creates a forum for urban school board members to share innovative practices through seminars, conferences, legislative advocacy, research projects, professional networking opportunities, specialized publications, and local governance and policy assistance.

 

“I am deeply humbled and honored to have been unanimously elected by my peers as the new Chair of the CUBE Steering Committee and am moved by their confidence and support. Having spent over three decades in public education, and in roles ranging from teacher, assistant principal, and principal, to district administrator, superintendent, and elected School Board Member in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation's 4th largest school district, I look forward to our collective and continued work of advocating for educational equity, enlightenment, and empowerment for under voiced and underserved student populations across the nation. As we enter into new, uncharted waters of a post-COVID-19 educational reality, we must become even more deliberate, intentional, strategic, and unapologetic in our articulation and actions regarding addressing the increased needs and challenges of educating poor, Black, and Hispanic students in our nation's schools. My life's personal journey and professional work have prepared me for such a time as this." 

To learn more about Dr. Gallon’s work as a School Board Member for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, click here: http://district1.dadeschools.net/.

 


High-Achieving Triplet Brothers to Graduate from Grambling State University on April 15

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April 15, 2021 will be forever etched in the history of Grambling State University as the Wilson Brothers – Stevie, Steven and Stephon are the first set of fraternal triplets to graduate from Grambling State University.  Adding to the joy of their latest accomplishments is the fact they were born eight weeks premature and medical experts said the brothers would experience developmental delays. So much for experts.

Upon being awarded their baccalaureate degrees, Stevie, a biology major, plans on becoming a physician. His next step is completing the virtual MCAT prep program at the University of Miami. Steven, also a biology major, aspires to become an anesthesiologist; he will take a gap year before attending medical school. Stephon, a double major in management and computer information systems, will move into a permanent position with the FDIC. Congratulations to the Wilson triplets and everyone who helped them accomplish their goals. 

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Wilson to Host Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee Hearing on the Future of Higher Education Post-COVID

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Washington, D.C. – Today, at 1 p.m. ET, Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson will lead her first hearing as chair of the Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment. The theme is Rising to the Challenge: The Future of Higher Education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted significant inequities in higher education and placed an enormous strain on universities and colleges and their students. The abrupt shift to remote learning has exacerbated barriers that make it difficult to successfully attend and graduate from college, particularly for low-income students and students of color who depend more heavily on the on-campus services they no longer had access to, including food and housing. While all students have been impacted by the pandemic, the biggest enrollment declines have occurred among black undergraduates and low-income students. Alarmingly, students who do not complete their educations have considerably higher levels of loan default. There is also evidence that the shift to online learning has compounded existing racial achievement gaps.

“The three relief packages passed by Congress invests more than $75 billion to help institutions and students avert crises, but we must do much more to ensure that underserved students are not left behind as the nation recovers from the pandemic,” says Congresswoman Wilson. “Bold steps will be required to strengthen student protections and expand access to student aid so that we build back a better higher education system for everyone. This hearing will explore how we can begin to achieve those goals.”

To watch the hearing, click here.

 


Follow the Money: School Board Vice-Chair Dr. Steve Gallon Proposes Item to Address the Receipt, Plan and Accountability for the District’s Nearly $1.1 Billion from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

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At today’s Miami-Dade County School Board Meeting, Vice-Chair Dr. Steve Gallon III will propose an agenda item regarding the almost $1.1 billion the school district receives from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress. It intends to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession, which developed as a consequence. First proposed on January 14, 2021, the package builds upon many of the measures in the CARES Act from March 2020 and in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 from December 2020. 

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $1,400 direct payments to individuals making up to $75,000 annually, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, and $14 billion for vaccine distribution. It also provides $130 billion to elementary, middle, and high schools to assist with safe reopening, with Florida slated to receive approximately $7.4 billion. Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district and having the highest proportion of economically disadvantaged students, is estimated to receive $1.1 billion. The bill will also directly impact local students and families through individual relief measures, including child tax credits that are projected to reduce child poverty substantially. 

With the infusion of these funds, the District will enhance its capacity to mitigate and address the adverse impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on its students and their learning for over a year, with studies anticipating that learning loss will be more significant among low-income, Black, and Hispanic students---a demographic highly concentrated in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and whose anticipated academic, social, and emotional needs exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in large part and generated the unprecedented amount of federal funds.

Gallon’s proposal also directs the Superintendent to schedule a Board Workshop to discuss and review the allocation and allowable use of these funds, as well as,  review the prior allocation, expenditure, and planned use for remaining funds allocated to the District through the CARES Act from March 2020 and in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 from December 2020; and establish a system and structure for quarterly reporting of all funds expended through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and make available for easy public access and review on the District’s website.

“This will ensure that the Board provides increased focus, transparency, and accountability as well as an opportunity for the public to be informed about and serve witness to the School Board’s policy, practices, and procurement decision-making processes involving nearly $1.1 billion that have been allocated to enhance and uplift the learning and lives of our students---especially those facing the greatest challenges and with the greatest needs,” said Dr. Gallon.

To read the full item, click here: 

http://schoolboard.dadeschools.net/documents/agenda/h17.pdf


Miami-Biscayne Bay Links Host Virtual Celebration of Local Political Trailblazers in Recognition of Women’s History Month

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Miami, FL — Last year was a milestone as it was the centennial celebration of women attaining the right to vote. Black women, however, would not enjoy that right until 1965. Since that time, Black women have made tremendous strides in the political arena as evidenced by the historic election of Kamala Harris to the office of Vice President of the United States. In recognition of Women’s History Month, the Miami-Biscayne Bay Chapter of The Links, Incorporated will honor local women political leaders and trailblazers via a virtual conversation, “Celebrating South Florida’s Game ChangHERS: Creating a Seat at the Table!” The event is scheduled for 6:30 PM-8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, and will be broadcast on Facebook Live and Zoom.

The conversation will be moderated by Audrey M. Edmonson, Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner and a charter member of the Miami-Biscayne Bay Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. She will sit down with local elected women leaders and trailblazers to discuss their path to success, what inspires them, and advice for others who choose to follow in their footsteps.

Special guests for this inaugural conversation are: 

  • Daniella Levine Cava, first female Mayor of Miami-Dade County;
  • Danielle Cohen Higgins, Commissioner, Board of County Commissioners, District 8; and
  • Julie Harris Nelson, Judge, Miami-Dade County Court, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida.

“We are delighted to celebrate current local women political leaders and to pay homage to the courageous Black women who paved the way,” said Miami-Biscayne Bay Chapter President Georgia H. McLean. In the spirit of Women’s History Month and as Vice President Harris has expressed many times, it is important to be the first but not the last.”

“Celebrating South Florida’s Game ChangHERS: Creating a Seat at the Table!” is scheduled for 6:30 PM-8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, and will be broadcast on Facebook Live and Zoom. Click https://bit.ly/3pEFRiQ to register in advance.