The Black Politico

Orlando politics and more -- from a black perspective

Debate at Mt. Sinai ruffles feathers

The African American Council of Christian Clergy (AACCC) of Central Florida reached out to Senate, House of Representatives, Comptroller, State Attorney and Judicial candidates this election season to have what was first called a “meet and greet” by some. It then turned into a forum and then a action-packed debate. In the invitation, the AACCC stated, the organization is a council of multi-denominational congregations over a myriad of residential districts. “Each of the 60 congregations have been impacted by injustice and social sin,” stated the AACCC.

Stewart Moore of WESH Channel 2 helped to moderate the debate with Pastor Larry G. Mills of Mt. Sinai and President-Elect of the AACCC/Candidate for House of Representatives District 45, Kelvin Cobaris. Former Miss America Ericka Dunlap was scheduled to show but had a death in her family and was understandably absent.

The forum’s invitation stated, “We have the moral and civic duty to change politics and systems which create conditions that oppress the body of Christ. One of the ways we can do this is by voting locally, statewide and nationally for candidates that can act justly, love mercifully and walk humbly.”

Here’s where feathers were ruffled.

This forum was put on by a 501(c)3 organization and was not neutral. Regardless of the time being shortened for some candidates and lead-in questions being asked to help certain candidates by moderators, the truth was found solidly in the incumbents. Candidates have the opportunity to say all they want about the hope and change they wish to see. They aren’t in office, yet so what they may say sounds good, preachy and right. Wrong. Some of them didn’t even appear to know how to do the job they were fighting so hard to get while others were banking on winning the election on one issue only.

However, incumbents are the ones who can truly tell you what shape our government is in and many of them that were on that stage know how to fix it. Let’s be clear, government is no place for on-the-job training. It’s ok if you’re a community organizer and activist and you want to ignite change but before you compare yourself to President Obama remember that he had a Law Degree and was a Senator at the time he worked his way up to the Presidency.

Incumbent Democratic State Representative Bruce Antone spoke candidly about his accomplishments in the House of Representative and his ability to pass legislation and secure major funding for projects and organizations in District 46, the largely urban and inner city district he represents in the Florda House of Representatives. So, let’s be clear. The incumbent in the District 46 race is far more experienced than his opponent. As I sat in the audience and listened to the debate between the candidates for Comptroller, I heard a woman next to me ask, “what is a comptroller?” Now, I’m not judging her at all. Many don’t know what a Comptroller is and many people work two sometimes three jobs in our community so they are not as in-tune with politics as you and I. But, if you don’t know what a Comptroller is, it’s time to jump off Facebook, whip out Google and start clicking buttons to see what impact that office has on your life and most of all, the finances of where we live.

What’s near and dear to me is the State Attorney’s race. This race is important because most people don’t know what a State Attorney does. Our State Attorney, Jeff Ashton, is a prosecutor. He is not our defense attorney.

He is supposed to put people in jail. But our State Attorney just so happens to be an advocate for us as well. He is our advocate for crime happening in our community. He prosecutes people for wrongdoing. He’s also changed the game, so to speak, so that children who make mistakes don’t go to jail or prison as they once did. He put to use a Civil Citations program so our young black and brown children can be without those records following them for the rest of their lives. I’ve said this time and time again. I had a friend who was murdered here in Orlando and to this day, we don’t know who killed him. We will never feel the justice many get seeing the person who harmed their loved one put behind bars.

As a people, we don’t quite understand, collectively, what we have in the State Attorney that is sitting in that seat now because we won’t look past the color of his skin. Before you call me biased, call him brilliant. Call him fair. And call him much better than that last guy. Please, open your mind to the information I’m about to put before you.

The previous State Attorney ran an office that I believe to be racially unjust. The number of attorneys of color were few. Since Jeff Ashton has taken over, the diversity in that office has now increased to well over 10% and now there are attorneys that are Black, Latino, Muslim, Asian trying cases alongside their White colleagues. The website is also translated in French so that our Haitian brothers and sisters can get the information they need as well as they are a significant part of our community.

What bothered me in the debate was the lack of factual information given by the opponent. The State Attorney’s opponent had the audacity to insinuate the lack of color in that office. She worked there under Jeff Ashton for two years and was promoted twice according to her own words. She was a product of his ambition to hire attorneys of color. But now, she’s been recruited and funded by the Vose’s, a white male Republican who worked for and helped propel the racially biased office before Jeff Ashton took office. And let me not forget to say this Bill Vose guy “just so”  happens to be a write-in candidate in this race. Let me explain why that’s a problem.

With the opponent in this race’s blessing, Vose put himself in the race to close the primaries. Because of that only Democrats can now vote in the election. This was done so Jeff Ashton’s opponent could fair better in this race. Talk about disenfranchising all voters! And if anyone tells you otherwise, including your Pastor, tell him to dig deeper and to stick to the good word in the Bible, because a biased church shouldn’t be so deeply involved in such a process.

Ashton is a Democrat and has fought hard to put together a team of people that represent this community. As an attorney in this community, his opponent is funded by Republicans, a group who is trying to take over the Black Lives Matter movement from young black people and his opponent was less than truthful in her “sermon” at the debate and forced her way into the minds of people who should just dig a little deeper and ask a few more questions than they ever have before.

Our community is being lied to and cheated and regardless of the color of someone’s skin that should never, ever happen.

One lady stood up and said Jeff Ashton sent her to prison for 15 years for driving a getaway car that “hurt somebody”. Wrong. The victim in that case was killed. She set up a good man, a black man, to be robbed and he was shot multiple times and died. That was a murder, not a wound as she initially tried to phrase it. In addition, she agreed to a plea of 15 years. Jeff Ashton didn’t “put” her anywhere. She did that to herself.

All I ask is that we ask the deep questions and come to the table with an open mind and open heart to be able to receive the information that is before us.

Lastly, I was approached by Representative Bruce Antone’s opponent weeks ago at a meeting. She attacked me with words, because I mentioned she had an endorsement from her Pastor Derrick McCrae. It was true. She did have an endorsement from her Pastor. And, my God it’s only Facebook!  I didn’t have a dog in that fight. I can’t imagine voting for and sending someone to Tallahassee to represent me who attacks constituents and voters because they may disagree with them.

My point is to be sure you ask the right questions that will lead to the best vote that you can make this season. Putting people in office that have little to no experience doesn’t help us. As for the State Attorney’s race, mark my words, if that office goes backwards to the way it was before, simply by using a person with a good sermon and black skin to do the dirty work of those who dogged us before, we can kiss our advances forward, a great big “goodbye”.

The Orlando Shootings and the Pastor Protection Act

A hot button in the Florida Legislature has been the Pastor Protection Act but some say it’s a hypocritical move by countless pastors.

The Pastor Protection Act, which was signed into law this past legislative session, protects clergy from lawsuits if they refuse to perform wedding that violates religious beliefs, such as for same-sex couples. (House Bill 43 and Senate Bill 110).

Months ago, specific Pastors in the Central Florida community sounded off about wanting full protection against having to marry a same sex couple.

On social media, one pastor and members of his congregation even attacked elected officials for voting against the Pastor Protection Act.

But even prior to this bill, Pastors were and are already protected under the law to be able to marry couples they feel are prepared for marriage regardless of sexual orientation so some say there’s no reason why the hotly disputed Pastor Protection Act, sponsored by Representative Scott Plakon (R-Longwood), should be a contested issue, even though it was signed into law at the end of session.

But, what significantly links the fight for the Pastors to not be able to marry same-sex couples has become more ironic over the past 24-hours.

One pastor who was vocal about not marrying same-sex couples was scheduled to hold a vigil for the victims of Sunday’s massacre. Another pastor, who opposed marrying members of the LGBT community, rushed toward the cameras to stand in solidarity with elected and appointed officials as they spoke during a nationally televised press conference.

Pastors speaking out against marrying same-sex couples and then advertising and holding a vigil for national attention is the more unlikely couple. Some say those pastors have yet to do one thing in the LGBT community except protest the legal union and legal benefits for citizens while judging their lifestyle and most of all, judging who they love with all hopes of using legislative power to deny them the rights for which they are fighting.

Sound off on whether or not these pastors are saying one thing but truly believing another? Or, are they using this tragedy to gain national attention during one of the most trying times in American history?

Governor Rick Scott attended a prayer vigil at Iglesias El Calvario in West Orlando. His words were unifying. Scott said, “As Christians, we know God is with us and it is our faith in God that will persevere.”

An armed 29-year old identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen walked into the nightclub and shot patrons of this club, which catered to the LGBT community, because he hated to see ‘two men kissing.’ Currently, we know 50 people were killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and 53 still remain injured as a result of this hate crime.

Pulse Nightclub shooting update

The worst mass shooting in the history of the United States just happened in Orlando.

Early Sunday morning and all at once and over the span of minutes, 50 people were gunned down and another 53 people were injured, at Pulse nightclub, a nightclub that is popular in the Central Florida LGBT community, on Orange Avenue in Downtown Orlando.

The gunman, identified as 29-year old, Omar Saddiqui Mateen, was killed by police on the scene.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer issued a statement today. “We are dealing with something we never imagined. Because of the scale, I have called Governor Scott to request a state of emergency and we are issuing a state of emergency in the City. This allows us to bring additional resources to support our efforts. Our focus in the coming hours will be identifying the victims and notifying the families. We are setting up a hotline for concerned family members – 407.246.4357. The identification process may take some time. We ask for your patience as we want to be accurate. I continue to be proud of how our community has responded. #PrayforOrlando”

Governor Rick Scott, visibly shaken by the tragedy said he has children and grandchildren and cannot imagine what the families are going through and urged people to pray for the families of the victims and the community.

Scott said, “We are blessed to have the law enforcement we have, the Orange County police department, the Sheriff Department, FDLE all the federal agencies, everybody has coordinated their activities very well.”

State Attorney Jeff Ashton said, “This is a terrible, terrible evil act. As a father of seven, I called and checked on some of my kids this morning to make sure they were ok. We’re doing everything we can, law enforcement is working well together, our victim advocates are helping out to see if we can work with families and I just encourage everyone, as I did my staff, to just please donate blood, because we are going to need a lot of it.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer swiftly prepared by having resources available for family members of the victims. Dyer, requested assistance from Governor Rick Scott for Central Floridians and both are working together, along with State Attorney Jeff Ashton, to help the families and victims in this tragic mass murder.

Mateen, a 30-year old American born citizen, motives are still unclear. Mateen’s father told NBC News, “This has nothing to do with religion.”  He said his son became angry after seeing two men kissing a few months ago in Miami. He speculates this could have triggered his decision to kill. Governor Scott added, “For anybody that thinks that they should do this, I can tell you the State of Florida, the law enforcement, will be swift in their justice.”

People are urged to donate O+, O- and AB blood types at One Blood center on Michigan Avenue in Orlando. Visit www.oneblood.org and find a location near you or find the Big Red Bus to donate.

This massacre comes on the heels of the recent shooting Friday night at The Plaza Live in downtown Orlando that ended in the death of “The Voice” and YouTube singer Christina Grimmie. A gunman, Kevin James Loibl, from St. Petersburg, Florida walked into The Plaza Live and shot her in the head three times as she signed autographs. Loibl was tackled by Grimmie’s brother and then shot himself during the struggle. Loibl was carrying two extra magazines of ammunition and a hunting knife. Grimmie later died at the hospital.

Tea Party Behind Paulson’s infamous ‘OK to be black’ signs?

Oh gee wiz.

These yard signs across Orlando have made me feel, well, just “some kind of way” about anyone who thinks this is good marketing. I sure would HOPE that it’s ok to be black in Orlando, but it appears we needed a white man to tell us that.

Last night on WFTV, Channel 9, Paulson took credit for the signs that are out in West Orlando.

But most importantly, black people, quite frankly, all people need to know who’s funding this campaign.

Doug Guetzloe is indeed the “wiz” fraud and financial support behind Paulson’s campaign.

Guetzloe is also member of the Tea Party which is one of the most racist, hateful groups of people I have ever seen.

When I visited Doug’s office, he had two confederate flags attached to the back of his door and a Tea Party hat sitting on his desk. When I asked about the “flags” he said, that he’s a son of the South.

He rambled on about the history of this country and then said, to me, a black woman, that his family doesn’t recognize the black people that are on their family tree. “They don’t talk about it,” he said.

He also said they owned slaves and he seemed to be fairly proud of that. Shocked out of my mind, I changed the subject and continued on to discuss the business in which I was there to discuss.

I just can’t let another day go by, without letting my people, my readers know who stroked the checks for this campaign and that a promise of Chief of Staff in Paulson’s campaign was uttered in the office and Doug proudly said, “If Paul wins, we all go to City Hall.”

Remember, it may be ok to be black in Orlando now, but if we have people who think like this involved in our day-to-day politics, it won’t be.

Buddy Dyer doesn’t look so bad now, does he?

After what I went through with loud and feisty members of the community, who’s names aren’t even worthy of mentioning, I can only imagine what Dyer goes through a daily basis.

Sunshine Linda Grund is also running in this mayoral race and while I don’t know if she stands a chance against Buddy and Paulson, nor is she ready for the role, but she does seem like a very kind and passionate person.

Go vote today, November 3rd, my friends. Vote strong today. Vote your beliefs and refuse to allow anyone to “give” you or declare that you have permission to be black in Orlando! ok to be black

Orlando’s mayoral race heats up

Orlando’s mayoral race heats up

There are three candidates running for the title of Mayor of the City of Orlando and some voters are watching this race closely. To many black people living in the inner city, this race is personal. A mini-focus group consisting of members of the Haitian, African American and Hispanic communities talked about the five top things that matters most to them and there is enough evidence to show that the swing vote, may not swing in the direction of Orlando’s current Mayor, Buddy Dyer.

One woman in our focus group made it fairly clear that Dyer is certainly no buddy to black people in Central Florida. During the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board interview, candidate Sunshine Grund said she feels as though her voice and the voice of other Central Floridians is not being heard. She said she is also running to help save the 100+ acres of wetlands that are set to be destroyed and to provide a voice to the people of Orlando.
Paul Paulson, said he is running because we have had a 17.7% tax hike this year which we can’t afford. Paulson continues, “the hardworking people of Orlando deserve much better.”
Paulson also said, “We can’t give Mr. Dyer a blank checkbook to write checks every time and spend our money.”

The top 5 issues our diverse group said mattered most are as follows:

1. Housing – Residents in highly populated black and hispanic communities say housing is deplorable and gentrification is not only in the near future but is happening now. Owners of black businesses along Church Street were upset because they were shut out of the All-Star Game years ago under the leadership of the current city mayor, Buddy Dyer.

2. The Orlando Police Department – OPD has a record of 23 reports of excessive force under the current police chief and nothing has been done about it outside of a press conference or two. Sheriff Jerry Demings’ office was awarded a grant for body cameras for all of his officers. Keep in mind Demings’ office is not receiving reports of excessive force but the Orlando Police Department, under the supervision of Chief Mina, is responsible for all 23 excessive reports. One officer was even caught on camera kicking a man while he was sitting on the curb adhering to the officer’s requests. This assault happened while another OPD officer watched.

3. Tinker FieldHistoric Tinker Field housed the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and other baseball teams. Legends played on this field and it is also the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke before many Central Floridians in 1964. Now, Tinker Field is expected to be demolished. Although, Tinker Field is nationally recognized as a historic place within the United States, some feel that is not enough. Properly paying tribute to the historic significance of Tinker Field is unsatisfactory to many people of color who live nearby.

4. Affordable housing – For blacks looking to build businesses and thrive in the downtown area, affordable housing and rent for a business is almost impossible. City View on Church Street was initially slated to be “affordable” however the apartments alone are more than $1700 per month. While Johnson’s Diner was able to receive financial assistance to move their business from their old location to Church Street, they were still unable to make the rent and pay all of their expenses. Mathematically, the traffic around City View just isn’t quite significant enough to warrant a successful business with the overhead being so expensive.

5. Excessive pollution in the black community – Nap Ford community center sits on polluted soil. According to some community leaders, no one cares about black children and their health especially when the pollution cleanup comes with a hefty price tag. The way the situation was rectified is unacceptable to some community activists. There was a lining put underneath the school to separate the soil from the building and unfortunately, primarily black and hispanic children are still being educated on those grounds.

Residents also said they feel left out of the planning process. When it comes to the issues that plague the black community in Orlando, there is either a meeting for black community leaders or no meeting at all for issues that matter most to the community however, some black leaders want to sit at the same table with everyone and are not willing to continue to only sit alongside the same people they have sat alongside for years. As a community, if we continue to do what we’ve always done we will continue to get what we’ve always gotten. People of color can make no progress if we are not communicating with all who can help move the community forward, regardless of race.

Dyer certainly has more name recognition in this election than any of the others running against him but will that mean he will re-elected on November 3rd?

This election is about more than selecting a mayor. To many black people, it is about changing the conditions in which they live. The number of registered African American voters is significantly higher than in past years and in about four weeks, we will see whether or not the black community is ready to move forward with a new mayor.

Photo courtesy O. Levard Photography

While America lie sleeping

Photo courtesy O. Levard Photography

Race in America

By Rhetta Peoples

Being black in Orlando, is a little like being black in Charleston, Ferguson and Baltimore.

In the wake of Ferguson and the decision of the Grand Jury, my 11-year old, culturally awake daughter turns to me and says, “Why is America turning on itself?” “That is a great question, Nile”, as I answered uncertain and still baffled at the attempt of black America to simply get an indictment so the evidence may come out in a court of law in a country that claim we are equal. Now, she struggles to understand the massacre in South Carolina.

Compared to my childhood, Nile lives a privileged life. She has a nice home, a great school, two parents under one roof and has never missed a meal. Her clothes fit and she is up to date on everything including the tiny metal rods that are shaping her little teeth to enhance her already beautiful smile. She believes she is equal to her best friends and her classmates. Reality is, she is not.

America has indeed turned on itself and while the eyes of many white Americans look toward impeaching the first black President, degrading the First Family and pardoning the gunning down of black people on the street, Muslim extremist catch America doing what they believe we do best.

“Sleeping.” Not actually sleeping, but “sleeping” on what the true disease is that is plaguing us.
Our guard is up, yet it is against ourselves. Like an autoimmune disorder, our “white blood cells” are rushing to form a scab on a wound that isn’t really there. We are determined to beat the crazy out of each other while our troops stand alone against a war we are beckoning to lose. A nation divided is what we are. A nation divided is what we will continue to be should our people continue to be murdered in bloody gutters along the street corners of Anytown, USA while we continue to hate the day lights out of each other.

Any nation weakened is a nation that can be easily conquered. We, black folks and supporters of the cause will not give up nor will we give in which will force the hand of hate mongers and bearers of fear to face justice in America with equilibrium. Those who support the black murders and the injustice that trails it, yet claim to love America must change the way they see their brethren. If not, the nation is easily left open.
What Nile said to me was clear. We, Americans, are so busy infighting that we are forgetting all about the enemy.

If America ever wants to keep herself free, a stroke of brilliance would equal supporting each other whether we love, like or despise the color or social status of one another. There is a reason why some other countries hate free countries. Yet, those who pound their chests and claim, “freedom ain’t free” refuse to allow black people to be free in the very same land in which we fought and died.

While I channel surfed on the nights of the announcement that there would be no indictment for both murders, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, I listened to a Fox News commentator talk very specifically about why the officers should not have been indicted. It was sickening. They extrapolated every ounce of how these lame cops murdered these two men justifiably.

Now, we listen to the faithful express their sorrow and grief for those so close to them that were gunned down in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. On the other hand, we listed to former politicians and commentators make claims that say Dylann Roof’s massacre that left 9 black people dead, was not racially motivated, therefore not a hate crime. They blame it on insanity (well we know that) and talk about how he misused drugs and that is what caused this massacre. Yet, Roof himself admitted to it being racially motivated, drove 110 miles to a historically black church and pretended to be amongst the faithful in order to murder them. And, with open arms, just as Christ would want it, they welcomed him.

With the controversy in Orlando over an Orlando Police officer kicking a black man who had his hands up on the sidewalk, until he was flat on his back concerns me. More importantly, the disposition and the initial remarks supporting those officers by Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer and the current Orlando Chief of Police, John W. Mina as they initially refused to suspend them pending an investigation tells the vast majority of our community that we are just like Charleston. The rebel flag flies over government buildings while waving just as strong as the American flag. As I watched Charleston’s lowered flags, in respect for the 9 dead black Americans, I watched the rebel flag wave just as high as it could go on the flagpole only feet away from the American and State Flag. That spoke volumes as it was not an oversight. It clearly displayed the local government were afraid to lower that ugly flag and freak out the rebels while symbolically and firmly floating another confederate win in 2015.

And, we Americans, lie sleeping. Channel surfing in bed while the rest of the world watches and sees every Iota of our weakness. Isis recruits after such heinous acts of violence and debatably grows stronger at every weak point in our DNA. All the while, the real enemy looks nothing like the two groups of people fighting against each other. Keep sleeping America and one day the realization of who the enemy is may help you understand, that in order to survive and become unified, we must respect each other far more than we are doing right now.