The Black Politico

Orlando politics and more -- from a black perspective

From Columnist to Columnist

On last Friday, two of my friends and I, clicked the link to Scott Maxwell’s column about ’10 people in Orlando who are making the city a better place.’

I loved it.

My mouthy friend had already skimmed to the bottom of the article and said, ‘oh, is that the guy that called you and other women racist, woman-hating names?’ She was referring to a man who many of us know will slay women personally on social media with the most degrading and disgusting comments he can think of, if some disagree with his position. I read further, identified his name and said, “OMG yes!”

For the sake of this commentary, let’s refer to this person as “the guy.”
My friend said, ‘how in the hell is he making Orlando better when he can’t control his mouth, fires off racist and mysogynist remarks and has a history of assault on women?’ She was bending back her fingers one-by-one as if she was counting as she blurted out each “charge.” I agreed with her.

She was fire-hot-mad. Frankly, so was I. Yet, no part of me thought Maxwell knew about “the guy’s” rants and history.

So, I sent Maxwell a direct message on Facebook telling him I loved his column but there’s one name in there that makes me cringe and I cited why and sent proof. I guess I’ve read Maxwell’s columns enough to feel comfortable saying that. I was so wrong.

For the record, Maxwell did not cite him as one of the top 10 people, but he hinted at “the guy” being close to it, because he said some people had floated “the guy’s” name around as being a good candidate and that the Orlando Sentinel had covered some positive attempts at community issues or events in which “the guy” was involved.

Why am I ranting about all this? Stay with me. I’m getting there.

“The guy” I’m referring to used some of the worst names you can call a Black or Brown woman. To me, the name-calling he used was equivalent to calling a Black person the n-word and “the guy,” well, he’d pour salt in the wound by adding a touch of mysogynist verbiage to it to make sure those women, who didn’t agree with him, felt the sting.

For the record, the n-word and other remarks, including a word that degrades women, is what recently led to the resignation of Florida Senator, Frank Artiles further proving that words matter.

In addition, “the guy” has a history of physically abusing women, although the charges were dropped according to what Scott Maxwell wrote back.
When I put this in my direct message to Maxwell, we instantly started chatting back and forth, but it then led to a reaction I never saw coming.

He thanked me for my kind words about his column but immediately defended the abuser or “the guy” in this case, by saying they ran a background check after I sent him what I thought and that the alleged physical assault happened in 2005 and those charges were dropped. I didn’t know what year the assault happened but Maxwell checked me on it. However, the year still really didn’t matter to me; the assaults did.

Maxwell messaged me this: “I usually take issue with people who try to use dropped charges against candidates – or anyone really … especially as it is a tactic that disproportionately affects minorities and lower income folks. I understand you don’t care for him. And I appreciate background. But I’m also trying to live by standards i try to demand form (from) others.”

My jaw hit the floor. “Take issue?” I had a look on face as if I were a kid in the backseat of a car that had just passed by a sewage dump. My friend said, “what’d he say?” I said, “nothing.”

Scott Maxwell is one of my favorite columnists. He was a Jeopardy question for crying out loud. He’s a journalist’s hero or heroes.

Initially, I felt small, embarrassed and ashamed to have told him about “the guy,” yet, pissed that he played the race card in a discussion to defend the abuser and hadn’t stopped short once of defending the victim. Let me say that another way. He defended the abuser by questioning the victim because she had dropped the charges, all the while sitting with screenshots of “the guy” calling Black women “negro bed-wenches”.

Stick a fork in me, because I am so done.

This blame victims. I have to believe it’s often not intentional, but the damage can be huge whether someone is saying it intentionally or not.

With all my personality (good or bad) and passion, I felt small because I told him information that should have been known prior to writing a story on the 10 best people and sideways mentioning someone who we all whisper about but rarely shout out about. It’s the exact same thing we do, to defend offenders while making victims feel so much smaller.

This is wrong.

The mentality is something I may never understand.
I know people change their lives and try to become better, we all do, yet when an alleged crime happened by “the guy” in 2005 and women are still being attacked online by “the guy” just days ago, any reasonably sound person must ask themselves why highlight someone as a community leader who can’t control his emotions and feels this way about women?

But, Maxwell didn’t do that.

Instead, I got schooled on this happening to black people and middle income people.

My goal is not to bash Maxwell. My goal is to sound-off about what I’ve been writing about for weeks now. This is why so many victims don’t speak out. This is why victims drop charges against their abusers. This is why little things like words, matter.

How many people in Black & Brown communities drop charges on the abusers because they are afraid? Plenty do. How many remember Alex Zaldivar who was a witness to a crime and was set to testify and was murdered by the defendant? I’ve said this before and I’ll say it now, my first roommate in college was a victim. Her mother was murdered by a man she was dating and my roommate witnessed it, as a child. That man was incarcerated for a short time but then released because he had turned his life around.

My roommate would go back to her home city on the holidays and certain weekends and would run into her Mother’s killer in the grocery store, often. The damage that did to her family was immeasurable and I hope no one ever suffers like that. I am confident, many women who have been abused have dropped charges against their abuser at least once and I know I don’t need to remind you that some victims of domestic violence have been murdered.
The fact that my roommate’s Mother was a black woman makes me want to challenge the opposition that much more.

In the case of “the guy,” I don’t know if the victim dropped the charges or if the state dropped them, but the victim absolutely could have been terrified.

Let’s face it, in our politically correct world, no one really stands for victims. We give them the side-eye if they claim they’ve been wronged and I’ll never understand why many liberals are not standing up for the good, law-abiding, victims in the Central Florida community.

This exchange led me to think about the black man that was shot in the face by another black man on Easter Sunday. The murder was broadcasted live on Facebook. If that killer would have come out alive, many liberals would be fighting for him if he so much as said he’s changed his life for the better.

I understand we want to defend people who are black and have had run-ins with the law and claim to have changed their lives for the better. I get it. But, if they truly have changed, it should show in their behavior.

I challenge all of us to think about the victim on the receiving end of their actions, regardless of whether an attack physically happened in 2005 or just last week via an exchange of words on social media.

I figured, from columnist to columnist, Maxwell just didn’t know. There are issues in our communities we know must be addressed. We absolutely must recognize injustices and racial disparities. I don’t need that speech. Especially, not from a white guy. What I need is simple understanding of what the other side of the aisle thinks, feels, believes and knows to be truth.

Nina Simone once said, “I tell you what freedom is to me: no fear.” That’s what it means to me, too. I don’t want to fear a community that I love so deeply.

I’d rather raise-up those who are truly doing the best they can to respect and value us all. As Black women, we wear a lot of crowns and take a lot of crap from all sorts of people with all kinds of beliefs. The last thing we need is our own Brothers tearing us down and victims voices to be silent.

While some fight for offenders and offenders who have changed their lives, I am but one voice of many that will speak out also on behalf of victims to a point of no concern about whether it offends a violent offender. There are innocent people tied-up in our justice system and they should be the first group of people we fight to free. There are those who have non-violent offenses and we should fight for their freedom, too. I will, forever stand against those who are violent toward us, regardless of the color of their skin and with all due respect, I don’t need a lesson from a white man to teach me about the racial disparities that I know all too well.

Protestors sound off against Trump’s Immigration Ban at Orlando International Airport

Sunday, protestors took over the Orlando International Airport to protest Trump’s ban on immigrants. Ironically, OIA issued a statement on Saturday that no detainees were being held at the airport due to the ban but on Sunday, as the protests were underway, 3 people were detained due to Trump’s new and unconstitutional policy at Orlando International Airport.

Protestors, or protectors as they called themselves, met at a nightclub called Haven on Semoran Boulevard not far from the airport to get instructions on what to do and how to behave during the protest.

“We will not engage,” shouted one march organizer as she instructed the crowd on what to do. One major rule was to not engage any Trump supporters so that violence would not break out. Protestors then caravanned over to the airport and began chants and a march that lasted for about an hour. An estimated 1500 people or all races and religions were in attendance.

Some elected officials were in attendance. State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith and U.S. Representative Darren Soto marched and showed their support.

A lady wearing a hijab, with tears of joy in her eyes, rested her head on Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith’s shoulder. She was overwhelmed at the support Central Floridians showed. Smith said to her, “Look around. This is your community. We are here for you.” That wasn’t done on a stage or in plain view, but happened naturally as the crowd moved about the airport.

Not all elected officials who claimed support were in attendance. The ACLU showed up with a banner and shouted, “No Ban, No Wall” and “Islamophobia has got to go!”

Trump’s ban on immigration is unconstitutional but his supporters are backing him. A Fox News poll read 48% of Americans agree with Trump’s position on immigration.

Even people with green cards and visas were being detained in the past few days due to Trump’s Executive Order. They were asked to give up their contacts in their phones and were instructed to list the websites they’ve visited.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit and was able to overturn Trump’s ban but airports around the country were still detaining people.

President Obama also banned immigrants coming into the United States but not on a scale of this magnitude.

Trump, an immigrant himself, banned refugees from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya (only one refugee from Libya entered the United States in 2016), Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

During his campaign, Trump’s immigration plan also includes building a wall along the Mexican border and having Mexico pay for it. He has since changed his position and said Americans will first pay for it and then we’ll have Mexico pay us back with a 20% tax on imports to the US.

What many elder black leaders won’t tell you

“I’m an open book that no one is reading.”

That has been and probably will be my favorite line to younger people. I’m sure at some point, my elders felt the need to whisper that into my ear, as well.

My love of politics, black people and supporters of our issues often bundle themselves in my mind as one. I can’t fit my way into a two-party political system nor can I easily adapt to the culture of another race or class in which I don’t appear to belong. I can’t fake friendships. I’m ok with being followed around a store because the manager may think I’m stealing because of the color of my skin. I’m used to it. Maybe, I’m just weird like that and I’ve accepted the ways of society. I’d rather work hard and smart, make miracles happen on the job than to pretend to be the CEO’s bestie. If somewhere along the way, I find a friend, I’m happy to adopt him. But, like so many, that’s not my starting point if work and passion is involved.

Our elders often say it’s not about what you know but who you know. That mindset is changing as our tides change in the digital age with how we meet one another. My personality will always come second to my job and passion and I’m confident in that. I can be paid, but not bought and I’m often afraid that I’m so unafraid of other people. I wear my attitude, good or bad, on my sleeve. When it comes to choosing a Republican over a Democrat, I’ll stop you in your tracks.
I am just like so many others with an agenda to change this country. I don’t care if people of other races love black people. I just care that if people harm us, or force us to be what history has proven, that you suffer the consequences of those actions under the law.
I don’t believe our elders are fighting for that same kind of change.

I’ve been cursed out for supporting Governor Rick Scott. My attitude and response was, “so.” I happen to like him and his work. Should I be afraid to say so because I’m black?
I’ve been called the same for supporting a white candidate over a black candidate. My response and attitude is “so, squared.”

I lean toward people who have supported us with jobs, education and even the criminal justice system over anyone that has not, regardless of the color of their skin. That’s embedded in me. I can’t change it, nor do I want to. Don’t ask me to choose a party before I see proof of performance of a candidate and if you do, and your candidate wins without the proper vetting, you’ll regret it every single time. For the party has more power than the candidate. Which is why Republicans have gotten on board to support Donald Trump.

Black people are the only group of people expected to side with Democrats. That’s the reason Democrats don’t side with Black people.

Many, many older Black leaders have been around long enough to have lost their passion for the protest and would rather get something out of politics for themselves. They believe it’s a game. Wait…matter of fact, they know it’s a game. In every era, it’s the younger generation that believes so passionately that our leaders will do the right thing. In this open book of mine, which is me, the power lies fiercely in the appointed, not the elected.

The elected is already appointed.

We simply get to choose from the ones our elders have picked out for us. For example, my Aunt and my Mother, who are sisters, shop for me as much as they can. Don’t ask me why, but I can be their dress-up doll all day long and they’d be happy as unicorns and rainbows. I’ll usually wear whatever they give me. I couldn’t care less what’s on my body most of the time because I’m too busy with a million and one other things.

But, if I’m with them in the shopping mall, I get to choose from the 2 of 5 pieces of clothing they’ve put before me. Stay with me. I’m stating this for a reason. See, they’ve already sorted through hundreds of pieces of clothes, then they call me over. I then get to “elect” two pieces and then “appoint” the final piece in a quick draw between 2 to 5 narrowed down pieces.

And, here I am confused about which one to pick when I probably would have loved the very first item they picked up 4 hours before.
I’m ok with them doing that because it makes them happy and I don’t care what I wear. However, when it comes to politics and Black lives, a two party system is the same as Aunt Allie and Mama in the shopping mall. Analyze this. The brakes should get beat off of someone who tries to force a pair of red boots on me when the black ones are built to save my life and protect my people. Yet, they were in the pile that Mom pushed to the side at the start of the selection process.

This is the age when no one truly cares about the murders of unarmed black men. Some take bullets to the head while they lay on the ground, others are murdered in cold blood while running away and clearly not being a threat to anyone.

Where are our Black leaders?

Why aren’t they pushing for laws that change these kinds of things instead of fighting to have us choose between the final 2 pieces of clothing that we really care nothing about? What Black leaders have done and will likely continue to do, is bash my way of thinking because I think differently and I speak it loudly.

But, it’s because I so deeply care.

I want to see change and I can’t think of any better way to be more vocal than to just say it. I hope for an outcome of equality, not superiority.

Critically thinking Black people, are considered less Black than many who have experienced marching with Dr. King for our civil rights and that’s not ok. We are still just as Black as anyone else. Today, our elders have left you and me. So, we’re on our own, kids. I looked for help with Black caucuses in Florida. I sought help with Black women congress groups. I even accepted friendships so that I could be mentored by Black women who I thought wanted equality for Black people. I was wrong. I was called everything under the sun and it made my stomach turn watching them sell out and lie to our people in churches and town halls across the City of Orlando.
We see the lack of action in the NAACP and the complaints by old school leaders that young people aren’t involved enough. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Young people aren’t agreeing with them enough. That’s the old folks’ problem and not a problem for the youth. That’s an excellent problem to give them and they should gift wrap it for the old. What many of our elders won’t do is tell you they want it done their way or the highway. They marched in the civil rights era. Yet, it wasn’t until Black people returned the actions of the oppressor that government got involved.

Some Black elders readily allow history books to preach and teach that Martin did it without Malcolm.

Some old Black leaders won’t tell you, people of all skin colors, races and demographics helped pave our way. We’d all love to say we did it ourselves. I believe we absolutely could have. But, we didn’t.

Nothing they can say can change history. Much of what happened at the polls that has led us into a race between the current two candidates is the fault of the old way of thinking and if anyone tells you millennials are hurting Democrats at the polls, know this, that’s a lie. Young people helped elect the first Black President and will do the same for Hillary Clinton but with significant reluctance.

Young people helped establish a progressive platform unlike anything in the past. Whether that platform gets implemented or not is a different story. And, young people are forcing the hands of their elders to change the course of voting in this country, even if it means casting a sacrificial vote. Gag. That sounds dangerous.

But, if their two-party system is as good as they say, why should we fear Donald Trump? If it’s their way or the highway, they are now sitting on the byway and underpass because young people are in charge. Just the threat of youth not going to the polls, leaves those who love the status quo, up at night. Change, has the tendency to do that.

To those young people who are fighting for real change, don’t quit. Don’t sell out. Don’t give up. You’ll be the reason why this planet is safer, an herb intended to be used for healing can and will be legally used and war will be no more. I am not just a dreamer. My position on an old way of thinking may sound harsh and it may be filled with words and an attitude that seems disrespectful to our elders, but it’s warranted. This generation is fired up. In order to ultimately see change, we have to be it.

So what if Black Lives Matter? What now?

Keith Lamont Scott was murdered by police in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Terence Crutcher was murdered only days before Scott by an officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Crutcher was unarmed and Scott is believed to have been unarmed by his family, supporters and activists nationwide. Neither Scott nor Crutcher posed a deadly threat to the officers that shot and killed them.

Crutcher’s killer was indicted on charges of manslaughter. For Scott, there’s pushback surfacing from the Police Department alleging Scott was armed, had a “marijuana cigarette” and pointed a gun at the officers. Scott’s widow said he was sitting in his car reading a book while waiting on his son to get off the school bus.

Officers have a different story.

Parked in an unmarked car, officers were waiting to serve another person a warrant. The officers forced Scott out of his vehicle while they were out of uniform with guns drawn. As the victim backed up away from the officers that had guns pointed at him, he was shot four times.

Riots and protests ignited in Charlotte and in Atlanta. In solidarity, Oregon supporters joined the movement. But, what happens now is barely a headline in mainstream press. A North Carolina law goes into effect on October 1st that allows law enforcement officers to not have to release body or dash cam videos to the public and press unless a judge rules otherwise.

I’ve tossed and turned watching video after video of the shootings wondering what in the world could have triggered a deadly response from those officers. As I so often do, I jumped up in the middle of the night and wrote down six things I think we can do as a unit to help move keep our brothers and sisters safe from the very people we trust to protect us.

We must make a pledge to stop taking the “black candidate” bait. It doesn’t matter if the President, Chief of Police, State Attorney or Officer is black. If we are still being murdered by law enforcement, what difference does it make? If our needs are not met, what have we achieved? We need to make a promise to each other that we will elect people, not just because of their race, but because of what they’ve stood for and what they’ve done for our people. Many white people have also stood behind us in this struggle. It is unfair to not realize their dedication to our lives and the lives of our brethren. I don’t care if you’re black or if you’re female, if you haven’t fought against injustice, you have not earned my vote. I screamed this from the top of my lungs during past elections and people stared at me as if I had just turned purple before their eyes. We gift wrap our votes to politicians because they smile, have hot sauce in their purse or kiss our babies. Miss me with all of that. I’d rather you show me what you’ve done. To sum it up, I am nobody’s firewall unless you are proven to have been mine.

We must force resignations of crooked leaders but don’t stop there. If they are not serving us they way they should, they have to step down. I believe the Charlotte Chief of Police should resign now. There’s way too much in the videos that have been released, showing they’ve not only lied but appear to have placed a weapon at the scene of the shooting of Scott. When there is civil unrest that has, in turn, lead to the death of yet another young black protestor named Justin Carr, law enforcement has failed us yet again. They are not even keeping the protestors safe. The day Carr was killed, law enforcement protecting protestors was at a minimum. Let me be clear, a resignation doesn’t fix the situation. Properly vetting and being active in the selection of the person who takes that vacant office and changing the law will significantly help. The Governor signed legislation stopping police videos from being shown in the public. This further ignites the narrative that we are being sold a lie. If we continue to allow politicians to pull wool over our eyes with these kind of laws, then we’ve bought into the madness with the blood of black men like Scott and Crutcher. Let’s not stop there. With a fine tooth comb, we must go through all of the legislation that impacts us.

We must demand Full Transparency and then read it. The law is an open book that no one is reading. The facts are an open book that no one is reading. The officers had no qualms about shooting these men in public. They should explain it in public. There’s no reason why the public and the press should not see each and every detail in situations that matter most to us. We live in the age of information. Nothing needs to be added or taken away from the details of any situation. It may inflame the community but it may also even settle the community. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t know the truth behind every story that impacts our people.

Candidly and kindly expose those candidates, elected and appointed officials who have not supported the struggle. Recently, a Central Florida attorney celebrated the victory of her client’s sentencing. Noel Carter received a light sentence in court on Monday. Carter was found guilty of a felony. He could have taken a plea deal, before taxpayers spent money on his trial and ended this the exact same way. But, the attorney and activists at the head of this case wanted national attention and pushed to get just that. When they didn’t, and when they lost the trial, they came back and wanted a deal that was likely put before them the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy he didn’t get time in prison. The case was complicated, but the facts and the law remain clear. We don’t have to be nasty to tell someone they aren’t serving us properly, but we sure had better tell them. If we elect an official or support the appointment of a community leader or hire an attorney, we have the right to praise them when they are good and expose them when they are bad. It’s just that simple. There are no friends in the game when people are being gunned down in cold blood. We must also pressure the Press to use the Freedom of Information Act. Journalists are like little elected officials. They are supposed to serve their readers and increase readership. Tell us what you want to see covered and suggest how and we’ll take it from there. Force us to ask the hardball questions. Today, many cannot speak out on social media for fear their employers may punish them for their views. Let us be your voice. Real journalists are unapologetically and unafraid to do our jobs. We don’t back down and we don’t lose any sleep if people in prominent positions hate us. Our job is journalism. Our brand is truth-telling. I couldn’t care any less who doesn’t like the truth I write. My job is to write it.

Push the Senate NOW to approve the nominee by President Barack Obama to the Supreme Court of the United States. Breaking News…Antonin Scalia is dead. He’s gone, people. That means there’s a seat open on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Scalia is rejoicing in Heaven, hopefully, while we are here trying to decipher the Constitution and the current Supreme Court is slammed with more cases than they can handle. They not only need another Justice to help with that, we need that Justice to help us. Scalia was a conservative whose views differ vastly from ours. The Supreme Court is where the laws are made about what can be enforced on our streets and in our courtrooms. The law doesn’t start and end with a Judge, attorney or a State Attorney. We keep marching in circles, confused and wondering why people can get a slap on the wrist for murdering our brethren and we are fighting the wrong battles. We are still trying to get people to like or love us and hopefully that will solve our problems on the streets. News alert. That’s not happening. Cut them off at the knees with what America has already put on paper as the law of the land and force them to put a Justice in an open seat that will interpret the law in such a way that we are no longer treated as cattle. This way, when it comes down to our level, we are protected and people who hurt and kill us are punished for their crime.

Stop letting Pastors, community and caucus leaders take you down the wrong path. All of us have elected officials that represent us. There’s no reason why we can’t pick the phone up and call them. We can also be quick to believe the mess that comes out of the mouths of people in the pulpit, that we get caught up trying to decipher scripture from the law. They are two separate things and we shouldn’t be crossing the streams. Let your pastor be your pastor and when they start holding debates and talking about elections, vet them, if you choose to stay and listen. Once they cross that political line, they deserve to be treated and handled like politicos. Let them choose if they want to be a Pastor or a Politician. Most of them have no clue as to what they are talking about. Shut them down, shut them up and ask them to get back to scripture or go study political science before they misuse their voices.

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 significance of Jerry Demings as first Black Florida Sheriff’s Association President

One half of Orlando’s Power Couple Elected by Peers to serve as First Black President of Florida Sheriff’s Association

Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings was elected last week to one of the nation’s largest and most successful associations in the nation. Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA) will now be led by Demings who is the first Black officer to serve in that role. The election process took place in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill.

Demings said, “It is truly an honor to be the new President of FSA,” Demings said. “I am thrilled to serve as the leader of such a worthy organization, and I will not take this opportunity lightly.”

Demings testified on Capitol Hill concerning a formula for anti-terrorism funding. The hearing and Demings’ testimony again brought the nation’s leaders attention to the tragedy in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub.

Because of Deming’s fight for the Central Florida area and its citizens, The Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative Grant Program is considering issuing the county funds that will benefit the Orlando area since we are a higher risk community, especially after the attack leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded at the nightclub in Downtown Orlando that attracts and caters to the GLBT community and the Latino community.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings being sworn in as FSA President in Washington D.C.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings being sworn in as FSA President in Washington D.C.

Demings will serve as President of the FSA for the upcoming coming year. His duties will include working with the Board of Directors to guide the efforts and direction of the FSA and its 67 Sheriffs. Demings is one-half of a law enforcement power couple who have served tirelessly in the Central Florida community.

Former Chief of Police, Val Demings, was appointed by Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer as the first female Chief of the Orlando Police Department in 2007.

Among other things, she reduced crime in Orlando. Even with significant budget cuts, Chief Demings was able to do more with less and increase the safety of the citizens she served. Chief Demings is currently running for Congresswoman in Central Florida’s District 10.
Sheriff Demings graduated from Jones High School and went on to get his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Florida State University. He received his Masters of Business Administration from Orlando College, which is now Everest University. He is also a graduate of the 194th session of the FBI’s National Academy and studied at the Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Why Excessive Force Cases and the OPD Citizens Review Board Matter to the Black Community

In a candidate roundtable discussion at New Covenant Baptist Church last week in Orlando, I asked the State Attorney Jeff Ashton’s opponent what she did when she sat on the Orlando Police Department’s Citizens Review Board. “What 23 excessive force cases? I don’t know anything about 23 excessive force cases. What years are you referring to? What cases,” she asked? She continued, “If you can provide me with the cases, I’d be more than happy to tell you what I did!” She was obviously heated that I asked.

I can tell you what she did. Nothing.

She sat silent. Not just on the 23 excessive force cases because she said she wasn’t on the board during that time, but said she did serve during 2005 and 2006. I can’t find any records that shows she served during that time frame. When she sat on the board, she did nothing about the excessive force cases that came across her desk. Even if she wasn’t on the board during the time of the 23 excessive force cases, wouldn’t she know about those cases even as a local attorney? Well, she said she didn’t. I sat glazed over wondering what county she was intending to serve. Was it Seminole? Osceola and Orange? If so, she had no clue. These incidents were filed against the City police not the Sheriff’s department, which serves the county.

She went on to explain what the review board did, which was not clear and then was bailed out by someone helping to answer the question posed.
I asked again, “What did you do, when those cases came across your desk?” I didn’t think I was asking a question that would stump someone running for State Attorney. Especially, not someone running against a powerful State Attorney that has national recognition with introducing DNA into the courts and a co-prosecutor on the Casey Anthony trial. From Ashton’s opponent, I got an Earth, Wind and Fire song and dance but no answer.

Shortly after I moved to Orlando a very close friend was gunned down and killed in Washington Shores. To this day, we have no clue who did it. Not many in the community spoke about it. Joel was a graduate of FAMU, not into any “bad business” and worked full-time at Disney and part-time at a small business in Washington Shores. He was picking up his paycheck.
To our family, he was one of our very best friends and was my husband’s best friend.

I remember when we received the call. I was mopping the floor and a friend of ours called us and asked to speak with my husband. “He’s busy,” I said. “It’s important,” our friend responded. I knew right then it was more than I could handle. I made sure my husband took the call and while he spoke quietly in the other room I mopped the same tile over and over again knowing in just a few minutes he’d come out and tell me something I didn’t want to hear. I could feel how tense it was. Something was seriously wrong.

He broke the news. I cried for so long, I can’t remember when I stopped crying. I remember the windows were open, we’d just bought our first home and I couldn’t stop sobbing. I was afraid the neighbors would hear me and wonder exactly what kind of neighbors we would be. So loud and emotional and we had just moved in.

Who took Joel from us? Was it a gang initiation, being caught in the cross-fire of a gun battle or could it have been excessive force? We still don’t know. However, what the murder did was make me more curious about the justice and political system. I never wanted anyone to feel the kind of hurt I felt when I found out Joel died.

So, when I asked the question, “What did you do on the OPD Citizens Review Board,” I wanted an answer as a citizen, a supporter of her opponent and as a journalist, so that I could come back and tell you in this piece. I didn’t ask her for the latest rendition of some tribal song and dance that tops the Billboard charts. I didn’t ask for the attitude she delivered. I wanted an answer and I didn’t want that answer just for Joel. I wanted it for every single person that really believes they are a victim of police brutality and for those of us who are curious as to what happened to those that passed away in police custody or with police nearby.

Now, I’ll backtrack and tell you what State Attorney Jeff Ashton did. After a thorough investigation, Ashton, made sure those OPD officers were indicted and prosecuted just about all of them. He didn’t go on a witch hunt for officers just because they wore blue he put it before a Grand Jury and sided with the truth. He didn’t back down. He didn’t put all officers in one category and hold them all responsible for another officer’s actions. He did what a good State Attorney should do. And Aston didn’t sit on the board.

The OPD Citizens Review Board is made up of community activists, citizens and appointed professionals in the community. This board is to review cases of police brutality or excessive force and make a recommendation about whether or not the cases should move forward or be thrown out.

We have the OPD Citizens Review Board because without a true, properly functioning board, the voice of those who very well could be beaten or unjustly attacked or stopped by police goes unheard. According to my research, Ashton’s opponent MAY have served two months on the board as chair.

Without the board, it’s the officer’s word versus the citizen’s word and quite frankly that’s not fair to either the officer or the alleged victim. If the chair of the board is silent, you’d better believe you’ll see more and more cases of police brutality hit the press and then go absolutely no where. Who was that chair? Ashton’s opponent was not only on the board but was the chair of the board.

Some attorney’s are voices for that opponent. But read on…the attorneys that hit the streets with bullhorns claiming to fight for justice are fighting for paychecks. They are fighting to get you hyped-up so you can turn their case into a media monster, while they garner national exposure, rake in additional clients and settle those cases so close to your heart for dollars rather than time behind bars for those offenders. That’s their goal. To get you to do their job. Hey, maybe that’s ok for some, but it’s not good enough for me around election time.  Look at their win/loss records. Furthermore, look at the law and if our legislators are not doing their jobs, vote them out.

As for Ashton’s opponent, she’s not ready, yet. Her time may come, but this is not it. We need someone level-headed enough to be able to fight for what’s right without being offended by questions that matter most to the community and he’s sitting in the seat already.

I was then asked thereafter whether or not I would support a black woman over a white man. I immediately said, I’d listen to the black woman, of course. She’s black and she’s a woman. I’m black and I’m a woman, so yes, I sat and I listened. I didn’t like what I heard but some of that I’ll save for another day. I refuse to rally behind anyone I have not seen fighting in the black and brown communities for the betterment of our community. I’d much rather fight for the candidate who listens and is unafraid and unapologetic about getting justice for those of us who so desperately need it. As a community, we must move forward in our thinking.

Being black doesn’t make us experienced in the law. Experience makes us experienced. We need to be careful of who and what’s behind any candidate that runs for office. Transparency is what’s needed and with Ashton we have that. When you don’t have that, you’re not confident enough to push through the elements of justice that will truly help the community combat the issues that plague, change and even all too often take the lives of our brothers and sisters.

How Open Carry laws are ending Black lives

Be grateful we don’t have open carry laws here in Florida…yet.

The open carry bill that was presented before the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate failed to pass last legislative session. The bill would have allowed more than 1.5 million people with concealed weapons licenses in Florida to carry those weapons openly in public areas or private businesses that would allow it.
To take it one step farther, Republicans presented a bill that would allow people with concealed weapons licenses to carry those weapons on state and college university campuses. How would you like to send your kid to a college that allows that type of foolishness?

Last week, we lost two black men to police shootings. Alton Sterling was one. Sterling was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on the street by an officer. The video of his murder was posted on social media by an eyewitness named Chris LeDay, who is an Atlanta native. Later, the man who posted the video was arrested. First, LeDay told The Source magazine, police arrested him because of battery, something he claims he knew nothing about. Yet, the final charge was for outstanding tickets. Another black man was killed in Minnesota.

The Minnesota man murdered was Philandro Castile, an elementary school lunchroom worker, who was shot and killed as he reached for his wallet to show the officer his identification. Diamond Reynolds, the eyewitness, said Castile, who was also her boyfriend, told the officer that he was licensed to carry and he had a gun on him. As he reached for his wallet, the officer saw the gun and fired off shots that killed Castile almost instantly.

As Castile lay slumped in the driver’s seat of his car, gasping for air, his white shirt soaked in blood which was running down the right side of his body and his arm torn nearly off, Reynolds recorded the tail end of the incident and live streamed it via Facebook’s live feature. We all watched Philandro Castile die with a 4-year old baby girl in the backseat of his car. The world is still shaken by how he died but why he died is debatable. Rallies and marches were held across the nation. During one of those rallies in Dallas, Texas, 11 officers were ambushed by a sniper and 5 were killed. The other six, wounded. The sniper sat tucked away in a building and shot the officers from afar while some protestors walked down the street with their guns slung across their bodies, showing the world they also had the right to openly carry weapons. But, when the shots were fired, those with guns instantly became suspects and if you put yourself in the shoes of the officers, they rightfully so became suspects. But, they weren’t guilty.

The sniper, who was not marching, was the lone gunman who took the lives of these officers and wounded several others. That gunman made every single man and woman carrying a gun a suspect. The same thing happens to many black people on a daily basis. We are suspicious because of a bias or prejudice that remains in the hearts and minds of some. There is no need for an open carry law to exist in any part of this country. But, let’s pretend there is, since evidently a majority of people seem to think so in parts of America.

If a black man legally is equipped with a gun and an officer sees that weapon, by law, he can feel threatened and shoot to kill. This is why, I am predicting, the officer who shot Castile will walk. He can say he feared for his life and maybe he really did. If so, who’s fault is that? I’ll tell you exactly whose fault it is. That blood lies on the hands of those who passed that bill into law without first considering or acknowledging we have a serious problem on our hands already. That problem is believed to be, the theory that some officers are afraid of black men and some black men are afraid of police officers. There is little to no trust between the two. We don’t have to overthink this as because it’s as simple as pie. Admitting it, is what seems to be the hardest part. Fear is what is killing black people at traffic stops and other places by SOME officers.

Simply, because of that terrible reality, black men who are licensed to carry weapons, can and will be, shot dead by someone feeling threatened. Until officers are not afraid of protecting and serving minority communities, they shouldn’t be patrolling those communities. At the moment which an officer is feeling threatened, he or she can take your life if you are carrying a weapon. There’s no way to differentiate whether or not that officer really felt threatened or whether or not the person with the gun was reaching for it.

For black people, open carry laws exacerbate the gun laws we currently are under. Black men and loud black women, we are already feared. If we carry a gun, we are instantly a triple threat. This is not to discourage you from being armed. It’s to let you know the real, raw, unadulterated truth. That truth is what took the life of Philandro Castile, a man good and patient enough to work around children. The laws are made to protect and should be interpreted by attorneys who can present it accurately to a jury.

I focused on black men mostly in this piece although I am well aware that black women also are victims from excessive force. I haven’t forgotten the Sandra Bland’s of the world and never will. The take away should be, our men are so very feared because they have so much to offer. They are the ones that are being forced by some, and please note some, people of all races, to be subject to oppression because they are talented, bright, smart, handsome and forceful. They are the backbone of our churches and the band that holds our families together.

Maybe we can’t understand each other in this country and maybe racism is too far gone to fix. But, I hope we can learn to at the very least, value the lives of one another so that we can live another day.

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.