Recalling 2014: A Year of Resiliency & Continued Hope
2014 was a roller coaster year that exposed the sharp divide between the politics that win elections and the policies that our communities need to thrive. November alone not only saw too many gains for right wing extremists in Florida and across the nation, but also witnessed a belated reprieve to immigrants, and deplorable criminal justice verdicts in Ferguson and New York.
Yet this wave of disappointment and injustice was also met by a budding social movement that is increasingly being led by a new generation of young leaders who are willing to take to the streets to make sure that their voices are heard and the democratic rights of all are protected.
|The faces of the New Freedom Movement|
It is their dedication in seeing the urgency of the moment that is fueling our steps forward. In the horror of Mike Brownâ€™s and Eric Gardnerâ€™s killings, it was the rallying cry of #BlackLivesMatter and the youth leading in the street that gives us hope and direction.Â In the swamp and drowning that was the Congressional fight over comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation, it was the demands from militant youth and undocumented for Obama to stop deportations through Executive Action that prevailed â€“ action that could provide relief to more than 600,000 people in Florida alone
The lessons learned in 2014, both at the ballot box and on the streets, must find their way back to our political system and our elected officials.Â Taking our cue from our youth, the time has come for different, political movement. One that is bold, energetic and fearless.One that values Black Â and Brown lives, unites those at the margins, and offers a way to the anxious white working class to join in solidarity and in humanity. One that allows our elders to still play a vital role as they graciously pass the reigns of the organizations and institutions to the previously uninvolved.
The seeds have been planted and the investment that we are making in communities and leaders is beginning to show. As we begin 2015, we are heartened by brilliant responses in Ferguson and New York City, hopeful of the possibilities in winning local elections, and grateful to be a part of the New Freedom Movement that is emerging.
STATEMENT ON FERGUSON
Florida New Majority stands in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and with all young people of color who have been told again that their lives donâ€™t matter. We, in particular, stand with the African American community. In Ferguson and throughout the country, poor and working class Black people are considered and treated as less than human. We recognize the historic and pivotal role of the Black freedom movement, and we call on all communities, Asian, Latino, Caribbean, Arab and White to support the dignity of the African American experience and their human right of respect.
|Executive Director Gihan Perera reflects on the new elected faces of Miami|
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the parents of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner and the thousands of African-American, Latino and other young people who are criminalized and brutalized by the police in this country every day. We condemn the militarization of the police against the civilian population in Ferguson and cities all over the United States as an offense against the most basic principles of fairness and democracy.
The failure of the Ferguson grand jury to indict Mike Brownâ€™s killer illustrates the clear need for a complete overhaul of police departments throughout this nation. To do this requires a paradigm shift away from the mental and systemic nature of mass incarceration. Underneath this epidemic is the fear based drive to lock up and socially control Black youth and other people of color who are deemed threatening, dangerous, and undeserving. A drive that only further alienates members of the public from each other and increases racial anxiety and fear based violence.
This is a righteous and moral fight to be fought with all tools at our disposal, including in the streets and at the ballot box.
As we head into a new year, we call on all good people to keep up the fight, now and in the long run. Visit the Ferguson National Response Network to keep up with the latest actions and events around the nation, and support our work to battle police brutality, the school to prison pipeline, and the criminalization of youth right all across Florida.
ENGAGING VOTERS & IMPACTING THE 2014 ELECTIONS
|Mone Holder speaks to NewsJax4|
In the past year, FNM spearheaded a number of civic engagement campaigns to lift up the critical nature and presence of the Rising New Electorate â€“ African-Americans, Latinos, women, youth and LGBT communities â€“ in reshaping the political landscape.
Staff continued to work in all year long to protect and expand the fundamental right to vote in Florida.The organization’s Right to Vote campaign, a cornerstone of our Expanding Democracy work, coordinated with legal advocates and policy experts to build legislative momentum towards policies that would neutralize attempts to suppress voting rights particularly in relationship to African-American, immigrant, youth, and Latino communities.
During the fall primaries and midterm elections, FNM trained and sent out brigades of voter protection volunteers to the polls to monitor operations. The organization also launched two voting campaigns designed to increase participation in the 2014 gubernatorial election. #BlackVotesMatter / #OurVotesMatter raised awareness about the issues at stake for black families in the election, increased power and influence of the black vote in state politics, and ensured that black interests and values were honored. #VotaPorMiGente had similar goals, utilizing multiple strategies ranging from, field and phone canvassing, leadership development, tele-town halls and other tactics to elevate the importance and impact of the Latino vote in state politics.
|GOTV in Osceola|
As a result,Â BlackVotesMatter built a field canvass of over 30 canvassers that knocked on approximately 60,000 doors and reached 17,000 voters in predominantly African-American precincts in Duval County. Working closely with SEIUâ€™sÂ â€œBoricua Votaâ€ campaign, #VotaPorMiGente helped bring a taste of Puerto Rican-style politics to Osceola with caravans and musical â€œflash mobs,â€ encouraging the public to vote early and send in their absentee votes. A month long phone bank produced nearly 5,000 calls and a statewide teletownhall in Spanish reached nearly 200,000 households and attracted more than 25,000 participants.
The campaigns motivated voters to care about the election, create energy for increased turnout, and built infrastructure and leaders for long term civic engagement.Â Immediate results were seen in Central Florida, where interns and organizers were instrumental in helping FNMâ€™s endorsed candidates, Viviana Janer and Cheryl Grieb unseat incumbent Republicans on the Board of Osceola County Commissioners, effectively turning the body from red to blue. The â€œdynamic duo,â€ as they called themselves, became only the second and third women ever elected to the Board, with Janer earning the distinction of being the first Latina elected to county-wide office. In Miamiâ€™s County Commission District 8, Daniella Levine-Cava also unseated an incumbent, bringing a needed progressive voice to that board.
MOBILIZATION & COMMUNITY EDUCATION
|Freedom Flicks Launches in Kissimmee|
December was also a time of innovative launches. In Miami, local artists, muralists, and live performers participating in our “Culture is a Weapon” event transformed FNM’s Miami offices into a vibrant arts space to celebrate the year and raise funds for the important work tof delivering on the promise of a fair and equal democracy.
Staff also brought FNM’s â€œFreedom Flicksâ€ effort (a series of socially-conscious movies and discussion for high-school and college-age youth) to Kissimmee with a showing of the movie â€œMandelaâ€.
Moving forward, the Orlando/Kissimmee office plans to host these movie nights once a month, each with a different theme and in partnership with organizations and community leaders to engage our youth in dialogue around social justice issues.Â Next up in January is immigration reform, in collaboration with Mi Familia Vota and the Florida Farm Workersâ€™ Association.
STAFF INSPIRATION:Â WHY OUR WORK MATTERS NOW MORE THAN EVER
Director of Field Operations
“From Trayvon to Mike Brown”
Young men who were at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and apparently in the wrong skin. I understood the injustice of those murders. But now it feels different. It feels personal. It has rattled my spiritâ€¦ Maybe because Mike, like Trayvon, was no different than my 20 male cousins, 3 nephews, 2 Godsons, and countless friends. Maybe because I watched the media alter the image of a child to justify his murder. Maybe because I saw a nation of people more willing to believe he was a â€˜thugâ€™ than accept the possibility that he was profiled and shot for merely walking down the street.Â Maybe itâ€™s personal because I am black woman and anything that comes from my womb will be, to some degree, another Trayvon Martin, another Mike Brown. I felt as if I knew his laugh and his smile; his desires and dreams; his fears and his future. Maybe in a way I did.
“An Historic MomentÂ “
We are witnessing a collective awakening to the reality of this nation. This is the moment we confront our history and our present so that we can move forward as a nation.
This moment is painful, but itâ€™s needed.Â Itâ€™s when real change can begin.Â Itâ€™s when we realize poverty, injustice and marginalization are not inevitable facts of life, but the result of conscious decisions made at every level of government.Â And itâ€™s the moment we realize that we have the power to make change happen by becoming engaged in our neighborhoods and cities, and at the ballot box.
“We Need Lasting Change”
It is obvious that something is wrong and something needs to be done to bring more â€œequalityâ€ to the halls of Justice.Â Protesting has been an outlet thus far for some Jacksonville citizens and it is supportedas long as it fits within the rights protected by the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.Â We need to take this raw emotion and nourish it thereby cultivating it in a manner that will bring lasting change.Â Â We need to educate so that the citizens of Jacksonville will have an understanding of what is going on policy wise as well as a clear understanding of the potential ramifications as a result of inaction. We need to continue organizing trainings because if we are on one accord we can cause change in our communities.Â One of the best ways to do that is by utilizing the ballot box.Â Taking proactive action to elect officials that have open minds, hearts and listening ears to the daily plight of the people that they serve.Thank you for using Soul Of Miami!