A crowd of more than two dozen community leaders packed ArtServe co-working and education space in Ft. Lauderdale last week to brainstorm ways that they can come together to hold elected officials accountable around the issues that impact their respective communities.
The April 25th Broward conversation was organized New Florida Majority (NewFM) and SEIU Florida as a way to both debrief the 2018 Florida legislative session and provide a space for residents to discuss how they could take action towards bettering their communities.
NewFM political director, Dwight Bullard, moderated the conversation and spoke about the importance of raising up the issues that impact communities of color.
“This community conversation is important in order to get the community ready for the very important elections coming up in 2018,” said Bullard.
“Conversations like this need to happen with more frequency so that community members can take ownership of their own destiny. It will be important for residents, not only of Broward county but of the state of Florida to stay vigilant and motivated in order to see real change.”
Six speakers discussed a variety of community issues including affordable housing, climate justice, gun violence, education, immigration and the Voter Rights Restoration Amendment (Amendment 4). Speakers included State Rep. Bobby Dubose, Nancy Metayer (Climate Justice Program Manager, NewFM), Emmanuel George (Founder, Black Broward), Rod Kemp (Formerly incarcerated citizen, Broward resident), Dexter Gunn (Broward Chapter President, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition), and Felicia Alvarez (Broward County School Teacher).
State Rep. Bobby Dubose emphasized the importance of addressing South Florida’s affordable housing crisis.
“Affordable housing is a problem when our teachers who aren’t being paid enough, our first responders and folks that we really rely can’t afford housing here,” said Dubose.
“We should continue to raise this issue and amplify our voices in Tallahassee so that we can be the agitators and bring forth some legislation to solve this issue.” Speaking on behalf of FRRC, Dexter Gunn emphasized the need for Florida to restore the ability to vote to all Florida citizens that have paid their debt to society.
“FRRC believes that returning citizens should have a chance to have their rights restored after serving their time. Voting rights should apply to everyone,” said Gunn.
“If you paid your debt to society, you should be able to vote.”
Nancy Metayer closed the discussion by highlighting the way that environmental issues impact communities of color.
“We have to push our local officials to take climate and environmental issues more seriously. We do not want to be another Flint and we want to make sure that our communities are resilient,” said Metayer.
“Until we start having real conversations around disaster resilience, affordable housing and energy dependency, there will always be a need for environmental advocacy.”