A little more than 24 hours after Champlain Towers South collapsed, I discussed the devastation with a group of high school in Liberty City. The students, their eyes wide with curiosity, asked questions, offered sympathies and dissected video of the falling tower with expert-level precision.
Then came the question I dreaded most:
“Why should I care about this?”
Those six words hit me like a Mike Tyson jab to the chest. I was speechless. To the student and some of her classmates, Surfside might as well have been Saturn. Whatever ethereal connection that caused South Floridians to rally around one another in the past few weeks was just nonexistent.
On one hand, I thought to myself, she’s just a kid. There’s no way she could fathom the tragedy that essentially occurred in her own backyard. On the other, attributing the question to her youth totally obscures the reality of her day-to-day life. And the longer I sat with that, the more I realized her question wasn’t rooted in a lack of compassion. The student genuinely did not know why she, a Black teenager growing up in Liberty City, should care about someone else’s struggles when it seemed like the world didn’t care about her own.
That might seem selfish, but here’s where empathy becomes important: The student is growing up in one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country. In a state that just made voting more difficult. At a time when right-wing extremism appears on the rise. Excuse her for being a little pessimistic.
Was all of this on her mind when she posed her question? Probably not. But that doesn’t take away from the reality of her situation. That said, we as a community have to take an introspective look at our values.
Tragedies like the one that befell Surfside are supposed to supersede social location. They’re supposed to bring all people together with the hopes of rebuilding something better than ever. But for it to not even resonate with a girl who lives within 10 miles suggests a fundamental disconnect inside Miami, one that’s not up to a high schooler to solve.
Lil Baby said it best: “It’s bigger than Black and white — it’s a problem with the whole way of life.”
INSIDE THE 305
The Gov. Ron DeSantis-backed “anti-riot” law was tested in an unexpected way Tuesday when protesters blocked a Miami-Dade highway.
For at least four hours, demonstrators blocked part of the Palmetto Expressway to show solidarity with the thousands of Cubans who, beginning Sunday, marched through the streets to draw attention to the country’s deteriorating economy and repressive government. But this sort of action — which the newly implemented law defines as “willfully obstruct[ing] the free, convenient, and normal use of a public street, highway or road” — should result in a traffic citation. It didn’t — and DeSantis looked as evasive as Barry Sanders when, during an appearance in Miami, a reporter asked the governor why.
“What is going on in Cuba in particular, those are not simply normal, run-of-the-mill protests like we see here in the United States. They don’t have freedoms respected there, whereas in the United States, you have a panoply of freedoms that are respected,” DeSantis said. “They are seeking an end to the regime itself… So that is fundamentally different from what we saw last summer where people were burning down buildings — and this was fortunately not happening in Florida to a large extent — burning down buildings, looting, breaking windows and targeting law enforcement and all those things.”
The flaw in the governor’s comparison is that the Black Lives Matter protests were, in DeSantis’ words, “seeking to end the regime” — the one known as white supremacy.
Critics of Florida’s new “anti-riot” legislation, a DeSantis priority also known as House Bill 1 that became law this spring following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, quickly suggested hypocrisy in the contrast between the policing of the two movements.
“HB1 was designed to criminalize Black protests for justice; if he & the GOP legislature could explicitly state that in the bill they would of,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, wrote on Twitter.
“I’m very happy that everyday Cubans feel empowered enough to protest the injustices in their country,” State Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach, said via Twitter. “But when Black Americans protest injustice using the very same methods, we are deemd [sic] rioters, subversives, traitors, un-American.”
Christina Pushaw, a DeSantis spokeswoman, defended the governor on Twitter with a trove of retweets that she punctuated by sharing an article from an embattled news source and the words “Protests and riots are not the same thing.”
Miami Gardens residents’ fight to prevent upcoming Formula One races at Hard Rock Stadium hit a major snag last week with the dismissal of their federal lawsuit.
Citing a lack of evidence, District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. wrote that the suing residents could not prove that Miami-Dade County, Formula One and others intentionally discriminated against them by moving the race from Downtown Miami, the initial proposed location, to the stadium. That taxpayers in both locations protested the race for the same reasons (e.g. pollution, traffic concerns, etc.) and Miami’s history of anti-Blackness did little to sway the judge, who needed the plaintiffs to prove the similarities between hosting the race in Miami Gardens and Downtown Miami before ruling in their favor.
“Indeed, many of the complaint’s allegations indicate that the County’s decision was driven solely by race-neutral economic and political motivations,” wrote Scola, who also denied a request by the residents to amend their lawsuit and directed the clerk to close the case. “While it is certainly plausible that the harms alleged will disproportionately impact Black residents, simply by virtue of the fact that [more than 70%] of Miami Gardens’ population is Black, that alone is not enough to show discriminatory intent.”
Whether Scola’s decision meant the end of the dispute was unclear. Anyone who knows former Miami-Dade Commissioner Betty Ferguson, one of the leading opponents of the race, knows she doesn’t bow out easily. Just days after the ruling, Ferguson was already talking about her options to appeal.
“I don’t care what you say the intent was,” Ferguson said in an interview. “History shows the harm, undeniably so. What more do you need in order to give some protection to Black communities?”
OUTSIDE THE 305
The Texas legislature’s debate over a new restrictive voting law recently took an unexpected turn.
After more than 50 House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. to prevent vote on new election laws, Republicans voted Tuesday to send law enforcement to bring them back to Texas.
“We want them to come back — that’s our message,” Rep. Jim Murphy, a Houston Republicans and chair of the House GOP caucus, told the Texas Tribune.
The immediate consequences of such a vote are unknown. Texas police have no jurisdiction in D.C. and therefore cannot force the Democrats back to the Lone Star State. Gov. Greg Abbott, however, believes the Democrats who left the state should be stripped of their leadership roles.
“Of course any Democrat who is a member of any leadership, such as a chairman of a committee — they should be losing their job,” Abbott told a local radio host.
Democrats intend to stay out of Texas for the duration of the special legislative session that ends in August. Speaking to a local television station, Abbott refused to give up hope on the GOP-backed proposals to limit voting-by-mail and ban 24-hour voting, among many other things.
“As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done,” Abbott said Monday.
Just when you think the saga of Haiti President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination couldn’t get more strange, here comes another curve ball.
The alleged mastermind of the plot happened to be Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian doctor who once lived in Florida and dreamed of becoming his home country’s president, according to Haiti’s police chief. Law enforcement arrested Sanon, 63, on Sunday, making him among the 21 people, three of whom are of Haitian descent, in police custody under suspicion of carrying out Moise’s killing. Five ex-Colombian soldiers believed to be involved in the attack are still at-large.
Sanon’s arrest only yielded further questions about Moise’s assassination. Among them: how Sanon, who filed for bankrupcy in 2013, could fund such a job for the tune of $3,000 per month– the amount some of the arrested suspects claimed to have been paid since January; how the alleged assailants slipped past Moïse’s guards; how a former Drug Enforcement Agency informant became involved; and why attackers claimed to be DEA in the first place.
Moïse’s killing now presents even more problems in a country already beset with instability and economic issues. In the days following the attack, three people have claimed to be president and calls for U.S. military involvement have swelled. Meanwhile, Democrats want the Biden administration to cease Haitian deportations.
Big up Kerby Jean-Raymond and the good folks at Pyer Moss for hosting the first show on the couture schedule by a Black American designer. Forever the innovator, Jean-Raymond kept it so unapologetically Black (every look coincided with that of a Black person’s invention) that the New York Times’ chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman noted that the show further expanded on what has traditionally constituted as “couture.”
It would be more accurate to say that’s where a new era of couture shows, one with a different promise of what is possible, began.
Because what Mr. Jean-Raymond, who has become a star of New York fashion, thanks to highly considered shows that take as their guiding principle the reclamation of the Black role in shaping American history, offered up was not just an argument for his own big ambitions as a designer of high fashion — for his desire to be “the next Prada, Bottega Veneta, Maison Margiela,” as he said in a call before the show. It was a new definition for what could constitute “couture.”
Mj Rodriguez has many identities: Afro-Latina, trans, woman. Now add Emmy nominee to the list.
Rodriguez, star of the FX drama “Pose,” made history Tuesday when she became the first transgender performer to be nominated for an Emmy in the lead acting category. “Pose” follows Rodriguez as she navigates the world of New York ball culture in the 1980s. After three seasons, the series aired its final episode in June.
In an interview with “Variety,” Rodriguez called her nomination a “pivotal moment” for LGBTQIA+ representation.
“A moment like this extends and opens and elongates the possibilities of what’s going to happen and I believe the Academy is definitely making it possible and their eyes are more than open,” Rodriguez said. “Yes, I do believe they’re going to continue, and I also feel like we’re going to keep speaking and encouraging and informing and educating people around the world.”
Where does “The 44 Percent” name come from? Click here to find out how Miami history influenced the newsletter’s title.