The primary elections in Broward County demonstrated two things rather convincingly, each worthy of note.
First, African Americans have won a significant victory. This is no small achievement, especially in a year where the words “Black Lives Matter” have made national headlines.
No, those words are not anarchist, communist, or Marxist despite what the supremacist in the White House says.
Our country is divided. How racist is it that an openly Islamophobic candidate won a GOP primary in Palm Beach, only to be congratulated, not censured by a presidential tweet?
But then South Florida has never been the home and heart of racial equality.
In 1981, the Ku Klux Klan was still meeting in Davie. With the anger and hate in our country today, are you to be surprised to see voices like that rise again? Does the name Charlottesville ring a bell?
This is a county where just a few years ago residents of the city of Fort Lauderdale rose up in arms about renaming sections of Northeast 6th Street after Dr. James Franklin Sistrunk, because it would reduce property values in Caucasian neighborhoods.
Forget that the doctor was a city pioneer, who had a hundred years ago established the city’s first medical facility for Blacks. He had to. Our forefathers unjustifiably barred him from performing surgical procedures in white hospitals.
A century later, his name still did not play well in “Rio Vista.” People opposed extending the street with his name on it to Federal Highway. Few leaders, including our own, spoke out courageously against it. Systemic racism was embedded in its rejection. This should not surprise you.
You live in greater Fort Lauderdale, where Black citizens were not allowed east of the U.S. after 6 p.m. at night as late as 1950.
This is a community where Black teenagers on bicycles still get pulled over for “biking while black.” It happens.
Well, wake up Broward, smell the new roses. The times — they are a-changin'. The 21st century is coming our way. Our Black citizens are coming together as a community with a voice that wants to be heard.
As gays and minorities everywhere have for years, African Americans are saying they want to be a part of our cities, not apart from it. This week that community made a statement in the primaries.
The gay community has already won significant roles here in Broward, from mayoral races to judicial ones. Yesterday was a powerful day for African Americans to claim victory, including one Shevrin Jones, who is Black and gay. He will also be a state senator. How about that?
As Harold Pryor, the winning Democratic candidate in the hotly-contested race for state attorney, wrote on his website, “Broward is becoming an increasingly diverse community, and the criminal justice system has always had a disproportionate impact on communities of color.”
Pryor added, “I understand the criminal justice system from the perspective of not only a lawyer, but as a Black man who has seen from a young age how the criminal justice system has impacted my family and friends.”
As a Democrat, Pryor will likely prevail in the November race. Similarly, on the opposite side of the criminal justice spectrum, Gordon Weekes, an African American, is likely to become the county’s next chief public defender.
Brenda Forman has prevailed to remain on as the clerk of the courts. Forman’s win makes her accountable for running a court system during a viral epidemic, protecting the health of her employees and the public’s right to access to the courts. She must avoid making foolish personal feuds public fodder.
Like Sheriff Tony, elected in his own right despite questions about his past transgressions, everyone will be scrutinizing Forman, hopefully based on her competence, not her color. Tony’s win suggests that Black votes matter as well.
Sheriff Tony defeated a just man unjustly removed from office by our dishonorable governor. Scott Israel fought for our rights with tenacity and passion, and school shootings in America do not occur because of sheriffs. Our country has issues of gun violence that have been too long ignored, period.
It was Joe Scott, another African American, that appears to have won the race for supervisor of elections, beating a young man backed by the Human Rights Campaign. Scott’s gutsy candidacy was inspirational. He promises to depoliticize and modernize the office.
The second point of this editorial is to simply say that our votes have to be counted on November 3. This week, they were, quickly and efficiently. That is the way it is supposed to be. The elections office is not supposed to make headlines. You are not even supposed to know it’s there.
The presidential election ahead of us will draw national scrutiny to South Florida. Hell, the whole world will be watching. Our ballots could swing the presidential election. Get yours in on time. Don’t wait for the mailman.
Our gay community understands the importance of having a place at the table. We should applaud and partner with those groups who gain their rights as well.
It is testimony to our participation that so many of this year’s candidates advertised their campaigns on the pages of the South Florida Gay News. We thank them.
It is a tribute to our community’s role in the body politic. You have made us players in the game. We show up at the polls. We vote. Our voices count.
The historic wins by African Americans in Broward should be an encouraging reminder that a small group of people working together can accomplish a hell of a lot, maybe even swing Florida blue on November 3.
We should all be proud that our community is making the news for transitional and generational change. We have already been part of it, and we are going to continue to be so. SFGN will stand with those who stand for themselves to seek a newer, safer, saner world for all of us.