Congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson hosts MLKnonviolence forum in spite of political tomfoolery
By Derek Joy
Amidst the political tomfoolery attempted to be played by her political opponent, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, (Dem., Dist. 24) returned to the Joseph Caleb Center Auditorium to host a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nonviolence Forum some 20 years after her first such event.
Wilson’s event, in conjunction with the Miami Dade County Juvenile Services Department and her 5000 Role Models of Excellence, gained added impact from a panel of notable guests.
“Children are still dying. Adults are still dying. And there’s no end in sight,” said program moderator Rodney Baltimore of radio station HOT 105. “What we now know is that you don’t have to be involved in a crime to be a victim of violence.”
The focus was clearly conveyed in a stop the violence, nonviolent approach to life. Such was the message of each panelist Wilson invited to speak.
Featured speaker Charles S. Dutton, the Tony-nominated, Emmy Award winning actor, was joined on the panel by Candyce Haynes, Queen Brown, Chanae Forshee, Jo-Marie Payton, and Miami’s own internationally known recording artist, Betty Wright.
“We’re here today because I wanted to have a forum to address violence,” said Wilson. “I had one of these forums 20 years ago when my program was 500 Role Models of Excellence. Roc (Charles S. Dutton) was the feature speaker.
“That was when they were having the smash and grab robberies and killing tourists. We started having these forums and the violence stopped. It was quiet for a while. And all of sudden violence broke out – especially in Miami Gardens.”
In the time Wilson’s program had gone from 500 to 5,000, violence has had its topsy-turvy trend. As Wilson noted, the violence against tourists grabbed international media attention.
As that trend all but faded into relative obscurity, the violence against youth has seen an upward spike. Miami Gardens has been the most recent center of attention because of the recurring shootings and murders.
“I used to be a hardcore, hardhearted guy. Once you make the decision to change, all kinds of things happen,” Dutton said.
The message was driven home by each speaker. Each had unique circumstances that added essence their words.
Equally important is that each speaker conveyed the need to take responsibility for one’s own actions. What’s more is that each panelist spoke of the need to create more programs to intervene and mentor youth.
“I’d like to see a better line of communications established for this forum,” said Ronald Fulton, a quadriplegic who attended the forum. “I saw this expensive, armored police vehicle the other day. They spend money on that but won’t spend money on pro-grams to help children prevent violence.”
Forshee had a 12-year-old niece shot and killed some five months ago. Brown’s 24-year-old son was murdered seven years ago. Wright’s 21-year-old son was murdered Christmas Eve 2005, while she was on a cruise.
“Dr. King believed in nonviolence. He believed itn takes more courage not to fight with violence. And that is how we want to honor him today,” said Wilson.
Wilson found time to speak on the insulting tactics of Michael Etienne during his campaign. The much anticipated debate did not materialize as expected at the weekly UP-PAC (Unrepresented Peoples Political Action Committee).
According to members of UP-PAC when the invitation to participate in a debate with incumbent District 24 Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Michael Etienne was the first to confirm.
However, Etienne was a no show, just as he has been on every other occasion when the two were scheduled to hash things out in a public forum, including an interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald.
What’s more, some dirty tactics engaged in by people who claimed to work for Etienne’s campaign were exposed by Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharieff.
“I’m sort of discouraged,” Wilson told the audience. “Discouraged because I do have an opponent and he is not as ethical as most opponents I’ve faced. He has workers saying, ‘Frederica Wilson is dying. She has a terminal illness. She isn’t telling you that.’
“They’re working the polls during early voting and knocking on peoples doors and saying, ’She doesn’t care about Haitian people. What has she done for Haitians? All she cares about is Black Americans’.
“Everybody knows that’s not true. He’s brought corruption to the election. He’s like a snake in the grass,” added Wilson, while noting her efforts after the deadly earthquake devastated Haiti, including get the TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and the Family Re-Unification Act.
Wilson said Sharieff brought to her attention what some Haitian Americans in Miramar were doing on behalf of Etienne, who could not be reached for comment.
Etienne has yet to deny having hired campaign workers to engage in such unethical tactics. He did not appear for the debate or respond to efforts to contact him.
In the absence of the debate, Wilson engaged the audience after architect Ron Fraser provided an update on the Norland High School contract, the MAST Academy and the Miami Dade District Schools certification process for minority vendors seeking to bid on contracts.
Former Miami Dade District 2 Commissioner Betty Ferguson recognized the efforts of Capt. Faye Davis, the Miami Dade firefighter who spearheaded the effort where members of the Progressive Black Firefighters Association taught 86 youth how to swim.
“It was a nine week summer program for youths from ages six to 16,” said Davis. “They had some firefighters and hired other certified swim instructors to teach kids how to swim.”
During the question and answer session, engineer Ben Essen suggested Wilson mentor minority contractors.
“You mean you want me to stop my work in Congress to mentor contractors?” Wilson asked incredulously. “You want me to stop working immigration reform, an increase in minimum wage, winning freedom for those 200 kidnapped girls in Nigeria, healthcare, jobs, transportation and all the other things I’m fighting for?
“The more people are gainful fully employed, the more they spend. That reduces the deficit. There’s no other way. And President Obama met this deficit from Day 1. It is a deficit that George Bush left from two wars in Iraq.”
Wilson also expressed being discouraged by the recent turn of events in Ferguson, Mo., where a police officer shot and killed an unarmed, young Black American recently.
“How this policeman shot an unarmed boy, I just can’t get out of my mind,” said Wilson. “I tell them no because they’re either dead or in jail. Down in Liberty Square Projects they‘re killing people like dogs.
“People keep asking me are they rioting in Miami. I say no. There’s nobody to riot. They’ve killed them all, or they’re in prison.”