DBCF’s Conference cries out to political leaders and candidates
Running for office to “Speak to our issues!”
By Roger Caldwell
ORLANDO, FL — The Democratic Black Caucus of Florida’s (DBCF) 34th Annual Conference was a call to candidates running for political office, and other political leaders to speak to issues directly impacting minority communities. The conference was held in early April at the Rosen Centre, Orlando Florida.
There were three jam-packed days of musical entertainment, executive meetings, round-table symposiums, training sessions, keynote speakers and excellent food.
The executive committee, members and attendees were left with an indelible exclamation mark that they can do better and be more assertive in supporting candidates who have an agenda to right the wrongs in the minority communities.
Saturday was a star-studded lineup of events featuring renowned speakers, Denise Rolark Barnes, Chairwomen of the National Newspaper & Publishers Association, who was the keynote speaker at breakfast, and led a stimulating and down-to-earth conversation during the Black Media Symposium. At lunch, actor and comedian Tommy Ford from the hit series “Martin” discussed confronting the bullies that are in our communities. And in the evening, the Honorable Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Ras Baraka – a poet and former educator – shared some of the challenges and opportunities in our changing inner cities.
All three speakers expounded on the importance of political candidates and officers “Speaking to Our Issues” which was the theme of the conference. “The speeches revealed the need for politicians to address the concerns while in office, rather than candidates speaking in generalities and politicians not fulfilling promises as it relate to the economic insecurity, social unrest and injustices minorities endure. This will motivate minorities to vote for them,” says Henry Crespo Sr., president of DBCF.
There was never a dull moment on Saturday morning at an interactive roundtable discussion, on how the Black Media can make a bigger impact in the communities during the 2016 election cycle. Black publishers and media organizations that participated in the forum were Ben Cain, The Ebony News; Jackie Miles, The Pensacola Voice; Bobby R. Henry, Sr., The Westside Gazette; James Madison, The Florida Sun; Kevin Seraaj, The Orlando Advocate; Roger Caldwell, On Point Media Group; Rich Black, The Onyx Magazine; and Denise Rolark Barnes, host/moderator, and publisher of the Washington D.C. Informer.
During the luncheon, Tommy Ford of Martin talked about his documentary to stop bullying with 25 Black male participants, ages 15-25, and his commitment to better the lives of young people. Many wondered what bullying had to do with politics. In Ford’s comical, southern Baptist preacher voice, he explained that white folks have bullied Black folks since slavery, and now Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are trying to do the same. He advised the audience that they had a job to do, and stand up to the bully, and endorse candidates who commit to doing the same thing.
The conclusion of a powerful and informative political day of learning emanated at the Gala, from the master community organizer for over 20 years, Ras Baraka, the son of Amina and Amiri Baraka. “We need an Urban Marshall plan now. We need a recovery act. We need it today. We need elected officials and those running for office to demand resources to our neighborhoods now, and stop worrying about being the first Negro to eat at the master’s table,” says Mayor Baraka.
As Mayor Baraka continued to share his insight on voting, he explained why Medgar Evers was killed, trying to make voting a right in the Black community. “Medgar Evers did not die trying to overthrow the government. Medgar Evers died because he wanted to vote. Medgar Evers was no radical; he died on his front lawn, because he tried to register people to vote in a Democracy, America,” says Baraka.
He made it clear to his audience that our community’s children were dying wherever they live in America. “Some minority communities look like war zones, and at this time minorities should not be giving endorsements until we know what candidates are going to do to change these communities, and if they don’t, hold the vote till they do. Too many people died for the vote, for us just to give it away,” explained Baraka. Mayor Baraka’s fiery speech received multiple rounds of applause, from the attendees at the Gala.
As the Gala ended, President Crespo talked about his plans for the future of the DBCF, and the remainder of his term as President. “The main focus of the organization, for the rest of my tenure, until next year, is to continue making our footprints around the State of Florida. The Caucus has grown from 14 chapters to 20 chapters, and our goal is to have 30 chapters by the end of my term. Also, we will be working hard to get the best candidate of the Democratic primary elected, but they must commit to ‘Speak to Our Issues,’ and we will hold them accountable. These are the two major concerns that we will focus on this year, and into next year.”
The Democratic Black Caucus of Florida was established in 1983 to unite and increase the political power for Black Democrats who went unnoticed. The Caucus is an integral part of the Florida Democratic Party’s infrastructure, which unites talent with opportunity to facilitate voter building through educational forums affecting voter registration drives (EVRD), get out the vote (GOTV), voter action network (VAN), vote by mail (VBM), and support qualified candidates approved by the Black Caucus