NAN, Black Broadcasters stage candidates’ forum at New Birth
By Derek Joy
The South Florida Chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) joined the Black Broadcasters in staging a political candidate’s forum at New Birth Cathedral of Faith.
While Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls headlined the forum, a number of political incumbents and candidates were on hand for the question and answer session.
“Let tonight be the spring-board for what we have to do. This is the National Action Network’s ‘Souls to Enroll – Operation Lemonade Part II’,” said NAN President Rev. Al Sharpton, in a brief introductory teleconference.
A media panel of Black American journalists began with an answer to the question of the Black media’s impact.
George Curry, editor of the National Newspaper Publishers’ Association (NNPA), Daytona Times/Florida Courier Publisher Charles Cherry III, Guy Thomas, publisher of the Haitian American Business News, Gospel Truth Publisher Sandy Walker, Joseph Beauville of Radio Mega and the Westside Gazette Publisher Bobby R. Henry, Sr., sat on the media panel.
“Black media gives the Black community a voice. Without a voice we’re silent. The media and the church has been a motivator for change in our community,” Walker said.
Cherry, who is also an attorney, said: “Freedom of the press is the most important right we have in our community. It’s a sense of mission that we continue to have despite obstacles, the economy and the internet.”
Henry, while recalling how his father, Levi Henry, Jr., founded the Westside Gazette in 1971 after being misquoted by a mainstream newspaper, said: “We have a mission, a responsibility to inform people. We can’t deny or forget who we are or where we came from.”
Those answers set the stage for questions to Senator Nan Rich, the former State Legislator, former Republican Governor Charlie Crist and an education panel composed of Doug Futhill, Felicia Bronson, Dr. Antonio White, Lynn Summers, Dr. Marcus Bright, Valthena Brown and Ronald Marcello.
“If you didn’t want us before, what makes us think you want us now, other than for the money,” said White, in speaking against public school funds being used for vouchers to pay private school tuition for students.
These panelists addressed questions on such pressing issues as public education funding, the FCAT, the CORE Curriculum, school vouchers for public school students to attend private schools, the schools to prison pipeline and more.
“The thing that I saw was that the people didn’t get a chance to ask questions from a grassroots level,” said El Portal Village Mayor Daisy M. Black. “The media and the education panel was very professional. But I think they should have allowed the grassroots people to ask questions.”
Crist and Sen. Rich, who appeared separately were grilled by the panel on hot but-ton issues, including the difference between themselves and opponents.
Henry asked both Crist and Sen. Rich how much money had been raised by the Democratic National Committee and how much would be spent on advertising with women and minority businesses?
Neither could answer that question. Rich acknowledged having raised limited funds, while saying she anticipated advertising in the Black media.
Crist, likewise, didn’t know how much the DNC had raised, but said: “I don’t know what the percentages are. I can assure you it will be significant. More than you’ve ever seen.”
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (Dem., Fort Lauderdale), called Crist and Rich to task and gave the answer. In fact, Hastings challenged the entire Democratic Party and the audience.
“I feel, after listening here tonight, and countless other events, you all know that’s BS,” said Hastings. “The Democratic Party spent $8-billion and only .08-percent in the Black Community.
“One thing I know is that we’re (Blacks) are hurting and will continue to hurt. We need to address these issues. If voting is really nothing, not important, then why are so many Republicans trying to suppress your right to vote?”
See excerpts of Congressman Hastings presentation on www.thewestsidegazette.com.