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Dotie Joseph – Candidate for Florida House District 108, inspiring students

Dotie Joseph – Candidate for Florida House District 108, inspiring students

In Georgia, Stacy Abrams made history recently by being elected the first Black female nominee of a major political party for governor. In Miami, another Yale graduate, Dotie Joseph, is part of that new wave of Black female candidates taking the country by storm this 2018 election cycle.

As a former Deputy City Attorney for the City of North Miami Beach who volunteers with the N.A.A.C.P. and serves on the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board, Joseph is a longtime public servant. She is now seeking to serve the com-munity where she grew up as State Representative for District 108. Previously, Joseph interned with President Carter in Atlanta and, worked with Congressman Peter Deutsch on Capitol Hill, and served as an Election Protection Attorney for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Despite the rigors of running for office, she regularly takes time to encourage and mentor young people.

On May 18, 2018, in honor of Haitian Flag Day, Attorney Dotie Joseph spoke to a group of students at Thomas A Edison Educational Center  in Little Haiti. She shared stories of how she had to overcome struggling to learn English, as a “Kreyol” speaking immigrant, to becoming a spelling bee champion. Using that story, Joseph told students they had to learn to “figure out ways to overcome” academic challenge.

She also shared a story to encourage students “not to let others define or limit how far you will go.” When she was submitting her applications for college, an older male postal worker, who she described as looking like Santa Claus but with a shorter beard, reviewed the schools to which she was applying. He noticed that she was applying to schools like Yale, Georgetown and Columbia. He then looked at her, pau-sed, and said, “those are some tough schools to get into,” and suggested that “maybe you should try applying to Miami-Dade (Community College).”

Joseph looked the man square in his eyes, smiled, and whipped out her Yale College I.D. card and handed it to the man. She politely explained, “Thank you for the advice, sir, but those are my law school applications, and I have already graduated from Yale University.” Turning beet red, he quickly processed her order, and handed her the receipt. Joseph thanked him and went on her way.

Using that story, Attorney Joseph explained to the students that, “Some people might say that that man was prejudiced, which is not impossible, but I don’t believe that was the case. I believe that he was trying to put the limitations of his experiences on me, but he did not know me. He had no idea what I was capable of—only God and I know that.”

Looking the students in the eyes, she added: “I believe God has planted seeds of greatness inside each one of you, but there will be people who will try to keep you down and keep you from reaching your purpose.

Sometimes it might even be people who love you—maybe your parents, or a friend- it doesn’t matter. They may love you, but they sometimes put their limits on you based on their own personal experiences. Don’t let them! I encourage you to pursue your God-given dream or goal—regardless of what anyone else says. That’s how I became the first black attorney to ever work for the City of North Miami Beach; that’s how I became the first Black woman to serve as Vice-Chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party; and that’s how you are going to be able to reach your goal as well.”

Earlier this year, Joseph read to a group of kindergarten students in Liberty City as part of the “African American Read-In” program coordinated by the Wilkie D. Fergusion Black Lawyers Association, the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, and members of the Haitian Lawyers Association, of which she is past president.

Well before she ran for office, Dotie Joseph has always made time to mentor and tutor youth. In 2016, Dotie Joseph served as the keynote speaker at Miami-Dade College’s Haitian Flag Day celebration, where she received a standing ovation from the students. As the daughter of Pastor Gonel Joseph, Dotie taught Sunday School at Beraca Church for years; and after college, she came home and volunteered for her dad’s church as the Acting Youth Director. Given that her father was a professor, her mother a retired nurse and educator, and her brother is public school teacher, I guess you can say that caring about young people runs in the family. Currently, she continues to mentor students, including those volunteering on and interning for her campaign to become the new State Representative for Florida House District 108.

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