BY LOUIS C. WARD
ORLANDO – The Democratic Black Caucus of Florida’s (DBCF) 40th Annual Conference and Gala was a celebration of “40 years of educating, working and persevering to be the change so desperately needed.”
Guest speaker, Bishop Dr. William Barber and special speakers Aramis Ayala, former Attorney General; Orlando Mayor Jerry Demings; Nikki Fried, Chair of Florida Democratic Party; and Attorney Sean Shaw, and the workshops enhanced the annual get together of a diversity of politicians, public, civic and community leaders, educators, members of the clergy and professionals held May 19 through 21 at the Rosen Centre, 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida.
The conference’s theme: “Remember the past; Fight for the Future” mentally connected conference participants with the realities of the issues facing Floridians everyday under the autocratic disposition of Governor Ron DeSantis and his Republican controlled legislature.
Speeches, skits, and workshops highlighted what Blacks, Hispanics, women, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, must focus on to speak truth to power to eliminate the ultra conservatives strategic, but repressive policies in the sunshine state of Florida.
Through a video, Bishop Dr. Barber vividly told participants: “Stop what you are doing! You are sending out the wrong message.” He said when you are registering people to vote, be specific about real issues that impact people.
Bishop Dr. Barber encouraged conference attendees to ask direct questions like: “How are you hurting day today?” “How do you put food on the table?” “Tell me, what’s going on?” “My children are not being educated because I can’t afford to send them to private school.”
He inspired conference attendees to “stay focused.” Don’t only register Black folks, we are not the only poor people in America. There are 4 million whites below the poverty line.
Black Floridians, Dr. Barber said, are distracted by the Mouse, referring to Walt Disney. Let the courts handle that issue. Concluding, he said, “Dr. King said the Republicans have a plan to control the legislature and the courts and we would not be able to turn it around for 60 years.”
Aramis Ayala as usual gave an exciting and motivating discourse, Other important messages concerned motivating Black men to become involved in the struggle. Get out and vote, mentor young Black males and partner with the Divine 9 fraternities and the Masons.
A very poignant and informative series of workshops titled, “Roots: The path that grounds us;” “Trunk: Stability in the storm;” and “Branches: Reaching, teaching for our future.”
Panelists in the first session were asked: What is your first memory being called to get involved with the movement?
Shack: A child of the 50’s and 60’s. Remembered when parents had to count jelly beans in a jar. Mothers kept boys from going down town. You had to look down and not look white people in the eye.
Dr. Murray: Watched what happened to Emmitt Till on the news. Amazed by Shirley Chisholm running for President. Amazed by the audacity of this Black Woman. He remembers King and his “I have a Dream” speech. They graduated from the same seminary.
“The panelists for each session were outstanding. The most impressive point was the branches. It warms the heart to see these young adults so ready to join the fight and so engaged as advocates for the civil rights of all”, said Ms. Lillian Lockette. “I felt Maxwell Frost was so impressive and would be a truly qualified mentor for this age group. He is an exceptional young man,”
“Our 40th Annual Conference was informative, entertaining, motivating and successful,” said re-elected DBCF President Trevor Mallory. “The entire three-day program with its speakers, workshops and skits put in perspective the work we need to do in the State of Florida.”
“This was one of the best organized and informative conferences that I have attended this year”, said Ms. Lillian Lockette “The theme throughout was the Tree, consisting of the roots, our ancestors, the trunk, the middle age today and the branches, our 20 to 30 year olds.”
“When the weekend was over we truly were inspired, motivated and have a burning light that will not be dimmed,” remarked re-elected DBCF Treasurer Jill Lewis-Daggs, who was responsible for the symbolic tree presentation.
“As we move forward into this political season let us not forget the lessons that were taught during this conference: Let the struggle and sacrifice of our Roots keep us grounded. Let us stand strong and proud and weather the storm as the trunk of a tree. Let us cultivate our branches, (Gen Z), as we encourage, support, and uplift them to be able to withstand the next journey,” stated Ms. Daggs.