Miami-Dade FL mayor’s fairness policy is long overdue for black people

In a county loving rag-to-riches stories, not everyone recognizes the economic aid – and Democratic “welcome to America” ​​policies – which led to the prosperity and success of many early immigrants to the United States. Miami-Dade.

The prevailing triumphant narrative is that only hard work made the man or the woman.

But it’s time to recognize that besides federal aid and privileged immigration status, the whiteness of the early Cuban exodus to a Deep South state also played a role in paving the way for success. .

If you don’t think so, ask a black Cuban millionaire or billionaire businessman in town. Can’t find any? Neither do I.

You also won’t find many African American millionaires.

While Miami’s blacks were among the area’s first settlers, they were largely left behind during the rise of modern Miami. Today, the new leadership in county government promises a concerted effort to bring equity and inclusion to the fore – and end the historic “separate and unequal” treatment of black people.

County mayor and racial disparity

It’s time to recognize that in 2021 we need to do more than just talk about race and racism. We need long overdue policies with bite at all levels to ensure that whether it is a business opportunity, decent affordable housing, or an injection of COVID-19 vaccine in the arm , they are accessible to all.

To that end, the new county mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, has taken a first step in the right direction by creating the Department of Equity and Inclusion, funded by $ 375,000 and led by a dynamic African professional. American from South Dade, director Jason T. Smith.

As he said, Smith knows what a $ 1 million county investment in working class Goulds pays off, as opposed to, say, well-off Pinecrest, for example, in terms of equity.

Knowing the history of broken promises, I am skeptical, but also hopeful after speaking with Smith and Rahel Weldeyesus, Senior Advisor to the Mayor in charge of another new department, Innovation & Performance, who will work hand in hand with Smith.

In my 40 years of reporting, I have heard many promises made to the African American community. Few have been preserved.

But I don’t recall a mayor making it a priority, and three months into his tenure, tackling issues of inequity and discrimination by taking broad, multi-layered action to remove barriers to discrimination. opportunities.

County contracts and supply

On the table for review: contentious county contracts and procurement procedures that in many cases only favor politically connected people. Smith’s office will investigate where they stand in terms of including black, Hispanic and LGBTQ communities. And women and people with disabilities too.

“We’ll be data-driven,” says Smith. “A metrics dashboard will establish where we are now and set real goals for where we want to go. “

A community survey is being distributed to some 950,000 residents asking them to comment on what people need from the county government and “civic weekends,” now in virtual form because of COVID, but outdoor gatherings of “Tent” are intended to target hard-to-reach populations.

“Real change is from the bottom up, among the people,” Smith said. “It is important to hear from the community so that the county can take the initiative of the community.

What a change from the top-down leadership of former mayor Carlos Gimenez, whose family, friends and campaign workers appeared to be the first in line for county contracts.

Family businesses and minority-owned entrepreneurs will get information on how to become a county provider, connect with equity funding, and follow the path to success of others.

Smith, 42, shares the story of a black developer who started installing drywall in a church but was able to expand his business after being hired to work on a county-funded seniors housing project in Richmond Heights which, incredibly, had no minority stake.

Promoting success stories will also be Smith’s job.

The mayor’s effort is not just a politically correct discourse on diversity, but an action to remove systemic racist obstacles to success.

A policy to ensure the diversity of county-funded projects “needs to be built into the system,” says Smith. “And that’s something my office can stand up for and say, ‘There is a way here and it can be done.’ “

All members of the departmental commission should support Levine Cava’s plan. The county’s investment in black prosperity benefits all of Miami-Dade.

Commissioners should not shy away from the conversation about racial disparities, but welcome it. For too long, they’ve been part of a system that should – but didn’t – award county contracts to a larger share of minority entrepreneurs.

“We have systemic racism within the county government,” Levine Cava said during the election campaign – and it wasn’t lip service.

Kudos to Madam Mayor for keeping an election promise that has the power to bring real change and prosperity to those left behind.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announces the launch of Miami-Dade’s first equity and inclusion office during a press conference at the Hampton House in Miami on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 The office will work in all county departments and work with community stakeholders to standardize and implement concepts of equity and inclusion within government and beyond. Al Diaz [email protected]

This story was originally published February 17, 2021 6:00 a.m.

Award-winning columnist Fabiola Santiago has written on all things Miami since 1980, when the Mariel boat lift became her first front page article. Cuban refugee child of Freedom Flights, she is also the author of essays, short fiction films and the novel “Reclaiming Paris”.
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