Op-Ed

Focus on the harsh realities of black Miami

Last week, I had the privilege of co-hosting a day-long community dialogue, One Heritage — State of black Miami, in collaboration with Florida Memorial University and other community participants. The focus was sharing of perspectives on quality of life, youth, economic prosperity and community development.

I was joined by fellow County Commissioners Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Dennis Moss, along with City of Miami Chairman Keon Hardemon. We all felt duty bound by our collective love for our county to begin this transformational journey of uncovering issues that impede the great potential of the black community and fashioning solutions that make our county truly world class for all.

Over 400 enthusiastic attendees embraced this sentiment.

Some may question the need or value of focusing narrowly on the black community. I believe it is is incumbent upon me to be concerned about the state of Miami’s black residents, one of our most vulnerable population segments. In recent months, we have been confronted by an onslaught of endemic inner city violence among our black youth.

Likewise, the facts are unquestioned as it relates to Miami’s black residents experiencing higher levels of unemployment and poverty with substantially lower levels of health quality and educational attainment. The forum addressed these harsh realities and screamed for urgent solutions.

We can no longer turn heads and hearts away. Our Miami-Dade cannot be fully great until it is great for all residents in all zip codes, regardless of color, culture or concept of self. That is why I resolutely say yes to the need to focus on the systemic issues plaguing the black community and also yes to all other efforts rooted in supporting equitable pursuit of life and liberty for all fellow residents.

As chairman of the County Commission, I will be in the fight from the front lines. The ideas and recommendations from the recent forum will be strategically analyzed and precisely targeted. For example:

There was an overwhelming call to impede the access to guns to our youth, for greater information sharing on ongoing programs and initiatives benefiting the black community, especially for our youth in our award-winning school district and for black businesses in the county’s business advocacy agencies and departments.

Likewise, forum attendees lamented the need for ensuring that county-wide projects benefit and create more black businesses and to expose our youth to greater opportunities for mentorship.

It is my hope that a coalition of willing parties is prepared to join us. If you want to be apprised of the details, I would invite you to review the expected video of the proceedings on my office’s web page and visit http://www.stateofblackmiami.org/ for updates.

All efforts to address these challenges will require a high level of transparency, honesty and deliberate action. At times, it will require cohesive agitation to hold each other accountable.

Over the ensuing weeks, my staff and others will deliberate over the thoughts transcribed during the forum. I will seek a consensus among the members of the commission on the actions we should pursue with others to address issues troubling the black community and others similarly situated.

Some remedies can be implemented through our legislative and budget process.

To our business community, I offer a challenge and a promise. If you fashion creative ways to foster economic opportunities and community development projects that are thoughtful, I will lead the charge to support and empower you.

To those who may find this discourse unnecessary, I must unfortunately remind you that we are still healing and mending wounds from moments in our history.

To others who feel their issues are overlooked, I invite you to engage us as your leaders and hold us to the fire of expectations to represent all.

Our Greater Miami is emerging as a global force. It can and must be great for all.

Our residents who are black want to join the celebration of all that is special about the Miami way of living.

Jean Monestime is the chair of the Miami-Dade County Commission.

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