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A Focus on History, Long Before February

We are entering the second week of national Black History Month, a recognition that began in 1976 thanks to then-President Gerald R. Ford who said to his fellow Americans at the time to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

His push followed Negro History Week, which began in 1925 thanks to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a son of two former slaves who would go on to earn a doctorate in history in 1912 from Harvard University. The historian and author chose the second week in February because it was the birthday week of two men whose work Dr. Woodson felt had been crucial to the achievement of his people: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The Man Behind Black History Month.

February is indeed about national black history but, thanks to Debrah S. Hall-McCullon, this month is also about Riviera Beach. That’s because the third edition of her all-things-Riviera Beach book, Riviera Beach Moments, has just published. What began in 2017 as periodic posts on social media has now become a best-selling book series. And underneath it all: her love—and knowledge—of her city. The longtime City employee was born and raised in the coastal community, which is where the knowledge comes from of telling the stories of the city’s people, places and history. The books contain all aspects of the city, including both its east- and west-side communities, but it also highlights those who live primarily on the west: the people of color.

Her city, its story, their book.

The books are being sold on Amazon; click here to check them out. Mrs. McCullon’s work was also highlighted in WPEC Channel 12’s Faces of Black History series—check it out here—and she was the featured guest last week on our 30-minute, every-Wednesday talk show, cocochats, on the young, Caribbean-themed radio station, SupaJamz 103.7 FM. Click here to listen.

“It is important for people to know and preserve history because it gives them a better understanding of the world, and the city, in which they live,” Mrs. McCullon said, “And not just in February.”

To learn more about Black History Month from the government that created it, click here. And, in Palm Beach County (PBC), the PBC Historical Society has a few pages on its website with lots of information about people of color locally. Click here to check it out. Before the end of this month, we’ll have someone on cocochats from the historical society to share.

As for Mrs. McCullon, one big question. Why?

“It was important to me to tell my City’s story,” she said, “and it was fun!”

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Celebrating Change: Today is MLK Day

Today is the national holiday remembering the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and it happens each year on January’s third Monday. The recognition began in 1983 and that keeps his name—and his work—before us. Indeed, even though he died in 1963, Dr. King remains in the news: one of the two Georgia candidates elected to the U.S. Senate on January 5 in a nationally watched runoff, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, is today, pastor of Dr. King’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which Dr. King led until his death.

Georgia Senator-elect Rev. Raphael Warnock, current pastor of MLK’s church.

Thanks to you know what, there aren’t nearly as many events this year celebrating the civil rights icon, neither around the country nor here. Nearly everything is, well, virtual. Or, drive throughs. In the case of what would have been the City of Riviera Beach’s 37th annual MLK Parade, for example, it instead had a community drive-through event with City leaders and police and fire officials in a caravan through City neighborhoods. 

And, of course, the Martin Luther King Coordinating Committee of Palm Beach County (MLKCCPBC) is also hosting some changed events. Founded in 1971, the community-focused nonprofit has created a hugely successful, month-long celebration that, this year, began last week. One of those events is its biggest, the annual MLK Scholarship Breakfast which will, this year, be primarily virtual. Of course. It will be held Monday and it’s keynote speaker will be a nationally known journalist who hails from Riviera Beach. She is Yvette Miley, a senior vice president for NBCU News Group, which includes NBC and MSNBC. Learn more about her here.

To learn more about Riviera Beach’s long list of events, click here, and about the MLKCCPBC, what and why it does what it does, here. The site also has a full list of related events throughout this year.

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Need Some Weed? Here.

NuAge Medical just opened in October and is a new medical marijuana clinic in the City of Riviera Beach, the only such facility owned and operated by people of color in Palm Beach County.

Fritz Pamphile and Leon Martin, the owners of NuAge Medical, stand in front of the new medical marijuana clinic.

The state of Florida approved use of medical pot in 2016 and its Department of Health has been putting things in place ever since. Fritz Pamphile is the founder of NuAge Medical and the South Florida representative for Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana, an Orlando-based nonprofit that works to ensure minorities get connected to the fast-growing, billion-dollar industry.

NuAge can help clients obtain the necessary state-required medical marijuana cards, sells CBD-related products onsite and pushes awareness about holistic medicines and care. But it doesn’t sell products with THC, the substance that causes the ‘high,’ like the 18 Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers in PBC. There will be a medical doctor onsite.

“We’re here to assist you,” Mr. Pamphile said. “Weed is not all bad and we’re not trying to get you high. These are alternative, holistic medicines that we offer that can make you healthy. Not high.” The products can help with cancer, PTSD, depression, anxiety, bipolar diseases, aches and pains, arthritis and dementia. Mr. Pamphile said he and his business partner, Leon Martin, plan to open locations in other “underserved urban areas” in PBC.

For more information, call 561-441-9177, send an email to fritz@nuagemedical.com or visit its website here. And, no: they don’t sell weed.

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…that, after a century in downtown WPB, the ‘Edgewater’ was moved to the historic Northwest neighborhood?

Since the 1920’s, the Edgewater had sat at 316 Gardenia Street in downtown West Palm Beach, serving as a rooming house for area workers. In October, the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (WPBCRA) moved the century-old structure to its new home in the historic Northwest neighborhood, nearly two miles away, an effort that took nearly two days. Well, it actually took nearly four years, considering the planning and approval-seeking processes required of government officials and the property owner to get the project done. Interestingly, the owner had planned to demolish the Edgewater for use as a parking lot but the city pushed back: too much history. So, the structure was donated to the city, which moved it to its new location, 4th Street and Division Avenue.  To make the trip, workers had to remove traffic signals, street signs and trim trees. The 40-foot-wide, two-story building had been a 12-unit rooming house but is now to be a bed and breakfast–part of the WPBCRA’s plan to revitalize the neighborhood and create a draw for African-American tourism. What else is in the neighborhood? Lots, including the iconic Sunset Lounge, currently being refurbished. Watch a video of the moving project below.

The work begins…

Click here to read a local news story about the project.

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A Voice for Change— Especially Now

Growing up, I always wanted to be somebody who was considered “a good role model.” I never wanted to use my platform to brag, but to motivate. I wanted to be the person that showed the younger generation behind me that you can be whatever you want to be as long as you work hard and, most importantly, keep God first.

That’s what I do and God has blessed me with the opportunity to obtain a master’s degree at a young age while simultaneously playing football, the sport I love.  Going to school taught me a lot but, most importantly, it taught me how to use my platform in a positive manner and how to use more than one of those talents.

So, I did.  I recently started a musical pursuit of being a rapper and I tell people all of the time that, if it wasn’t for COVID-19, I probably would have never started because I needed something to fill the void while football was on pause. A lot of people tell me that they are happy I decided to rap because my music makes them feel like I’m talking to them—especially during the inner war that we are fighting as a race; killing each other.

Mr. Marks at a George Floyd-related protest in June in downtown West Palm Beach.

 I’ve never been the type of person who sits back and waits on change. Instead, I choose to be the person that takes direct action and uses my voice in the best way I can. With all of the madness going on in today’s world, I think the only thing// that can produce change is planting change.

So I’ve been using my platform to promote change and unity. Awareness must be raised and what better person to raise that awareness than a person with a voice.  To the youth and to my fellow people of color I ask that you continue to make a difference and to make change in your community because, without us, the plan for change will not work.

Ke’Tyrus Marks is a trained therapist, musician and athlete. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and earned a master’s degree in Instructional Design in 2019 from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. To learn more about him, click here or here.

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…that there’s a new black-owned sneaker line and it’s based, here, in Palm Beach County?

Yes, it’s true and it is powered by Jervonte “Tae” Edmonds, founder of Suits for Seniors, a young, hard-working non-profit that provides an eight-week, life-skills training program for high school seniors and, if they complete it successfully, gives each of them a new, crisply tailored suit. Founded in 2015, ‘Suits’ has become hugely popular–to the point that Mr. Edmonds now provides services for even younger students and has lots and lots of corporate sponsors and governmental support. Indeed, that may be why he wrote Adventures of the Rich and Famous, a book that teaches young children that they can be what they want to be, as long as they believe in themselves. The sneakers though? They’re meant to provide support for a college scholarship fund for his students but, when asked about the backstory, Mr. Edmonds was super clear. “I was once told before you leave this earth, you want to make sure you have shared all your gifts with the world,” he said. “First it was a children’s book now it’s a shoe dedicated to our ancestor’s tenacity and perseverance.” The sneakers are in three different styles in three different colors: bloodline (red), midnight (black) and cotton (white) and are available for pre-order here. The official launch of the new ‘brand’ will be later this month. To learn more about the sneakers, about ‘Suits’ and about Tae himself, click here. Or, just check back here on cocowire!

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Free Covid-19 Testing in Riviera Beach–for All

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 21st, there will be free pandemic testing on the “Warrior” and the “Scout” mobile clinics at Wells Recreation Center, located just across from City Hall.
The testing site is in partnership with the Health Care District of Palm Beach County (PBC), whose team will administer the tests–and operate the Warrior and the Scout. The tests are open to residents in Riviera Beach and in the rest of PBC. Plus:

  • Appointments aren’t necessary
  • The tests are free and open to City and PBC residents
  • Any and all ages–with or without symptoms–can be tested
  • Attendees can either walk up or drive up
  • Bring proof of identity, such as a driver’s license or other photo ID
  • Wear a face mask and practice social distancing
  • Results will be provided as soon as available
  • Questions? Call 561-642-1000.

For a list of additional testing site locations, click here.

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…that there’s a new black-owned, black-operated TV station–and it’s based in Florida?

Yes, Tallahassee. Launched in February this year, the Black News Channel can be viewed nationwide, though, as it is a 24-hour, independent operation that covers the stories of the African diaspora throughout the United States. It can be viewed via Comcast Xfinity X1, Charter Spectrum TV and a growing number of online streaming platforms. Learn more about it, what it covers, how and why, here. It is the first such operation since the birth of BET–Black Entertainment Television–in 1980 by Robert and Sheila Johnson, but is now owned by ViacomCBS. The tagline for the BNC is cool: Truth Illuminated. And, of course, its stories can also be viewed on its website.

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Celebrate the End of Slavery

‘Juneteenth’ refers to that day, June 19, 1865, when slaves in Texas were freed by the Union Army–two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Imagine.

Also known as both Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in 45 states, including Florida, and there are usually really interesting celebrations of the day. Not nearly as many this year (gee; wonder why?), though there are a couple in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and one youth-focused event that is happening in Palm Beach County: Porch Stories: A Juneteenth Celebration! 

Sponsored by the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach in partnership with the Delray Beach Public Library, the event is the reading of books about the topic that will be recorded on June 19 and live-streamed via the Museum’s and Library’s websites and social media pages.

The target audience is first graders on up, including any adults interested in learning about the topic in a fun way. For more information, call the Museum at 561-279-8883 or visit its website here.

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‘That Could’ve Been Me’

That’s what Tyler Lawrence, 28, said to herself when she learned about the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her own home in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s also what came to mind when Bryce Graham, 23, and 20-year-old Veneisha Pierre watched the now-infamous, nine-minute George Floyd video and heard, repeatedly,  “I can’t breathe.”

All three of them are millennials, all three of them live in Palm Beach County (PBC) and all three of them have been active in what has become  international protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Those protests have led to the notion of a “new civil rights movement” being borne, and led, by millennials from across the African diaspora with the support of much of the rest of the country.

Mr. Graham, a young pastor known as Prophet Bryce, has been active for years. He is the PBC representative of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and was recognized last year by the Trayvon Martin Foundation. Ms. Pierre, who is of Haitian descent, has helped organized two protests in West Palm Beach in the last two weeks: at Dreher Park and in CityPlace (um, sorry; Rosemary Square). Both will appear tomorrow on cocochats, our community news radio show on SupaJamz 103.7 FM, which airs at 6 p.m., live, every Wednesday.

Tune in at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10 to learn more about the local “new” civil rights movement.

“What happened to George Floyd isn’t new,” Prophet Bryce said. “Many of us have been hurt, disrespected, damaged or, even in his case, killed by the system. It has to stop.”

Ms. Lawrence, a young college-educated mother of three, said the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd—and Ahmaud Arbery and Eric Garner and Corey Jones, among others—have hugely affected her. She wrote an email to the Attorney General of Lexington, Daniel Cameron, last week, pushing her point and asking for justice for Ms. Taylor. Click here to read part of the email.

“What happened to her, what happened to all of these black people with the police reminded me of my children,” she said.  “I’m tired, I’m fed up. How can I be a black Mom and be educated and not do anything, not fight? I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t do something.”

Indeed, when she didn’t hear back from the Attorney General, she called his office.
“They told me they were working on it.”

In the picture at top from left, Prophet Bryce, Veneisha Pierre and Tyler Lawrence, all doing what millennials are doing what right now around the world.