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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.

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June is ‘Suits for Seniors’ Month in PBC

WEST PALM BEACH – At the Board of County Commissioners meeting on June 4, 2019, Mayor Bernard presented a proclamation declaring June 2019 Suits for Seniors Month in Palm Beach County.

That’s the language and picture on Palm Beach County (PBC)’s website from last year and, at today’s regular County Commission meeting, only one will update: the official announcement of June 2020 as Suits for Senior Month.

There will be no photographs, though, thanks to the pandemic: the meeting will be held viral and there will be no public recognition, no celebratory event.

Instead, the founder/CEO of ‘Suits,’ Jervonte Edmonds, has created another way to still celebrate its work, its students and, especially, its mentors during the month of June, thanks to PBC.

#SuitsforSeniorsMonth has been born. There will be a Suits for Seniors Business Week, which will run from June 15-20, and will celebrate something different every day, and there will also be other events during other days in June.

The County Commission will announce the month-long recognition at today’s regular Board meeting. Click here to learn more about Suits for Seniors.

All of it focused on what the young, hardworking nonprofit is all about: mentoring. Indeed, Mr. Edmonds launched’ Suits’ in 2015 while a student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and working for one of his own mentors, state Senator Bobby Powell.

“Research has shown that young people who are connected to a mentor improves the academic, social and economic prospects of their lives,” Mr. Edmonds said. “That ultimately strengthens our community. More than ever we need mentors to step into our youth’s lives—and that’s what we’ll do this month: celebrate the impact of mentoring and offer our community a chance to save a life.”

Nearly all of the activities will be done online. Besides the scheduled upcoming Business Week, other events include Thank You Mentor Day on tomorrow, June 3, when participating students are encouraged to send a note or card or use social media to say thank you.

Another big day? Suits for Seniors Day today—when PBC is scheduled to make the announcement again, this time for 2020, which will “hopefully inspire more people to learn more about mentoring with us,” Mr. Edmonds said.

It, again, will be done viral.

“And that’s unfortunate, in a sense,” Commissioner Mack Bernard said. “But the good news is the good work Suits does with our young people across Palm Beach County will continue. No matter what.”

For sure. And, by the way, that’s Mr. Edmonds standing to Commissioner Bernard’s right, in the picture at top, while Senator Powell is on the far left. To learn more about Mr. Edmonds, click here; about Commissioner Bernard, here; and, about Senator Powell, here.

All three? Mentors for sure.

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April was About the Pandemic. May is About Haiti.

Well, that’s how we feel at cocowire, anyway. That’s why we didn’t really write anything last month, why we didn’t send out a digital community newsletter last month, why adds weren’t made to the coco Calendar last month. We prefer to write about news, events and useful information at cocowire that doesn’t get attention.

Haitian Heritage Month isn’t ‘official,’ but it is celebrated in thousands of communities across the United States. It started in Boston in 1998 and then came here to Palm Beach County (PBC) in 2001–where, along with the rest of south Florida, it is celebrated bigger and better each year than just about anywhere else.

There are usually huge annual events happening, such as the 22nd annual Haitian Compas Festival, to be held in Miami May 13-18 (click here for info), and the PBC Library System’s annual celebration, which started last Saturday and runs throughout the month. Click here for its list of events.
The international celebration of Haitian Flag Day is on May 18.

And scroll down to read a bit more, here, about Mora J. Etienne, a Haitian filmmaker recently honored by PBC. He will be next week’s guest on cocochats, our community news-focused radio show on SupaJamz Radio, the Caribbean-themed station at 103.7 FM on the dial.

Filmmaker Mora J. Etienne with his Palm Beach County recognition, which, thanks to the pandemic, arrived in the mail.

But if you do want to learn more about last month’s big hit–that would be the pandemic–and PBC’s steady response to it, click here to read the most-recent Bernard Beat–a twice-weekly, digital publication from County Commissioner Mack Bernard, who is…Haitian.

Even though we at cocowire haven’t covered COVID-19 as you have, we thank you, Mr. Commissioner, for the great, broad, useful information you continually provide. Want to receive it too? Send an email here.

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PBC Govt. Summer Camp Scholarship Program. Apply by March 31, 2020.

Palm Beach County’s Youth Services Program has a list of 120 camps that are everywhere–from Boca Raton to Riviera Beach to Jupiter to Royal Palm Beach to the Glades–and all of them can be attended for free! Just apply for a County Scholarship, which provides full tuition and fees for families that meet certain eligibility requirements. See the full list of camps here and, below, learn about two that teach what many students don’t get nowadays in school: performance arts and music education.

Sounds of Success Music Corp.

The T-shirts worn by the performing SOS Community Marching Band members each have one word on the back: Warrior. That’s because whether they’re playing instruments, carrying flags in sequence, dancing in order–the young people in this band don’t play. Rather, they have so much fun! Whether they perform locally, in other parts of the County or Florida or, in some cases, even out of state, they are music and performance warriors. The summer camp is just an extension, and includes weekly field trips, free transportation and themed classes taught by certified instructors. Click here to get the SOS Band Summer Camp’s full details.
Learn more about the year-round, Riviera Beach-based program here.

Broadway Theatre Camp

This camp is a wow! It is part of a year-round effort to provide training in song, dance, acting–everything that happens on a stage!–by the Palm Beach Children’s Chorus. In fact, each week will have a different theme, including Broadway Musical, video and TV production, film and digital media and focused music genres. Said Sandi Russell, the nonprofit’s founder: “We just want to ensure as many children as possible can attend–especially kids who are interested in what we do: performance.” There’s also free lunch, stage craft and costume design as well as academic classes taught by certified educators.
Learn more about the year-round, Palm Beach Gardens-based program here.

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It’s Annual Meeting is Tonight. On Palm Beach.

The Annual Meeting of the BBIC is this evening, when attendees will learn what the nonprofit has accomplished in the last year and what its goals are for 2020.

Ever heard of it? The Palm Beach County (PBC) BBIC—Black Business Investment Corporation—is one of eight nonprofit investment corporations that was created as a result of the state of Florida’s Small and Minority Business Act of 1985, which sought to ensure the achievement of those types of businesses around the Sunshine State. Each of the BBICs have a sole, distinct responsibility: underwriting loans and investments and providing other services to qualified businesses that are at least 51 percent owned by people of color—African Americans, Caribbeans and native Africans.

Since its founding in 1987, the Riviera Beach-based PBC BBIC has provided more than $30 million to those targeted businesses countywide. It works with member banks in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties to provide loan guarantees of up to 90 percent to eligible businesses.  It partners with PBC’s Department of Housing and Economic Sustainability to provide business loan guarantees, yes, but also bonding, equity capital and other types of assistance. And it also  provides training and educational programs through partnerships with other organizations, including business plan preparation, marketing strategies and management and accounting training.

The current BBIC President Marlon D. White, left, and former President and Founder John Howard.

Marlon White, the local BBIC’s president, has had a long career in banking and had sat on the BBIC’s executive board for 31 years—while John Howard, its founder in 1987, was president. Mr. Howard, by the way, had been president of Palm Beach Lakes Bank, PBC’s first and only black-owned bank, which had been located at Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Australian Avenue in West Palm Beach until it closed in the 1980s. When Mr. Howard retired in 2018 at age 78, Mr. White took the reins.

And he’ll be at the head of the table this evening at the Annual Meeting, which will be held at the U.S. Trust Bank on Palm Beach. Visit its website here to learn more about its work and how it can help.