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The Winner is Clear.

On tomorrow, it will be announced which of the 12 high-achieving women, above, will be named the 2019 Woman of the Year by the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce.

The award luncheon is hosted by the Chamber’s Women in Business Council and, this year, will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, November 14, at the Wyndham Grand Jupiter at Harbourside Place. The event is sold out, but learn more about its intent below.

The winner is clear: Annetta Jenkins, who is currently the Riviera Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (RBCRA)’s Director of Neighborhood Services, works every day to create programs, events and opportunities that connect city residents with improved quality of life and small businesses with greater economic opportunity.

Which is nothing new for her. Ms. Jenkins has more than 30 years of award-winning national, state and municipal experience in real estate finance and development, affordable and workforce housing creation and community uplift. This came through her previous work as assistant director for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Housing and Community Development; executive director of South Florida Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); a former long-time board member of the Florida Housing Coalition; and an appointee to the state’s Affordable Housing Study Commission. 

And, in a county where the average home price is approaching $350,000 and the city where she works has an average rental rate of $1,200 a month, that work she does every day is critical.

cocowire’s team lead, Marian Dozier, met Ms. Jenkins back in the early 2000’s when she was a reporter at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Ms. Jenkins was with LISC, a nationwide nonprofit created by the Ford Foundation to connect local communities with the governments, companies and nonprofits with support resources. Ms. Jenkins was working to bring affordable home ownership and rentals to an underserved West Palm Beach neighborhood, one of many in south Florida that her hands had touched. She was astute, sharp, aware.

Learn more about the award itself, here, which seeks to recognize outstanding female leadership and commitment to the Palm Beach North region.  Like Annetta Jenkins, whose commitment is far wider, richer and, to us, valuable.

The winner is clear. As we said. Come back tomorrow and find out.

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He represents District 30.

That would be state Senator Bobby Powell, whose District covers Palm Beach County (PBC) from West Palm Beach north to the county line, heads west to pick up Royal Palm Beach and a few other towns and villages, and includes three barrier islands. We say all this because we incorrectly listed his District number in our monthly digital newsletter that went out to readers last Friday.

And as we talk about his District, let us tell you a few other things about him. Senator Powell is the youngest elected official representing PBC in the State Legislature; he is the highest-ranking public servant ever from his hometown of Riviera Beach; and he is a new, proud and happy father. His daughter just turned 1 this month.

The piece incorrectly said he represents District 88. Click here to read the corrected version. So, who does represent District 88? That would be state Representative Al Jacquet. Learn more about him here and, about Senator Powell, here.

State Rep.Al Jacquet.
He represents District 88.

We regret the error. And still can’t believe we made it.

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Whenever They Are Ready.

For 35 years, Daryl Lewis, age 55, had been a criminal. Not working, in and out of jail and prison but then, when he was released in April, he was a changed man–including his name. Today, ‘Truth’ works and prays and thinks all the time about improving his life.

One thing he hasn’t done is register to vote.

Oswald Newbold, on the other hand, who spent nearly 25 years in prison before he was released in 2017, registered to vote as soon as it became possible for ex-felons to do so after the passage of Amendment 4 last year. Now a municipal employee, a business owner and an author, Mr. Newbold actually voted in the March 2019 municipal elections.

The difference? None, according to Alfred J. Fields, president of the Alpha Educational Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the WPB-based Delta Delta Lambda chapter of the national Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. That chapter, along with the Omicron Upsilon Lambda chapter, are hosting a statewide fraternal conference October 18-20, 2019, at the West Palm Beach Marriott.

Part of the conference will be a panel discussion and community workshop about this issue. The name of the event is A Voteless People is a Hopeless People: Amendment 4; Now What? and it has a simple, clear focus: ex-felons and protecting their right to vote.

“Ex-felons have all kinds of stuff to deal with when they get back home–housing, jobs, family issues, even trying to get a driver’s license–so voting may not be at the top of their lists,” he said. “But the key is this: whenever they are ready to vote, that right needs to be there.”

His point is huge. It underlies the overwhelming Amendment 4 voter support across Florida, which had been one of only three states that didn’t allow full rights restoration for felons once they completed their sentences.

It is also why, when Gov. DeSAntis signed a bill into law in June that requires ex-felons to pay all fines related to their crimes first, multiple federal lawsuits were filed against the state. It, too, explains why the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWV) President Patricia Brigham called the new law “a blatant attempt at voter suppression.”

Oswald Newbold spent nearly 25 years in prison but, today, he is a registered voter.

Mr. Fields’ point also explains the Alphas’ focus at the conference panel discussion: how and why to register ex-felons. It is a pushback that other organizations–like the LWV, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the ACLU of Florida–are doing too as part of their lawsuits against the state.

In other words, these efforts are meant to undermine the new state law that seeks to undermine Amendment 4.

“A poll tax in 2019?” Mr. Fields asked. “No.”

Besides the federal lawsuits, one Alpha Man has already started a pushback of a different sort: he filed a bill in the state Legislature. State Rep. Al Jacquet, who represents District 88 in Palm Beach County, has filed a bill for the 2020 Legislative Session that would remove language requiring full payment of certain fines and fees.

Al Jacquet, a state Representative and Alpha Man.

But how important is registering to vote for the ex-felon? Truth says he hadn’t even thought about it because he’s focused on “trying to live my better life.”

Mr. Newbold agrees. “But it comes,” he said, “as we change and grow and achieve, we then start looking around to try to make change not just in our own life but in society. Believe me: we know what change is.”

For more event information, call 561-627-3089, x. 201 or send an email here.

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…that Trayvon Martin’s mother is running for office and there’ll be a kickoff in PBC?

We all remember the story, the fallout, the outcome of young Trayvon Martin being gunned down in 2012 by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman for looking ‘suspicious’; the high schooler had on a hoodie. It set off a chain of events, from the Black Lives Matter movement to a focus on the ‘Stand Your Ground’ state law to, in the case of his mother, a run for elective office. Sybrina Fulton is running for District 1 of the Miami-Dade County Commission. There will be a campaign fundraiser kickoff event from 6 to 8 p.m. on November 8 in West Palm Beach (WPB), hosted by WPB City Commissioner Cory Neering. Indeed, perhaps no one has said best what Ms. Fulton has done for her community since her tragic loss. Read the Commissioner’s social media post below:

Ms. Fulton and Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, are the founders of the Miami Gardens-based Trayvon Martin Foundation which works to, as it says, transform tragedy into change. Learn more about its work here and about the local campaign event, call Charisma Adams at 561-635-4584. Ms. Fulton’s campaign website is here. She has already been endorsed by, among others, Sen Cory Booker and Hillary Clinton, current and former candidates for U.S. president, respectively. And by Cory Neering.

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‘TikiMarket’ in Riviera Beach kicks off with a Bahamas Relief Benefit

This year’s Caribbean-themed TikiMarket at the Marina will launch Sunday, October 20 with a focus on one particular island nation: The Bahamas.
The season opener is a Bahamas Relief Benefit titled Art, Jazz & Junkanoo.  

Vendors can still register and sponsorships are still available. Click here to learn more.

 The weekly event started in 2018 and is held from 4 to 7 p.m. each Sunday at the recently redeveloped Riviera Beach Marina Village, located at 190 E. 13th Street. Vendors can still register and sponsorships are also available. 

But this year is unique. Just ask Hurricane Dorian: the storm’s effect on The Bahamas was devastating, including Grand Bahama’s Freeport, which is Riviera Beach’s sister city. Plus, when the Town of Riviera was founded in 1922, many of its early residents were Bahamians working in the city’s huge fishing industry. Lots of those pioneer families remain.

“We had to help; we had to,” said Alisa Hall, the TikiMarket manager. “But we’re also going to celebrate: the food, the music, the culture—the people—of the Bahamas.”  

The special event will include a performance by Miami-based Florida Junkanoo Gawds, a Carnival-themed Bahamian band; Eric & The Jazzers of Pompano Beach; and Shelly Sweetshells, a Soca music performer based in Fort Lauderdale.

The Florida Junkanoo Gawds. But it’s still about The Bahamas.

There will also be creative artists selling their works, many of whom will provide a portion of their sales to the relief effort. Donations will also be accepted onsite.

 Mayor Ronnie L. Felder is also expected to participate, as he’s done ever since Dorian hit, partnering with Tropical Shipping, for one, to help collect and send support items.

The Market runs every Sunday through May. Get a sense below of what to expect! It’s fun.

What a vibe!

TikiMarket at the Marina is a program of the Riviera Beach CRA. Visit its website here.

For more information, visit the TikiMarket website here, call Ms. Hall at 561-352-6626 or send an email here.

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What is ‘Operation Green Light’?

On one day in October, Palm Beach County (PBC) will make it easier–or, rather, cheaper–for residents to get their driver’s licenses restored. That one day is October 19 and it is known as Operation Green Light.

The Clerk & Comptroller of PBC will open four courthouse locations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 19 for anyone to get their driver’s license reinstated if they pay off their court obligations in full or if they sign up for a monthly payment plan.

That’s because collection agency fees – some as high as 40 percent – will be waived on this day only. Florida law requires Clerks’ offices to turn over unpaid tickets and other outstanding court fines and fees to an outside collection agency if the debt is not paid within 90 days of the due date. 

Our PBC clerk, Sharon Bock, is joining nearly 60 others statewide in the effort between October 12 and 19.

So, here’s your chance! For more information, visit the PBC Clerk’s event page here, which includes answers to questions and site locations. And for a list of all of the counties, statewide, that are also on the team, click here. Good luck!

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Update: #BahamasStrong

As we’ve all seen, the response to the devastation of The Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian has been dramatic. In a good way. Indeed, all of the efforts to support the island nation, below, are based in just one community, Riviera Beach. Why? Perhaps because, like so many communities in south Florida, Bahamians were among the original residents when the Town of Riviera was founded in 1922 and many of those pioneer families remain there. Read a story here in the New York Times about the Bahamian roots of south Florida and, below, see what’s happening in Riviera Beach, Freeport’s sister city, on behalf of the very similar city on Grand Bahama.

Sisters? Yes: in 2012, then-Mayor Thomas A. Masters led the creation of a ‘sister city’ partnership with Freeport, which is a form of legal or social agreement between two communities in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties. It made sense and, since his election in March, new Riviera Beach Mayor Ronnie L. Felder, with the support of City Council, has been working on a formal, retooled re-launch of that agreement. He went to Freeport in July to pitch and, in response, a 10-person Bahamian delegation followed up in August with a trip here.

More relief support efforts are in the works, so come back here for updates. Currently, these projects are in place:

  • Riviera Beach Mayor Ronnie L. Felder and Johnny Longboats will co-host a Bahamas Relief effort at the longtime island eatery on Tuesday. The event seeks to collect certain items in exchange for…um, something from Johnny Longboats! And, this just in: Stileet will be there! Stileet is widely known as the ‘King of Rake ‘n’ Scrape,’ the music of The Bahamas, who lives in Freeport, Grand Bahama. He and his family were devastated by Hurricane Dorian and, as he talked to Mayor Felder about it, they came up with an idea. Come back here to find out if it comes to fruition! But head to Singer Island tomorrow to hear what Rake ‘n’ Scrape sounds like.
  • At GoomBay Splash. The second annual all-things-Bahamas event, GoomBay Splash, will happen November 9 at Calloway Amphitheatre in Riviera Beach. New this time? A relief effort that says, for every $20 general admission ticket sold, $5 will go to help The Bahamas. It’ll still be fun: the food, culture and people of The Bahamas will be in the house. For ticket information, including the $35 VIP tickets, click here; and to learn more about the event itself, visit its social media page here. Questions? Contact 626-755-3690 or send an email here.
  • At City Hall. Through Mayor Felder and the City Council, the City of Riviera Beach has partnered with city-based Tropical Shipping and the Bahamian government’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to organize and distribute collected goods to the islands. Residents and others can drop off goods anytime at Riviera Beach Fire Rescue’s Station #1, located at City Hall, 600 W. Blue Heron Boulevard. Questions? Call the Mayor’s Office at 561-845-4145 or RBFR at 561-845-4104. Where to go? Just look for the sign, above.
  • And With the Alpha Men–Here and There. There are two Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity chapters in PBC and they are partnering with their brothers in Freeport, Grand Bahama, to set up a direct channel for local donations. The collection site, which opened Saturday, September 7, is at the Judge Edward Rodgers Center for Community Development, 251 W. 11th Street. The Freeport Alphas have partnered with a Miami-based cargo carrier to bring the goods to the island and have created a GoFundMe page here as well. Learn more about the effort by reading a press release here and, here, a document that shows what the Freeport Alphas have put in place. And how you can help.
  • The first recognizable relief effort in Riviera Beach is a huge shipping container sitting in the parking lot of the Imperial Plaza on Blue Heron Boulevard. The team effort behind it is, also, huge: McCray’s Backyard BBQ, X102.3 FM Radio, Mothers Against Murderers Association (MAMA) and, even, former Mayor Thomas A. Masters, among others, who supported the effort as the newly named International Ambassador to the Washington-based World Conference of Mayors. He launched the sister-city agreement in 2012. Donations will be accepted daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until the container is filled.

And remember: come back here for updates! Conversations are happening everyday.

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…that The Weather Channel is owned by a black man?

In 2018, Byron Allen’s company, Entertainment Studios, bought The Weather Channel from its owners–The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Comcast/NBC Universal–for a reported $300 million. The deal did not include the television network’s website and digital app, but, still, Mr. Allen’s Los Angeles-based company is considered one of the largest emerging global media companies in the country. It owns eight broadcast TV channels, well-known movies and does TV and film production. Mr. Allen, a former stand-up comedian and TV producer, has been in the entertainment industry since age 14. By age 27, his show, Kickin’ It with Byron Allen, became one of the longest-running TV series in the country. He founded Entertainment Studios in 1993 and, in 2009, launched eight 24-hour HD TV networks. Today, among the company’s top programs are Emmy-nominated America’s Court with Judge Ross, Beautiful Homes & Great Estates and Pets.TV. Mr. Allen also owns TheGrio, a digital, video-focused news platform for African Americans. So. As Hurricane Dorian continues to make change, check The Weather Channel for all that needs to be know about the storm. In one place. Visit it here and visit Mr. Allen’s company website here.

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Tomorrow: Another PBC Author!

Everyone has a story to tell, they say, but not everybody tells it. Tiffany Williams—single mother, college graduate, homeowner—has told hers and had it published. And from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, she’s having a book-signing at the Lindsey Davis Center in her hometown of Riviera Beach.

Her story is rich. She grew up in the church, as they say, and as she lived her life and, of course, made her mistakes,  she talks in the book about how God’s presence helped her grow and achieve—despite those mistakes in life.

The book’s title: A Woman Can Flourish, No Matter What: Just Ask God.

“I learned a lot of things in life, but I also learned a lot of things from God,” said Ms. Williams, a longtime employee of the City of Riviera Beach. “It was important to me that I shared my story with other women—and men—so that they know how awesome God is and how, no matter what mistakes you make, he’s got your back. All you have to do is ask.”

She joins more than a dozen other Palm Beach County (PBC)-based authors that we know about who have been published or have self-published their narratives. Some, like high-school English teacher Betty Turso, told someone else’s story. In her case, John Horse: Florida’s First Freedom Fighter, is about a black Seminole leader who grew to become a major force in the tribe’s successful freedom battles.

Others, like Valerie Grimsley, wrote about themselves as well. The very committed director of the Riviera Beach Youth Empowerment Program wrote about “a life that came untangled” in her book, The Repair: Broken But Not Destroyed.

Are you a local author in PBC? Do you know about others? Send us an email to news@cocowire.net so we can keep this list going–and growing! Here is one of our previous authors’ stories.

And, if you’re free tomorrow night, stop by and let Tiffany Williams sign a book for you! Can’t make it? The book is available here on Amazon.com.

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Update: Pray at City Hall

When community activist Rae Whitely and Apostle Tommy Brown decided to host a prayer-vigil-at-city-halls against gun violence Monday, they included concern about the mass shootings at El Paso and Dayton earlier this month, of course, but their focus was here: the 47 deaths due to guns that occurred in Palm Beach County (PBC) this year alone, between January and the end of June.

Their purpose? Essentially to re-connect church and state.

Heal Our Country—Heal our Neighborhood Prayer Vigil was to be held at city halls in nearly 10 PBC cities, including Riviera Beach, West Palm Beach and the Glades area.

“This has got to stop,” said Mr. Whitely, a resident of Boynton Beach and founder of Black Votes Matter. “The Clergy can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch our neighborhoods deteriorate. We will respond in the spirit of Nehemiah and we will do it with the people making decisions that affect our neighborhoods: city officials.”

Mr. Whitely is also a pastor. He said he and some members of his church, Healing Hands Ministry in Boynton Beach, were at Boynton Beach City Hall, praying, with City Commissioner Ty Penserga, City Manager  Lori LaVerriere, Deputy Fire Chief LaTosha Clemons and other city employees.

The Rev. Dr. J.R. Thicklin, for one, is also on the team. He is president of the PBC Clergy Alliance, and led the prayer Monday at Riviera Beach City Hall. He was joined by City Councilwoman Julia Botel, political activist Maria Cole and Deandre Poole, who has filed to run for Supervisor of Elections. Watch them below.

Interestingly, newly elected Mayor Ronnie L. Felder had hosted weekly prayers at City Hall for months last year as pastor of Riviera Beach-based Transformation Church of the Palm Beaches. He was unable to attend Monday.

“I do think there’s a need sometimes to combine the spiritual with public service, to ensure we have the strength we need to make change,” said Mayor Felder, who is also CEO of JAY Outreach Ministries, a spiritually based recovery program for men located in the city. “The question is how do you do that? A good start to me has always been prayer at city hall.”

Pastor Ronnie L. Felder and members of his Transformation Church of the Palm Beaches pray at Riviera Beach City Hall last year–before he was elected Mayor in April.

Indeed, that’s just part of what Mr. Whitely and Apostle Brown, who leads New Disciples Worship Center in Boynton Beach, intend: to use the power of the church and government, together, to make change. Going forward, they plan to research, implement and push gun violence prevention strategies, partnering with public and private sector agencies in affected communities. Read an article about their motivation and plans here.

“Today was just to sound the alarm,” Mr. Whitely said Monday. “Our approach looks to increase black communities’ capacity to speak for themselves and solve their own problems. This approach has been successful for us in the past, and it is our prayer that it will be successful moving forward.”

For more information, send an email to rae.whitely@gmail.com.