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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.

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.

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Update: free back-to-school events in PBC

The School District of Palm Beach County (PBC) will start the 2019-20 school year on August 12, so let’s get ready! The good news is there’s lots of options for doing just that: free back-to-school events, free places to get necessary or needed health care options, free places to close out summer and have fun! Plus, remember the statewide Sales Tax Holiday that runs August 2-6 and provides tax exemptions for qualifying items such as certain school supplies, clothing, footwear, computers and accessories. Learn more here.

Here’s a few options, all free, all open to the public, all in PBC. Did you receive our digital newsletter listing? There’s even more, now, below!

  • New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church: From 10 to 3 p.m. on August 3, there will be free bookbags for the first 300 students, plus games, bounce houses, food, guest appearances and more at the Back To School Block Party in West Palm Beach (WPB). To receive the bookbags, students must first pre-register by sending an email here or by calling 561-307-0548.
  • Mt.Calvary Baptist Church. What’s happening? Lots. Over the entire weekend of August 9-11, Stomp Fest will feature a young adults night on Friday and, on Sunday, a special worship service. But, on Saturday, the focus is on back to school. From 1 to 3:30 p.m., there will be free school supplies, games, food and free haircuts and hairdos. Then, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., the partay starts: step-dancing, spoken word performances and other entertainment. Performers include JFK Middle School’s marching band, Mt. Calvary Dance Nation and Soul Movement Ensemble–young, skilled, dancing ladies! All free, all Stomp Fest!
  • T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society. The focus is, of course, on physicals, immunizations and health and dental screenings, but there will also be free school supplies. The Community Health Fair will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. August 3 at the Boys & Girls Club in Riviera Beach. Click here for more information.
  • Mangonia Park. Via its annual Heritage Festival, the little town sandwiched between Riviera Beach and WPB will provide stuffed book bags to its young residents–plus live music and free food to everyone else, including non-residents. The event will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on August 3 at the Addie L. Greene Park. Who is Addie Greene, you say? Learn more about the public servant and published author here. That’s her in the picture, below, alongside her name.
Madame Namesake: Addie Greene, herself.
  • Pahokee. Sponsored by the city, the annual Putting Children 1st event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on August 10 at Pahokee High School’s gymnasium. For more information, call 561-924-5534.
  • FoundCare. Several hundred young people will be able to get free physicals, immunizations and other health-related services–plus a free back pack with school supplies. The event theme—Celebrating Community Heroes—will feature local firemen, utility workers, nurses, elected officials and “others who help the community.” Free refreshments start at 8 a.m. and the event an hour later through 1 p.m. For more information, call 561-432-5849. It will be held at FoundCare headquarters in WPB. Visit its website here.
  • Free Immunizations. In order to enroll in public or private school, children must be vaccinated according to state and federal law. Thanks to a coalition led by the PBC Health Department, it can be done for free! Just visit the locations throughout the month where the ‘Immunization Van’ will be. The van travels all over; click here for its August calendar. All children ages 2 months through 12th grade must have the list of required vaccines at certain points in their lives, proof is required for new and transfer students and for entry at some grade levels. See requirements and other details here.
  • Headliners Barbershop. Of course: haircuts. Now, those are $5, but the rest of the events–face painting, food, drinks, music, fun–are free. The 10th annual EdgeUcation First back-to-school drive starts at 11 a.m. on August 3 at the barbershop, located at 1523 W . Blue Heron Boulevard in Riviera Beach. Information? Call 561-429-4765.
  • South Bay. One of PBC’s farthest west cities, South Bay’s back-to-school event will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on August 3 at Tanner Park. Attendees must be South Bay residents and must pre-register. Call 561-996-6751 for more information. The City is host.
  • Nelson’s Outreach Ministries. The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Rodgers Center for Community Development, located at 251 W. 11th Street in Riviera Beach.
  • Valley of Love Ministries. Free haircuts for boys, free manicures and braids for girls! That’s at the top of the list of offerings at this ninth annual event, to be held from 2 to 4:30 p.m. August 11 in Riviera Beach. Attendees must register by August 8 by calling 561-844-2400.
  • Mental Health Awareness + Back to School. The multi-faceted event is focused on both points: awareness pamphlets and experts, backpacks, games, haircuts, music and more. All free. It will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. on August 4 in Riviera Beach. For information: call 561-385-4469 or send an email to sincere2000@outlook.org. The two main sponsors are Riviera Beach City Councilman Douglas A. Lawson and Sincere2000 Foundation, which focuses on mental health and suicide prevention (visit its website here).
  • The R.I.S.E to the Occasion Back to School Bash. Held at Manatee Lagoon, 6000 N. Flagler Drive in WPB, the event starts at 10 a.m. on August 3 and will feature activities for children, photo opportunities with Mia the Manatee, PBC Library System’s Bookmobile, community resources, free food and more. That ‘more’ includes free backpacks filled with school supplies for young residents of zip code 33407, with proof of residency and while supplies last. For more information, call (561) 626-2833  or visit its website here. Manatee Lagoon is an eco-friendly site connected to FPL, which owns the huge power plant next door, and both sit on the Intracoastal Waterway. Why the manatee focus? Check out the website.
  • Community Partners of South Florida. The Back to School Bash will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on August 11 at the nonprofit’s offices in Riviera Beach and will feature the giveaway of drawstring backpacks filled with school supplies. Plus, on a first-come, first-served basis: free haircuts, hairstylings and manicures! More information? Contact 561-841-3500 or sambroise@cp-cto.org.
The scene at Community Partners. Visit its site here.
  • Physician Family Pharmacy. Bookbags, health physicals, food, music, face painting, bounce houses–all happening from 3 to 7 p.m. on August 4 at the pharmacy site, 5869 Lake Worth Road in Greenacres. Everything is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 561-501-1874 for information; its website is here.
  • Grace Episcopal Church. Located at 3600 N. Australian Avenue in WPB, the Back to School Giveaway will be held from 12 to 5 p.m. on August 3 in the church’s huge parking lot: food, school supplies, bounce houses, games. To learn more: 561-602-5442 or 561-356-4413.
  • In His Presence Deliverance Ministries. Same: bookbag giveaway, free school supplies, free food. One difference: a laptop giveaway. Check it out: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on August 3 at the church, located at 1700 45th Street in WPB.

And for information about the school district and what it provides for its students (lots!), click here to visit its website. Happy School Year!

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…that Cori Gauff is the youngest Wimbledon player ever–and is from PBC?

Fifteen-year-old Cori–also known as Coco (love that!)–reached the second round of the top tennis tournament in the world Monday by beating her idol, Venus Williams. Wimbledon, played annually in London, England, is considered the Grand Slam tournament of the sport. The talented young lady is from Delray Beach and comes from a family of athletes: her father, who acts as her coach, played basketball at Georgia State University while her mother ran track for Florida State University. Both were in the stands, cheering on the daughter who is currently ranked 313 in the world and had also been the #1 junior champion in the world earlier in her career. Did we say she is the youngest player ever to play at Wimbledon?  Today, Coco will compete in the third round of the tournament and, hopefully, she’ll be seen in the finals. Go coco!

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PBC Museum of Black History? Getting closer

When Ineria Hudnell, 97, died last year, one question hung in the air at her funeral: what about the museum?

The longtime educator had taught at the segregated Roosevelt High School in West Palm Beach (WPB) and, over the years, became a self-taught historian as she gathered news articles, pictures and community-submitted documents in an effort to record the history of African Americans in Palm Beach County (PBC). The 300-plus placards that make up her work are what caused the hanging-in-the-air question at her funeral.

“I remember thinking the same thing,” said state Senator Bobby Powell, who presented a proclamation at the service. “So, I asked the audience when I spoke ‘how are we going to make sure this happens?’ We have to respect our history and Mrs. Hudnell’s.”

Today, the effort is a bit closer. A state appropriations request to support the creation of a museum was signed last week by Gov. Ron DeSantis, thanks in part to the work of our state Senator. That funding would join $10 million in local funds that has been pledged already by the Palm Beach County School District (PBCSD) toward the same effort, but expanded, and with its eye on a particular location.  

That location? Roosevelt High School in WPB, where Mrs. Hudnell taught and for which there’s lots of community support for restoration. The School District pledge is to create a campus that has a history museum, yes, but also has a media center, a high-end academic studies program and a multi-purpose cultural arts center. The estimated price tag for all of that is $23 million, according to school district records, and while the state funding commitment is just $150,000 of the $350,000 requested, still.

 “It’s great news!’ said Dr. Debra Robinson, the PBCSD board member who has pushed this effort for years. “Every little bit helps, every little bit gets us closer to the goal.”

And this just in: local media covered the story, too. Read a Palm Beach Post article about plans for Roosevelt here and watch a video, below, from WPTV Channel 5:

The Senator, and others, talk history.

The recent moves also join other significant community efforts to ensure the history of the African diaspora in PBC is told. Consider:

School Board member Dr. Debra Robinson, left, 15th Judicial Circuit Judge Bradley G. Harper and Vernique Williams, FPL executive, at the Historical Society of PBC board meeting in April. The two ladies were installed, joining Judge Harper on the board.
  • Historical Society of PBC. In April, Dr. Robinson and NextEra Energy/FPL executive Vernique Williams were appointed to the society’s board, joining 15th Judicial Circuit Judge Bradley G. Harper. The society’s president and CEO, Jeremy Johnson, said that the society is on the team, too.
  • AARLCC. Members of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, most of whom attended Roosevelt, were instrumental in preventing the demolition of their high school years ago. Their push now includes converting it to, well, an AARLCC. It recently hosted an event celebrating Mrs. Hudnell and L.A. Kirksey, another longtime educator for whom 15th Street in WPB is named. Read about it here.  
  • Storm of ’28 Coalition. The major hurricane blew across the entire County in 1928, killing thousands. Hundreds of black bodies were dumped in an unmarked grave in WPB but, thanks to the Coalition’s efforts, there’s now recognition at the site. They too seek a museum.
  • The Industrial/Roosevelt High School National Alumni Association and Friends, Inc. The local nonprofit works to ensure the memories, stories and, well, history, of the two schools are saved. Both had been segregated high schools that, despite that official unequal treatment, still ensured achievement for their students. The group discussed their interests Sunday with Dr. Robinson on ‘South Florida Sunday,’ the community news radio show on X102.3 FM. Click below to listen in.

The Industrial/Roosevelt group is also hosting ‘An Evening with the Stars’ on Saturday. Learn more about the event here.

Dr. Robinson is pleased with the forward movement on the museum even though, as she said, tough decisions still have to be made about the path forward. But one thing is clear, she said.

“We all want the same thing: some recognition of our contributions to the growth, development and change in this County,” she said. “We are all on Mrs. Hudnell’s team. We’ll get it done.”

In 1968, with its 27-0 record, the Roosevelt High School basketball team became the first black school in Florida to win the integrated state basketball playoffs.
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Network. Invest. Grow.

An impressive list of local, state, national and global leaders, business owners, award-winning communicators, star athletes, public officials–all will be gathering next week for ‘Elevate Now International Symposium 2019,’ a conference that seeks to connect the African diaspora in fundamental ways. It will be held at the Hilton Palm Beach Airport in West Palm Beach on Tuesday and it has drawn some really big names to participate, from state Senator Bobby Powell (District 30) to Nigerian billionaire businesswoman Folorunso Alakija. And you can go too. Event tickets are $129 per person and include continental breakfast, lunch–and networking with lots of really important, really connected, really smart people. Learn more here.

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The iconic Roosevelt High School

Roosevelt High School in West Palm Beach was segregated until 1970–even though the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school segregation in 1954 with its Brown v. Board of Education decision. This past weekend, the Class of 1959 celebrated its 60th anniversary at Benvenuto Restaurant in Boynton Beach. And they were different. In a good way. They were healthy, lucid, hardworking and respectful. Strong. They told stories about their teachers, those who cussed—not cursed; cussed—at them, or grabbed them by their shirts, or bossed them around with frowns on their faces. But those same teachers also supported them to the extreme, these students said, ensured they understood what to expect as they aged and led them to success. Consider the two men in the picture: Nelson Dozier and Samuel McDonald. Mr. Dozier, a classmate, is founder and owner of Dozier Electric, now in its 55th year of success as a small, family-owned business that provided work for his brothers, his son, his nephews, ex-felons–and college degrees for his three daughters. He was keynote speaker. He and #Team1959 also recognized the 64 classmates who’d passed away of the total 116 who graduated, and one of their teachers, Mr. McDonald. The now-92-year-old Mr. McDonald walked to the microphone on his own. He spoke; they applauded. The respect could be felt in the room. His main point: I sure miss what we had. The response? A standing ovation.

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He impressed us

As we drove in West Palm Beach recently down a certain street in the ‘hood, we saw a young man sitting on a bench outside an apartment building. With gold teeth. And dreadlocks. But as he turned his head, his hair moved. It was beautiful. We slowed. He noticed and walked toward the car. Omg. Is he selling …

‘You need any mattresses? I’ve got all sizes, and they brand new” he said to me, before I could catch my breath. Um, you’re selling mattresses?, I asked. “Honestly, I thought you were…” I began, and he looked at me. He began to nod his head. And roll his eyes. I know, he said; I know. He started talking. Told a couple of stories. Like, one time, he applied for a job. Talked over the phone, got an interview. Then, he showed up. Um, sorry, he was told; the job is no longer available.

“This is who I am,” said Jatory Smith, 30, as his strong, confident hair swung. “If somebody can’t accept that, then they can go on.”

Then, he went back to the pitch. “We have mattresses, pillows…and they’re way lower than what they cost in the store,” he said. “And I deliver for free. Just get my number and call me.”

So, why did he impress us? Because he is not what was assumed. And it held him back not one bit.