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‘Watch Night’ is Tonight

One hundred and fifty-seven years ago tonight, the enslaved peoples of America and their supporters were huddled together, praying for their freedom. That historic moment has come to be known as ‘Watch Night.’

On that night, December 31, 1862, they were awaiting word that the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued and signed by then-president Abraham Lincoln.

And, primarily, they were in the church.

Though it was signed the next day, the Proclamation still didn’t immediately free any slave—the 13th Amendment would do that about three years later—but those downtrodden people were on watch, praying and hoping for change.

That original African-American ‘watch night’ continues tonight, 157 years later, as a tradition of the historic black church across the United States and here in Palm Beach County (PBC).

Many Christian denominations have watch nights, or vigil services. United Methodists, for example, began observing New Year’s Eve watch nights in this country in 1770–a practice all but abandoned today — and Catholics, most notably, “watch” for the coming of the Messiah on Christmas Eve.

But for African-Americans, the tradition is inextricably tied to their own history in this country–even if today’s community isn’t huddled in fear of what the next day, and New Year, might bring.

Rather, today, it’s about celebration, family and peace. There are Watch Night events at many churches in PBC. Here’s a few:

Trinity United Methodist Church, 1401 9th Street in West Palm Beach. Family friendly, service and communion, free breakfast. To learn more, call 561-832-5662.
Faith Holy Temple Church, 1204 Commercial Street, Riviera Beach. From 10 p.m. to 12 midnight, there will be prayer, song and remembrance. More information? Here.
Palm Beach Baptist Church, 5217 S. Military Trail, Lake Worth. The New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service and Celebration will be held from 9 p.m. to midnight. For more information, click here.
Crown of Prayer Church of God, 1311 Avenue U, Riviera Beach. Event starts at 8:30 p.m. Call 561-946-5738 for more information.

Back on December 31, 2000, an article was published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about Watch Nights and it was written by cocowire’s team lead, Marian Dozier. Read the article here—including a quote from then-Bishop Thomas A. Masters, who would become Mayor of Riviera Beach seven years later!

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Nappy Hair Discrimination? No More.

Three states have banned discrimination against nappy hair—and Florida could be the fourth, thanks to bills recently filed for the 2020 Legislation Session.

The other-state laws, and those Florida bills, are part of a national movement known as CROWN—Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair—which aims to protect people of African descent who wear afros, dreadlocks, twists, cornrows and other natural hair styles from discrimination in schools or at work.

California was the first state to outlaw nappy hair discrimination this summer, followed by New York and, just last week, New Jersey. Several cities and counties nationwide have done the same, and lots of states are considering it. Learn more about the movement here.

Each of these State legislators wrote a bill that supports banning nappy hair discrimination.

Florida Senate Bill 566 was filed in October by state Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando), who said the bill represents “creating a respectful and open world for natural hair” which he calls essential to acknowledging the culture and history of the people who wear those styles. State Representative Kamia L. Brown (D-Ocoee) filed a companion bill in late November.

And, apparently, it’s needed. According to the CROWN movement,  incidents of discrimination based on hair texture is a huge issue. Well-known examples include the young New Jersey wrestler who had to cut his locks in order to compete and two sisters in the Boston area prevented from wearing braid extensions to their charter school.

And it happened in Orlando last year, when a six-year-old named Clinton Stanley Jr. and his father were told on the first day of class that he couldn’t attend the private school until his dreadlocks were cut off. The family is currently suing the state’s Department of Education and the school, A Books Christian Academy.

His hair prevented him from enrolling at a private school in Orlando last year.

And, it happens here, in Palm Beach County. Jatory Smith of West Palm Beach recalled applying for a job once where he talked over the phone and got the interview. Then, he showed up–and was told the job was no longer available.

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

His hair prevented him from getting a job in West Palm Beach.

Read the language for Senator Bracy’s bill here and, for Rep. Brown’s, here. Both links can be used to track the efforts’ progression. The legislative session begins January 14, 2020.

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Need scholarships, anyone?

Comcast recently announced its annual scholarship program, as have several other providers. All of them offer strong support and belief in local students across Palm Beach County (PBC). Read the list, which we’ll be continually updating, below. And remember: the Comcast application deadline is December 6, 2019.

Comcast Leaders & Achievers

High school seniors from across Florida can apply for the Comcast Leaders and Achievers® Scholarship Program, which recognizes students who have demonstrated outstanding community service, exceptional academic performance and strong leadership skills. The award, funded by the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, is a one-time, $2,500 scholarship to be used toward undergraduate education-related expenses. Last year, the national Foundation awarded $236,000 in scholarships to 90 students in Florida alone.

High school seniors who meet the eligibility requirements can learn more and apply here. Questions? Call 800-537-4180 or send an email to leadersandachievers@scholarshipamerica.org.

And did we say the deadline to apply is Friday, December 6, 2019?

At Title 1 Schools, Countywide

Teamwork USA Education Foundation is a Palm Beach Gardens-based nonprofit that provides a series of scholarships to any eligible PBC students who attend Title 1 schools. Only. Here are two currently available:

  • 12th Grade Scholarships. The $4,000, scholarships will be awarded this season to 20 high school seniors across PBC. Applications are being accepted now through January 31, 2020. Students must plan to attend a Florida-based college, university or trade school and the scholarships can only be used for tuition, books and fees. Students must have a 3.25 GPA, community service, financial need, two recommendation letters and a 500-word essay on a topic of the student’s choice. Click here for the application.
  • Renewable College Scholarship. A new lineup addition, it allows an awarded student to continue to receive one of up to 15 more $4,000 scholarships to support that student’s continuing attendance at college, university or technical school. If awarded, the additional funds may be used for tuition, fees and books, but only at a two- or four-year college, university or technical school in Florida. Learn more here.

For more information about TeamWork’s good work, click here.

More Than 100 Local Scholarships

The Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties is one of the largest providers of established scholarships in the two-county region. Since 1983, it has awarded more than $10 million in scholarship grants and helped nearly 2,000 students. All scholarships are based on need, unless otherwise noted, and can be seen here. (Note: there are four parts, each of which has lists of scholarships, for a total of 100 scholarship categories.) The deadline to apply is January 2, 2020. Questions? Call 561-659-6800 or send an email to scholarships@cfpbmc.org. There is also a list of external scholarships, which are those provided by outside, private organizations; see the list here.

For ‘Dreamers’

TheDream.US is a scholarship for DACA- and TPS-eligible immigrant students that opened earlier this month for applications and closes on February 27, 2020. Graduating high school seniors as well as community college graduates are eligible to apply. ‘Dreamers,’ by the way, are undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and are covered by federal legislation called DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that was meant to provide a pathway to permanent legal status. Students with TPS—Temporary Protected Status—are those nationals from countries, such as Haiti, experiencing issues that make living there unstable or unsafe. There’s lots of specific information available on its website, here, about focus, intent and eligibility.

A Four-Year Focus

The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and historically black 1890 Land-Grant Universities in an attempt to increase the number of minorities studying agriculture, food, natural resource sciences and related disciplines. The scholarships are awarded annually and must be used at one of the 19 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in that category around the country, including Florida A & M University in the Sunshine State. Selected students will receive each year for up to four years a scholarship that covers full tuition, employment, employee benefits, fees, books and room and board. The list of schools can be found here, along with eligibility requirements, a program overview and links to applications for new high school applicants and rising college sophomores and juniors. Deadline to apply: January, 31, 2020.

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…that Riviera Beach has been nominated for an Emmy Award?

Well, its story was nominated, thanks to On The Town in The Palm Beaches, a series of 30-minute TV shows that celebrate the municipalities of Palm Beach County (PBC), with each episode focused on a particular city’s history, people and happenings in a fast-paced, fun taping.  

The show launched in 2017 and, in that time, has visited nearly a dozen cities, including Palm Beach Gardens, the Glades and Wellington. The Riviera Beach/Singer Island episode though, which aired in June, is the first to be nominated for the prestigious award.

Show host Frank Licari with Mayor Ronnie L. Felder.

“It was my favorite episode I worked on,” PBS Producer Cindy Hing said, “because of the city’s diverse history, its friendly community and the unique adventures available in the area.”

The nomination was one of 21 made by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS)’s Suncoast Chapter, which covers the entire state of Florida, Puerto Rico and parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia. Click here for the full list of the Chapter ‘s Emmy nominees.

The series is a partnership between South Florida PBS (WPBT and WXEL) and the PBC Film & Television Commission. Learn more about the series here–and about those images in the collage. Winners will be announced December 14. Watch the award-nominated episode below.

Emmy Award winners will be announced December 14, 2019. Check here for more.

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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!