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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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…that the Indianapolis Colts’ 2019 starting quarterback is from Riviera Beach?

Jacoby Brissett was a football standout at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, who then started his college career at the University of Florida before transferring, two years later in 2013, to North Carolina State University. All the while, he played quarterback. Young Mr. Brissett was drafted by the world champion New England Patriots in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft as backup to Tom Brady, one of the NFL’s most prolific quarterbacks, which meant, of course, not much work. (He did win a Super Bowl ring while there, though.) Still, Mr. Brissett was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for the 2017 season as a backup to Andrew Luck and, before the start of the 2019 season, Luck retired, making Mr. Brissett the Colts new starting quarterback. Plus, how special is it that he’s playing in a season when the reigning MVP (Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs) and the highest-paid player (Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks) are also black quarterbacks? In other words, Mr. Brissett is on the team. Good job, homeboy!

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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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…that one of the actresses on the new ‘All That’ is from WPB?

Gabrielle Green is a 14-year-old performer who studied theatre at Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach (WPB) before her family moved to Los Angeles and she pursued her acting career. The sketch-comedy series originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1994 to 2005, becoming a fixture on the cable network and receiving acclaim for its diverse cast and impact on children’s TV. It  relaunched with a new cast, including Ms. Green, and premiered in June. All That was also Nickelodeon’s longest-running, live-action series with 171 episodes across those 10 seasons. Gabrielle Green has also performed in Speechless and Lying Together and has worked as a brand representative. Watch a short clip of the show below (and that’s her in the picture, with the Afro, on the right).

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…that Cori Gauff is the youngest player ever to qualify for Wimbledon–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 qualify 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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…there’s only five black-owned bookstores in Florida–and one is in PBC?

According to the African-American Literature Book Club, a national compilation of these stores,  there are only four bookstores in the Sunshine State owned by people of African descent and they’re located in Longwood, Tampa, Pensacola and St. Petersburg. There’s a new one, though, which is as-yet unlisted on the book club site, and it is titled Our Third Eye Bookstore and it is in West Palm Beach (WPB). Opened in April, the bookstore is owned by Brother Carl Muhammad, who has been pushing equality in education for decades; just ask the School District of Palm Beach County (PBC), whose meetings he attends monthly. He launched the bookstore as part of that larger push and hosts education-focused events there every month. Next one: newly elected WPB City Commissioner Richard Ryles will discuss public service and community support from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday, June 15. Besides Our Third Eye, Florida is also home to:

  • Dare Books in Longwood, which relocated there from New York
  • Best Books, Rich Treasures, Tampa, which relocated from Virginia
  • The Gathering Awareness and Book Center, Pensacola
  • Cultured Books, St. Petersburg

Until June of last year, there had been another ‘sole’ diaspora-focused bookstore in PBC: Pyramid Books in Boynton Beach, which had been owned by Akhbar James Watson and still sells books online here. Indeed, there’s a couple of other online-only black-owned book retailers based in Florida: Kizzy’s Books & More sells online here and has plans to open a retail location this year in the Orlando area, while The African Bookstore was borne after its bricks-and-mortar shop closed in Plantation. It was founded in 1994 by Horatio Harrison, a Jamaican who died in 2017, and his daughter remains in charge. Visit its site here. “Education is the new civil rights struggle,” Brother Carl said, “and we all have to get in that fight.” Learn more about his work, his goals and the bookstore here. And watch the video, below, of him discussing the bookstore and his plans.

Brother Carl talks books at his new spot, 411 Rosemary Avenue in WPB.

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…that the Florida mayor running for president is Jamaican? Yeah, mon!

Wayne Messam was re-elected in November to his second four-year term as mayor of the City of Miramar in Broward County. Four months later, he’s running for U.S. president. Watch his announcement video below.

The 44-year-old construction company owner grew up in South Bay, the little agricultural town out in the Glades area of Palm Beach County. His parents emigrated from Jamaica—his father cut sugar cane before becoming a farm mechanic while mom was a cook and housekeeper. He starred as a wide receiver at Glades Central High School, then did the same at Florida State where he was a member of the storied 1993 national championship team. He graduated with a degree in management information systems and later, with his wife, started Messam Construction.

“Washington,” he says in the video, “is broken.”

He favors universal health care, student loan forgiveness, infrastructure improvements, working to alleviate climate change and focusing education toward a high-tech future. To pay for it, he would repeal the current president’s tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. He would also ban military-style rifles and tighten background checks for gun purchases.

Learn more about him here on his campaign website, which is titled ‘Change Can’t Wait.’ There are now 17 people running for president on the Democratic ticket and the Democratic National Committee will host the first presidential debates of the 2020 election in Miami June 26-27. Will Mayor Messam be there?

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…that the PBC school district headquarters is named for a black man who sued it repeatedly for racism?

The School District of Palm Beach County (PBCSD) named its West Palm Beach headquarters the Fulton-Holland Educational Services Center in 1996. It was also the first time a public building in Palm Beach County (PBC) was named for a person of color. (Fulton refers to former District Superintendent Robert Fulton.

In 1956, William ‘Bill’ Holland took his six-year-old son to enroll at all-white Northboro Elementary in West Palm Beach, two years after the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that outlawed segregated schools. The son was turned away.

Mr. Holland—the county’s first black attorney and first black municipal judge—fought the matter for years, returning to court time and time again.

To comply with one ruling in 1961, for example, the PBCSD offered a plan that resulted in four black students transferring to all-white high schools. By 1965, only 137 of the county’s 15,000 minority students attended predominantly white schools. And by 1967, only Jupiter High School had achieved full desegregation, while all segregated black schools remained open.

On July 9, 1973, a U.S. District Court judge issued the final ruling in the Holland case and declared PBCSD to be officially integrated. The federal Office for Civil Rights, however, monitored the county’s schools until 1999—three years after the District named its headquarters for Bill Holland. Attorney Bill Holland.

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…there is only one place in the world where MLK and Obama meet?

 ‘Tis true, and it is in Riviera Beach. In December 2015, a year-long effort by Mayor Thomas A. Masters resulted in the renaming of the former north-south Old Dixie Highway to President Barack Obama Highway. ‘Obama Way,’ as residents call it, meets the east-west Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (MLK) at the corner just in front of an entrance to the Port of Palm Beach. MLK Boulevard became the new name for the former West 8th Street in 1994.

It is a historic corner.

Indeed, when U.S. Senator Corey Booker was visiting Palm Beach County in 2016, he heard about this singular location and took a drive there.  That is him, above, underneath the signs on the one-of-its-kind corner, which had been posted to his social media page. Senator Booker, by the way, is running for President in 2020.

“‘Old Dixie’ is a reminder of the Deep South and old, painful wounds of racial injustice,” Mayor Masters said at the time, “and it needs to go.”

Indeed, Old Dixie was famous in its own right: it became the first paved highway connecting states from north to south when it was created in 1915 by a group of state governors. According to historians, the governors wanted to spur tourism, especially with the arrival of the Model T car.

So, because the average person could now drive from, say, Chicago to Miami, they also needed motels, restaurants and gas stations along the way. That’s why the Dixie Highway System, as it was named at creation, helped changed the south: it brought folks down here from up north.

A traffic signal at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and President Barack Obama Highway in Riviera Beach. (Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

But by 1927, the bottom had fallen out as the federal government got involved in the highway business and created the numbered highway system. That killed the Dixie Highway system, but the roadway—and its name—remained.

Until August 2015, when the Riviera Beach City Council voted 4-1 in favor of the name change in their town, followed by the required approval of the Palm Beach County Commission, which owns the roadway. Those votes were a final death knell for Dixie Highway in, at least, Riviera Beach.

And at a Mayor Masters-led ceremony a few months later, city residents cheered as County workers in bucket trucks took down the old signs and put up the new ones. The newly famous intersection was borne.

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…that you can see ‘Black Panther’ for free?

‘Tis true: Black Panther is back in hundreds of theatres for free across the country–including in West Palm Beach–for Black History Month. Beginning today through February 7, the Academy Award-nominated film will be free to view at 250 AMC Theatres, including AMC CityPlace 20. The Walt Disney Co., which distributed the film, announced the package on its website earlier this week. To be sure the movie is accessible to all, according to the Disney website, tickets are free for everyone and there will be two showings per day at each participating theatre. Walt Disney at the same time announced it is also giving $1.5 million to the United Negro College Fund in honor of Black History Month.

Black Panther was a global phenomenon that shattered box office records; it was the most-viewed film of 2018 worldwide, earned an astounding $1.3 billion and has been nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. For free tickets to the showing here (and around the country), click here and scroll down to the state of Florida. The movie will play twice a day at 4 and 7 p.m. in CityPlace today through Thursday, February 7. Get there: ‘Wakanda Forever.’