The killing of black teenager Michael Brown by white police officers in Ferguson, M0. has reignited the spirit of the civil rights movement in the African American communities around the nation. While protests regarding Brown’s case continue in Missouri, his death has also reopened a long overdue conversation about the policing of black communities.
Miami-Dade County has not been the exception. The county in South Florida is predominantly Latino — Hispanics make up 65% of the population, blacks are just over 20%. The county’s mayors have been consistently Hispanic since the late seventies. And Hispanics make up a majority of the County’s Board of Commissioners.
On September 3rd, 2014, Dennis Moss, one of the county’s four black commissioners, opened the County Hall floor to a discussion about the lessons that Miami could learn to prevent events like Ferguson in Miami-Dade County.
The Commissioner and other members of the black leaders spoke of a feeling of hopelessness in the city’s black communities. They spoke of language discrimination in job applications — you have to speak Spanish for jobs– lack of access to private and public contracts, and a frank discussion about the policing of African American communities, especially black males. The police department in Miami-Dade county is sharply different than in Ferguson. Miami-Dade’s police force reflects the different population groups, including Hispanics, blacks and other groups. Still, black leaders continue to sensitize police forces on how blacks, especially men, experience police encounters.
City officials like Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez took part in the conversation, and all parties were glad the conversation happened in the open.
For this segment, we ask Doctor Walter T. Richardson, senior chaplain of the Miami Police Department, and Retha Boone-Fye, head of the Black Affairs Board in the county, about the conditions of African Americans in a place that is predominantly Latino/Hispanic.
Dr. Walter Thomas Richardson, a Miami native, is the senior chaplain for the Miami-Dade Police Department and Senior Pastor at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in Perrine, Florida. Dr. Richardson currently serves as adjunct professor of religion at St. Thomas University where he teaches “World Religions.”
Retha Boone-Fye is the director of the Miami-Dade County Black Advisory Board. She previously served as Public Affairs Director for South Florida’s only Historically Black University—Florida Memorial. She has been recognized by InFocus Magazine’s “Quiet Storm Award”; was named one of South Florida’s “Most Distinguished and Influential Black Women for 2010” by Success Magazine and was recently honored by ICABA World as one of South Florida’s “Most accomplished Black Professionals for 2011.” She’s the second generation daughter of Bahamian parents and Jamaican great-grandparents. Mrs. Boone-Fye was the first of her immigrant family to attend university and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and her graduate degree from Nova-Southeastern University.
Latino USA intern Julia Shu contributed reporting.
Photo of gathering in front of Government Center in Miami in December 1st, 2000. Photo by Robert King/Newsmakers