Equal Ground September Newsletter
Updated: Nov 2
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RACISM & TRAGEDY IN JACKSONVILLE
On August 26, 2023 - the same day as the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, a 21 year old white supremacist entered a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida and senselessly murdered three Black people in a racist shooting spree. The three souls who were tragically taken from us are Angela Michelle Carr, 52; Jerrald Gallion, 29; and Anolt Joseph Laguerre Jr., 19. During the investigation it was later discovered that the racist killer first attempted to enter the campus of the HBCU, Edward Waters University, but was confronted by security and forced to leave campus. After driving for some time, he decided to enter the store in the heart of the Black community and perpetrate this heinous and hateful act before killing himself. At least three manifestos were found on his body, including those addressed to his parents, the news media, and federal agents. Gov. DeSantis was met with resounding boo's and other unpleasantries at a community vigil organized by Jacksonville leaders and residents. Many in the crowd and beyond believe that the Governor's words are hollow and lack sincerity given the culture that has been created under his administration via laws and policies that attack Black people. In just one term under Gov. DeSantis, Black people have seen their right to protest injustice curtailed, their voting rights and Congressional representation reduced, history & culture erased, and opportunity for upward mobility stifled by staggering housing and insurance costs. We ask that you join the Equal Ground team and millions of people across the world in praying for the family of the victims and the entire Jacksonville community that has been permanently impacted by the senseless act of violence. We will continue to advocate for a world free of hatred and gun violence. CLICK HERE to view more.
FLORIDA BLACK POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT CALL
The Florida Black Political Empowerment Call is an opportunity for you to receive updates about issues impacting Black people in the state of Florida and receive information and tools to help improve our community through collective action. The speaker for our September call will be announced soon. The next call will be Monday, September 18th. Please click HERE to RSVP. The Saturday after our Black Political Empowerment call, we need your help to make sure our community is aware of the changes in our voting laws and is prepared for the 2023-2024 election cycle! Due to a new Florida law regarding mail-in voting, all voters who had a vote-by-mail request on file before the Nov. 2022 midterm elections must file a new request if they wish to vote by mail in upcoming elections. This change in law resulted in over 460,000 Black voters bring removed. Voters will now have to request their mail ballots each general election cycle moving forward. Help us re-enroll Black Floridians for Vote by Mail. CLICK HERE to register.
SAVE THE DATE
Equal Ground and Clergy Day at the Capitol will take place on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 with an opening reception and training on Tuesday, February 6, 2023 in Tallahassee, FL. This will be an opportunity to commune with other community leaders, meet with legislators around important issues in person and participate in other advocacy activities. If you are interested in attending, please complete the pre registration form found HERE to help us gauge interest and create a day that accommodates everyone. We will follow up with additional details in the future. For all questions please contact our Political Director, Genesis Robinson at Genesis@equal-ground.com.
DEMOCRACY UNDER ATTACK
On August 9, 2023, Florida Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis and Florida Republican State Attorney, Ashley Moody appeared at a joint press conference to announce the suspension of 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney, Monique Worrell- a Democrat who represents Orange and Osceola counties. Equal Ground made the following statement: “Yet again, Governor Ron DeSantis has abused his power and undercut the democratic process in Florida by suspending State Attorney Monique Worrell- the state's only Black woman State Attorney. A duly elected public servant, State Attorney Worrell has done her job consistent with the law and commitment she made to the voters who elected her in 2020. This reckless pattern of removing political opponents from office is not how we should govern in Florida. In his announcement of her suspension the Governor claims that Attorney Worell “abused discretion”. Not only is that a matter of opinion, but the discretion Attorney Worrell exercises is afforded to her by the state constitution and is consistent with the other 19 State Attorneys throughout the state. As a Black led voting rights organization, Equal Ground calls on the Governor to reverse this decision and stop using Black Women and voters as a pawn in his pursuit of the White House”. In response to the removal of a dully elected public official and the numerous attacks on democracy, Equal Ground and our partners hosted a rally to speak out against efforts to undermine our democratic institutions and weaken your voice. CLICK HERE to watch the recording of the rally.
On September 2nd, a Florida trial court sided with plaintiffs in the case Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute v. Byrd, ruling that Florida’s congressional map violates Article III, § 20 of the Florida Constitution, commonly known as the Fair Districts Amendment, Leading up to the trial, the case against Florida’s congressional map was strengthened by an agreement between the parties to the litigation. As part of the agreement, Florida’s Secretary of State, the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate have admitted that the state’s congressional map diminishes the voting power of Black Floridians and prevents them from electing a candidate of their choice in Florida’s Fifth Congressional District. In the Judges ruling, it requires the state to draw a new remedial plan in time for the 2024 primary elections.Click HERE to read our statement. Following the State's agreement to the stipulation in which they admitted Black Voting power was diminished, the plaintiffs in the case; Equal Ground, Black Voters Matter, League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Rising, and Progress Florida. hosted a Redistricting Community forum to educate the public about the recent updates to our legal challenge. You can CLICK HERE to watch the recording.
In a June 15 letter, House Speaker Paul Renner sent a letter to the Florida Supreme Court asking the court to consider whether consolidation of the state’s existing judicial circuits is warranted. The current judicial circuit boundaries have been in place since 1969. In response to this request, The Florida Supreme Court issued Administrative Order No. AOSC23-35. This order created the Judicial Circuit Assessment Committee that will be chaired by Fourth DCA Judge Jonathan D. Gerber. The Supreme Court’s specific instructions and charges to the Judicial Circuit Assessment Committee are as follows:
The committee must limit its findings and recommendations to whether there is a need to consolidate (ie., reduce the number of) Florida’s judicial circuits;
In making its findings and recommendations, the committee must assume that district court of appeal boundaries will remain unchanged;
The committee’s findings and recommendations must be governed by the criteria set out in Rule 2.241; and
Before making its findings and recommendations, the committee must confer with the chief judges and other representatives of the courts, court budget commissions, The Florida Bar, and the public, as required by Rule 2.241, as well as with other justice system entities it deems appropriate.
The Court directed the committee to report its findings and recommendations to the chief justice, through the state courts administrator, by December 1.
Others appointed to the committee include:
Stacy Butterfield, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, Polk County
Judge Keith Carsten of the Ninth Judicial Circuit
Chief Judge-elect Shawn Crane of the Sixth Judicial Circuit
Braxton Gillam IV of Jacksonville who serves on the Board of Governors
Chief Judge Glenn Kelley of the 15th Circuit
Judge Christopher Kelly of the Seventh Judicial Circuit
Judge Robert Lee of Broward County
Laird A. Lile of Naples who serves on the Board of Governors
Carlos Martinez, the Public Defender for the 11th Circuit
Chief Judge-elect Diana Moreland of the 12th Circuit
Melissa W. Nelson, State Attorney for the Fourth Circuit
Judge Linda Nobles of the First Circuit.
Judge Margaret Steinbeck of the 20th Circuit
The Office of the State Courts Administrator will provide staff support.
Equal Ground's Founder, Jasmine Burney-Clark and Political Director, Genesis Robinson both attended the meeting and gave public testimony in opposition to the consolidation. We believe consolidation would amount to judicial gerrymandering and erode the voting rights of Floridians- particularly in in rural and minority communities. Given the increased growth of Florida since 1969, if there is a conversation to be had about judicial realignment, it should be to add the number of districts, not reduce. Since the special committee has started hearing public comment, there have been hundreds of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and residents from the Florida Keys to the Panhandle who have expressed opposition to judicial consolidation.
60 YEARS AFTER THE DREAM
August 26th was the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr. King delivered his famed "I Have A Dream" speech. To recognize the significance of the moment, organizers planned an event in Washington, D.C. not only to commemorate, but continue the work of Dr. King and bring us together to resist, and fight against the injustice that we continue to see today. You can watch the program HERE.
HELP OTHERS REGISTER TO VOTE
In light of SB7050 and its potential chilling effect on community-based voter registration, I am pleased to share with you a new resource developed by Common Cause Florida that lays out what private citizens can (and cannot) do if they want to help their friends, family, and neighbors register to vote. How Floridians Can Help Each Other Register to Vote This guide is currently live online complete with pdf printable flyers and factsheets, and a printed version of the guide will be available later this summer. You can find the guide on our website at https://www.commoncause.org/florida/resource/voter-registration-resources/ Please note, this guide is NOT for third-party voter registration organizations. It is also not legal advice. It is for information and education purposes for private citizens.
Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court accepted a request by abortion providers to hear arguments in their case against House Bill 5 (HB 5), a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy that threatens to put doctors in jail for providing essential care beyond that point. While providers’ request for the court to hear arguments in the case was granted, the justices declined to immediately block HB 5 while the lawsuit proceeds, leaving the ban in place for now. The hearing will begin on September 8th. You can follow Planned Parenthood for updates.
LABOR DAY 2023
Happy Labor Day! Today we celebrate the contributions made by Black workers and workers of color. After being enslaved for generations, Black people fought –– and continue the fight –– to earn equal pay, workers’ rights, and more. The labor of Black workers has been and continues to be fundamental in shaping economies and industries. We have been crucial in driving economic growth and prosperity in the face of persistent racial discrimination and barriers Let's continue to work to ensure continued opportunities & equal access.
PEOPLE'S FIRST REPORT CARD
Following legislative session, the flurry of bills signed into law can often be overwhelming, and accountability gets lost to the speed of the news cycle. The People First Report Card is a resource that bridges understanding of the most consequential bills and how lawmakers voted: for everyday people or for special interests. Did your FL lawmaker vote to put people first…or powerful special interests? Find out here: www.FloridaReportCard.com #PeopleFirst Below is a list of some lawmakers who received a 100% score. CLICK HERE to view your legislator's score. LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION MEETINGS
As the Florida Legislature prepares to start the 2024 Legislative session process, each county's legislative members will convene for what is known as legislative delegation meetings. These meetings will take place from now until December and give you an opportunity hear directly from your legislators and pitch any ideas your have for funding or legislation. CLICK HERE to check if your county has announced their meeting date.
BIDGEN BLACK ENGAGEMENT
Building Back Together advances the policy agenda of the Biden-Harris Administration and communicates the positive impacts of these critical policies to the American people. HERE you will find a copy of the Black Engagement Newsletter, which includes the latest talking points, news, and fact sheets to highlight Black organizations and leaders who are helping us amplify the important work of the Biden-Harris Administration.
Black people deserve to be listened to, not spoken about or spoken for. That's why Black Futures Lab has launched the Black Census Project, the largest national survey of Black people conducted in the United States in 157 years! For far too long, Black communities have been left out of the conversation. We're taking the Black Census everywhere Black people get left behind - rural and urban and suburban, U.S.-born and immigrant, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, LGBTQ, cisgender and gender non-conforming, disabled, young and seasoned, and more - we're looking for you! The data gathered from the Black Census is anonymous and will be used to inform public policies and identify priority issues that represent Black communities. These priorities will help us make decisions about who we show up for at the polls and what we demand from them - which is why your voice has never been more important. CLICK HERE to take the Black Census.
VOLUNTEER WITH USWith the many changes to Florida Election laws. We need help spreading the word to our community. Please CLICK HERE to explore volunteer opportunities to keep our community informed.
To watch full coverage of legislative session including committee meetings and floor debates, visit https://thefloridachannel.org/.
To learn more about the Florida Senate, find your Senator, and locate senate bills, please visit www.flsenate.gov.
To learn more about the Florida House of Representatives, find your representative and locate house bills, please visit www.myfloridahouse.gov.
Remember to visit your county’s Supervisor of Elections office to find what district you live in.
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