From neighborhood townhalls, collecting petitions for Florida rights restoration, our Books & Breakfast program to teaching a class at a prison in South Florida, 2017 was the year that brought us into deep community.
The Fall of 2017 took our SquaDDs all over their counties to collect petitions for the statewide effort to restore the rights of Floridians with previous felony convictions. Currently, more than 1.6 million Floridians can't vote because of prior felony convictions. Florida is only one of three states in the country that has a lifetime voting ban on these folks. Much of this has to do with outgoing Governor Rick Scott and his avid oppressor friend, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. When Scott came into office, he rolled back the small advances and policies of quicker clemency of his predecessor Charlie Christ and brought Jim Crow back into full swing in an effort to repress the votes of black, brown and working class voters. The original Florida constitutional amendment was reportedly passed to stop the "niggerization" of the state of Florida. Currently, 1 in 4 black people in this state cannot vote due to prior felonies.
Books & Breakfast
2017 saw another successful year of our Bay Area SquaDD's Books & Breakfast program. Inspired by the program by HandsUpUnited in Ferguson, our Books & Breakfast runs monthly and aims to provide accessible, informational literature to the youth in the St. Petersburg area. In 2017, we have given away more than 800 books and fed about 500 people!
In June, we began teaching a class at Dade Correctional Institution. We've always known that we can't talk about the ills of prison and not include the voices of incarcerated folks in our work. Many of the men we are working with are in jail for very long sentences or life. We use the weekly class time to talk about mass incarceration and its affect on our communities, and using art as a vehicle for transformation. The men in the class have made zines, written poetry and they're all currently reading The New Jim Crow togather. We're currently working on ways to get their voices out into the public and will be putting something out in the first half of 2018.
Hurricane Irma Recovery
All three of our SquaDDs took part in local preparation, clean-up and recovery efforts for Hurrican Irma. In Miami particularly, our members helped secure shutters, put up ply wood, and assisted in getting supplies to our community members before the hurricane hit. In the aftermath they cut down trees, delivered hundreds of plates of food, bottles of water and batteries to people without power. Some of our Miami members were even inspired to start an affordable landscaping and renovation company that provides sliding scale services to community members in an effort to combat gentrification by beautifying homes in our neighborhoods.
Opa Locka Community Garden
We started a community garden in Opa Locka this year! Our Miami SquaDD kicked off the garden in the Spring with a series of family friendly events to get the community to come out. Community members joined us in growing vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, onions and tomatoes.
Our three squaDDs hosted 12 community listening meetings, or what are more commonly known as Town Hall meetings. All the meetings were grounded in local happenings like elections and building electoral power, police brutality, in Miami, Hurricane Irma's aftermath and the failings of local government to prepare and recover from the storm. These meetings complement our on-the-ground organizing and allow us to not only add to our community-based membership, but always keep community needs at the forefront of our work.