ezilidanto@margueritelaurent.com   Michelle Obama Factor

Caribbean Americans launch voter campaign across S. Florida

By Alva James-Johnson
Staff Writer
May 6, 2004

When Mary Owens received a notice for jury duty a few weeks ago, she realized just how much of a U.S. citizen she had become.

"I said `My goodness, they're starting to know me,'" said the 56-year-old Haitian immigrant who received citizenship about six years ago. "It's time that I get out and vote."

So when Owens was approached by a voter registration volunteer at a Winn-Dixie in Miramar on Wednesday, she filled out an application and promised to go to the polls in November.

"If we don't vote, they won't know we're here," she said.

That is why members of the newly formed Caribbean Power Vote (CPV) will launch a campaign Saturday to register the Caribbean-American community to vote. The group is part of America Coming Together (ACT), a national organization formed by Democratic activists to mobilize voters, work traditionally done by the Democratic National Committee. ACT, which funds CPV, is receiving financial backing from unions, civic organizations and private donors.

Carolyn Thompson, director of the Miami-based CPV, says the Caribbean-American community represents a powerful voting bloc in a swing state that could significantly affect the upcoming presidential election. The group hopes to register 10,000 Caribbean people by Election Day.

"Our community has been deeply affected by unfair immigration laws, a poor economy and skyrocketing health care costs," said Thompson, a Jamaican-American. "We need to get organized as a community and demand real solutions from politicians."

People from Caribbean countries are the fastest-growing ethnic group of at least 25,000 people in Broward, Palm and Miami-Dade counties, according to the 2000 Census. While the census estimated the group at 370,000, not including people from Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries, experts say the number is an undercount.

Susan MacManus, a political scientist from the University of South Florida, said the Caribbean population is a large, new group attractive to Democrats and Republicans.

"Immigrants don't come with a strong party attachment," she said. "With the parties dead even in Florida, carving a small piece of the electorate and pulling it your way can mean the difference in winning or losing. The Caribbean vote is up for grabs."

She said the Caribbean community knows it has the power to swing the election and is taking advantage of the situation.

"Everybody likes to be courted," she said. "The Caribbean community has made it very clear it wants to be courted and the [politicians] who don't will pay the price."

Dahlia Walker is president of the Caribbean American Bar Association, another organization that has been holding citizenship and voter registration drives since 2000. She said her organization is not affiliated with a party, and doesn't endorse any candidates. It's interested in getting people to participate in the political process.

Walker said she has seen the Caribbean community become more politically sophisticated in recent years; one indication being the Caribbean-Americans who have been elected to local offices in Broward County. The organization has expanded to Orlando, where citizenship and voter registration drives were held last month. Walker said another drive will be held in Broward this summer.

"People are understanding the power of the vote and want to participate," she said.

Owens, who migrated to the United States 22 years ago, said she is mostly concerned about health care. Although she works as a nurse's aide, she has no health insurance. She wants to elect a president who will make health care a priority.

"When I'm sick, there's only me and God," she said. "They make rent so high that you can't even buy food, so how are you going to treat yourself?"

Caribbean Power Vote is a month old, with 15 people on staff. Ten are already in the field, going door-to-door visiting families, businesses, schools, churches and other places where Caribbean people gather.

Five are in the office doing administrative work, training volunteers, doing research and organizing projects.

On Saturday the organization will try to unite the Caribbean community, composed of people from different islands, on issues such as immigration, education and U.S. policy in the region, and recruit volunteers for future voter registration drives.

The kick-off is at 10 a.m. at 2700 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.

On Wednesday, three CPV staffers from the Service Employees International Union stood at the Winn-Dixie on Miramar Parkway and University Drive, where many shoppers are from the Caribbean. The staffers received mixed reactions from passersby, some of whom said they weren't interested in voting.

"It doesn't change anything," said Lawrence Davis, 28, whose mother is Bahamian. "The system is designed to keep the black man down."

But Robert Constant, a CPV staffer from New York who will be registering voters in South Florida for seven months, wasn't fazed by such reactions. He said many people would change their minds after giving it more thought.

"A lot of this is about educating people," he said. "At least we're getting the issue out there."

Staff writer Gregory Lewis contributed to this report.

Alva James-Johnson can be reached at ajjohnson@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4523.

Copyright © 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Michelle Obama, the new first lady
Powerful perspective on the Michelle Obama factor
October 3, 2008, Afro.com


Why white America perhaps fears Michelle more than Barack. Excerpts from a 'Jack & Jill politics' newsletter:

...as hard as it is to accept a black president, it's even harder to accept a black first lady. First Lady has always held a beloved sentimental mother/wife of the nation symbolism. Conservatives are not ready to have to look at this very BLACK woman with her degrees and her fierceness and see her as the epitome of the American mother/wife.

This will be a first for white people. They do not want this black woman in the Whitehouse as their first lady. That New Yorker cartoon was [actually] about Michelle - she was its focal point.....look closely... she is the leader, the one starting the "revolution" they want you to imagine............

MSNBC http://www.msnbc.msn.com 's Chris Matthews said, in the course of covering the Obama candidacy, 'He (Barack Obama) brings none of the20' bad stuff, you know?" By 'Bad Stuff', he meant the legacy of [whites] enslaving Africans in this country, keeping them as second-class citizens until 1965, a mere 11 years before this country celebrated its 200th anniversary. You know, 'the original sin', or ' the birth d efect', as Condi Rice called it. Barack escapes this 'bad stuff' only because his mother was white and may have had ancestors involved in the slave trade; and also because Barack's father was not African American. He was full blooded African and therefore Barack had no ancestors enslaved by America - and so the white guilt factor is missing when they think of him. HOWEVER, NO SUCH LUCK WITH MICHELLE!

Michelle Obama is a direct threat and lightening bolt against White Superiority. Because, she's Black... VISIBLY BLACK... But it's important to note, she does not, in any way, shape, or form, contour to the acceptable Black Pathologies that enable White Supremacy to sigh with relief. [welfare mother, fatherless child, druggie, etc.] Michelle was raised in a neighborhood. In a home. With TWO parents. No child revolving in and out of jail. Raised by a Black man who not only provided for his family, but did so, WITH A DISABILITY. Her mother had a working class job - secretary- but it was taken ONLY
after she had seen her youngest child settle into HIGH SCHOOL.

Michelle Obama's poise, her confidence, her aura - that was created by that humble Black man, who by all accounts, adored her. He told her that she is worthy, and so, when you have that told to you by the first man who loves and protects you, you seek that validation of that in your choice of mate, you'll settle for nothing less, and Michelle hasn't.

Michelle Obama, doesn't fit any of the acceptable Black pathologies. And when you don't fit the acceptable Black pathologies, then you must be destroyed. Michelle Obama has become the face of the Black America whose existence is routinely denied by this country. Think about it.

In ONE generation, the face of this 'Invisible America' has gone from living on the top floor of a bungalow, to the possibility of living in The White House. And yet, Michelle Obama, refuses to say " I' m special", in order to give white America its usual security blanket [that she is one of the exceptions rather than the rule], So what should be done?

Beat her down into submission.

Michelle Obama represents everything we black women want our daughters to be. When we stand up for her we stand up for ourselves.. No other women in the world are more neglected and abused as African women period. Michelle looks like [our] daughters, her daughters look like us. We love the way Barack looks at her we adore the way he looks at his daughters. The Obamas represent the hope that we can be loved by our men and they will support us in whatever we do. Little African American girls need a vision and dream of what it is like to be loved by a man who looks just like them.

Is America ready for a First Lady who looks like her? A regular black woman? Not a passable biracial curly haired girl that they call black, but a regular black woman from the south side of Chicago ? With dark skin?

Is she going to be the face of The Woman on the largest pedestal in the country? A self-confessed "loud-mouth" black woman? If the Obamas succeed, it turns white supremacy upside down. And not because a black man is in the White House; but, because a black woman will be there who didn't have to come in the back door to lie in bed with the president.

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