On August 24, 1955, in Money, Mississippi, a 13-year-old boy
went to Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market to buy candy and never came home. On February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, a 17-year-old boy went to the 7-Eleven store to buy candy and never returned home. Both were found dead. There deaths occurred
58 years apart. Jury selections of the Money, Mississippi case were 12 white
men. These men would decide the
innocence or guilt of the defendants involved in the death of the 13-year-old
African-American boy. African-Americans
were not registered to vote and therefore could not serve on the jury. Jury selections of the Sanford, Florida case
were 5 white women and 1 Hispanic & black woman. These women were to decide the innocence or
guilt of the defendant involved in the death of the 17-year-old African-American boy. Both communities in
Mississippi and Florida exhibited shock and disbelief in what occurred in both
cases. In both cases there were not any
eyewitnesses to the fatal actions of the defendants. The jury deliberated for 68
minutes in Money, Mississippi, and rendered a not-guilty verdict on September
23, 1955. International newspapers quickly
responded. In Germany, the headline
read, "The Life of a Negro isn't Worth a
Whistle". The jury deliberated for
16+ hours in Sanford, Florida, and rendered a not-guilty verdict on July 13,
2013. Some people responded to the
verdict by indicating that the Sanford victim got what he deserved.
History has repeated itself. Now what? The difference on July 13, 2013, was the incredible outpouring of people of all ages, races, and ethnicities that shared the disbelief in the verdict to counter the opposition. Legally, we heard the verdict. Collectively, the feelings were that it was morally wrong. People were angry and protests popped up across the country. As a long-time resident of Southern Florida and a father of a 13-year-old African-American teenager, many thoughts went through my head as I absorbed the reality of the verdict. This time the actions following the verdict had to be different. African-American residents of Florida need to become part of setting the state's agenda. There needs to be a push to examine the application of our laws in Florida. Lastly, people of color need to understand and take advantage of our second-amendment rights in Florida. When I thought of the enormous task to move these forward, I thought of Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King. Thurgood Marshall was instrumental in challenging the laws to end legal segregation and was successful. State Senator Chris Smith proposed Florida Senate bill 136 in 2012 that makes four common-sense changes to the current Stand Your Ground law. That needs to be successful.
Martin Luther King organized a 13-month bus boycott to end segregation on public buses and was successful. The State of Florida will only respond to economic pressure. It is estimated that average spending by guests outside of the amusement parks is $1.7 billion. The hotel rooms generate approximately $1.2 billion. Tourism is estimated to contribute $40 billion to the state of Florida. If you want change in Florida, impact the revenue. History has shown that it works. This needs to be successful. I am proud to see the energy and demand for change. If my mother calls me again concerned about her grandson in Florida, I can tell her that joint efforts of all people outside the state and inside the state will change Florida. History does repeat itself. Guess what?