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Florida’s Black Caucus On Police Reform, Andrew Gillum's Story, And 'Swamplandia!'

Andrew Gillum at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens one year ago rolling out a voter registration initiative.
Miami Herald
Andrew Gillum at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens one year ago rolling out a voter registration initiative.

On this Tuesday, Feb. 16 episode of Sundial:

Florida’s Black Caucus On Police Reform

The Florida legislative session is set to begin in a couple of weeks — with criminal justice reform being a top priority for many lawmakers.

Republicans, spearheaded by Gov. Ron DeSantis, are moving forward on a bill that would severely limit local government’s ability to reduce police budgets, and would crack down on protests like the numerous Black Lives Matter demonstrations from last summer — after the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

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“There's a different reaction and typically a different outcome when you come into communities like mine, communities of color, as opposed to communities that are predominantly white and how they're policed. So for me, fair and just policing provides a safer Florida not only for all communities, but also for police officers,” said Democratic State Rep. Bobby DuBose, who represents Broward County.

He is one of the members of Florida’s Black Caucus who are pushing forward their own legislation, taking a much different approach to criminal justice with a focus on police accountability and demilitarization.

“So often you have bad cops that really give a bad name to our police officers and then where one department may decide, 'Hey, we want to get rid of this bad apple.' Then, they're allowed to go out and go to another part of a state or somewhere and get a job and get hired,” said Dubose.

House Bill 277, presented by Rep. Geraldine Thompson would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to establish and maintain a statewide police misconduct registry, and it will track the information related to local and state law enforcement officers.

Florida’s Black Caucus On Police Reform

Andrew Gillum's Story

Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was a rising star in the Democratic Party three years ago. He’d surprised many by winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was only 30,000 votes shy from becoming the first Black governor of the Sunshine State.

“He was someone who really was seen as the face of the emergent Democratic Party, very well regarded across the party. During the Trump years, [he was] one of the leading surrogates prior to the public embarrassment he faced. He was being talked about to potentially be a vice presidential pick or — there were some people who were asking him if he might even run for president himself in this last cycle,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Wesley Lowery, who spoke with Gillum and his wife R. Jai about politics, bisexuality and public redemption.

After Gillum lost the gubernatorial race, his life went into a downward spiral. Last March, he was launched into the national spotlight following an arrest on Miami Beach. A leaked police report included photos of him with drugs and naked men.

Gillum has since gone through rehab and is working to repair his marriage.

“Culturally across the country, there's still a lot of confusion about what bisexuality is and how it operates. Stereotypically, women who are bisexual are written off as, 'Oh, you're going through a phase or you just like making out with your girlfriends, but you're really going to end up with a man.' In many cases, there's an assumption that men who identify as bisexual are, in fact secretly gay, but they feel societal pressures to put on the air of masculinity," said Lowery.

Lowery's story on Gillum is part of the GQ Modern Lovers issue — focusing on high-profile relationships that explore the many varieties of love in the 21st century.

Andrew Gillum's Story


Growing up in South Florida, Karen Russell took regular trips with her family into the swampy regions of the state to some very unique places.

“We went to the Everglades frequently when I was a kid. It was like my favorite place. It was also sort of terrifying to me in a wonderful, sublime way. We would go bike riding on Shark River Valley, so nobody was like wrestling those alligators. But I do remember the kind of exhilaration of knowing you were prey, it was a great motivation to kind of like keep up with the other people on the bikes because you didn't want to fall too far behind in this landscape full of buzzards and alligators,” said Russell.

She brings that world to readers in her book "Swamplandia!" — which is the Sundial Book Club’s February pick.

It tells the story of a family pretending to be Native American and operating a gator theme park in the middle of the Everglades. They face numerous losses, and each member is forced to head out on their own to make sense of the tragedies and what may come next.

“I wrote this novel between the ages of like 25 and 28, probably. I feel like a very different woman at 40, and the world has changed so much in a wonderful way. I think we all have a new awareness and a new sensitivity, as you say," said Russell.

Join the book club here.

"Swamplandia!" book cover. It includes an alligator coming out of the grass vertically with its jaws open.

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Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.