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FMU’s new tech hub, ‘don’t say gay’ bill, a Jim Crow era nightclub returns

Count Basie and his orchestra performing at the Sunset Club in West Palm Beach. Undated photo.
Public photo by Thelma Starks | West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency
Count Basie and his orchestra performing at the Sunset Club in West Palm Beach. Undated photo.

Florida Memorial University wants to create a pipeline to get more Black students into tech jobs. And gender and sexual orientation, should they be talked about at home or in the classroom? Plus, a nightclub makes a comeback and helps revitalize history.

On this Tuesday, February 8, edition of Sundial:

FMU’s new tech hub

South Florida’s only historically Black university is working on closing the race gap in the tech industry.

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Recent federal data showed more than 80% of tech executives are white.

To compare, at Apple, only 6% of the workforce is Black. At Google, only 5% of new hires are Black.

Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens has launched a partnership for a “Cyber Innovation Hub” to educate students and help them land jobs in tech.

The new program is under the umbrella of the university’s Climate Resiliency Center.

“If there is a place where you want to really test or confirm technology or knowledge that can help resiliency, it is going to be right here in Florida,” said Samuel A. Darko, the sean of the university’s School of Arts and Sciences. Hee’s also a Professor of Environmental Sciences.

“We want to make sure that we bring what we call the internet of things on our campus, because when we do that ourselves, then we become a living laboratory for our students. Our students get to see what we are teaching them in the classroom, come to life right here on campus,” he added.

FMU’s new tech hub

‘Don’t say gay’ bill

Teachers soon may not be able to talk about things like gender identity or sexual orientation in the classroom. There's a bill moving through the Florida legislature that would prohibit school districts from having these conversations. And if teachers bring those issues up — and parents disagree — the parents can sue.

It's been nicknamed by those who oppose it, the 'Don't Say Gay' bill.

Ebonni Chrispin is the Legislative Affairs and Community Engagement Manager for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

"When you handcuff educators, what you do is you make it difficult for children to be honest about who they are, and that can be really dangerous," Chrispin said. "How do we have a more holistic, frankly, conversation that doesn't trap educators into not being a trusted space for kids to turn to, because children don't always turn to their parents."

Jennifer Solomon has been outspoken in the LGBTQ+ community. She's the President and founder of PFLAG's South Miami Chapter, which stands for Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, in Miami. She shared some of her thoughts with us about her 11-year-old gender-nonconforming child in the Miami public school district:

"My child was born, male identifies as male, but his gender expression is what society would deem more female ... Having the staff and teachers knowledgeable about my child made his success in school possible. A bill like this would stop things, stop children from feeling good about themselves," Solomon said. "When he was in second grade, some of the children had questions. Why does he wear a dress? Why does he have pink shoes or long hair? And it was a perfect opportunity for a teacher to have a discussion about respecting others about diversity, different families."

The Senate version of the bill was heard by, and passed, the Senate Education Committee Tuesday morning.

‘Don’t say gay’ bill

A Jim Crow era night club returns

American jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald was a regular at the Sunset Cocktail Lounge in West Palm Beach.

It was one of the most important performance spots for Black jazz performers from around the U.S.

It’s been closed for years. But, that’s going to change. The West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency is putting more than $12 million into the expansion and renovation of the club.

WLRN’s Palm Beach County reporter Wilkine Brutus joined Sundial to talk about this story. Find more of his reporting here.

A Jim Crow era nightclub returns
Isaac “Ike” Robinson, Jr is a retired teacher and a former city commissioner. Robinson, one of the driving forces behind a multimillion dollar renovation and reopening of the Sunset, saw the Sunset during its glory days — and he dreamed of seeing that again.

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Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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.