Tallahassee Takeover, History Of School Integration In Miami, And The South Beach Wine & Food Festival
WLRN's new podcast series Tallahassee Takeover explores the different ways Florida's state government is taking control from local officials. Plus, nearly 70 years since Brown v. Board of Education a look at racial integration in Miami. Finally, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival takes place amid a pandemic.
On this Thursday, May 20, episode of Sundial,
The Florida Legislature recently wrapped a special legislative session, focused on the issue of gambling. The Legislature approved a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, which would legalize sports gambling on tribal lands and is projected to bring $2.5 billion to the state in the next five years.
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Local South Florida leaders have raised concerns that the agreement would prevent municipalities from determining whether gambling should be allowed in their communities. It’s seen as the latest in a series of power grabs by the state to usurp local control.
Tallahassee Takeover is a new series by WLRN, exploring this ongoing phenomenon in the state Capitol. The series explores everything from police budgets to the cruise industry, zoning and more.
“The idea of turning some of the stories that we reported, and that were on our airwaves, into a podcast was just a desire to give it a little more space and to present these ideas as a conversation between reporters. For them to open up their notebooks and dig into things that they've been following for a while,” said WLRN digital editor Lance Dixon.
You can check out the podcast here.
Brown V. Board Of Education
This week marks 67 years since the historic Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, which started the process of desegregation in schools across the country. But in Florida and Miami-Dade County, that process was a long one.
It took thousands of Black teachers, students and civil rights activists challenging racist institutions and the Florida Legislature to achieve integration. Timothy Barber is the executive director of the Black Archives, History & Research Foundation of South Florida. He explained that Orchard Villa Elementary School was the first school to be integrated in Miami-Dade County — six years after the Supreme Court ruling.
“Father Theodore Gibson, who was the President of the local NAACP and Dr. John O. Brown had to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. It was their sons, Theodore Gibson Jr. and John O. Brown Jr. who were among the students whose name the suit was filed under," said Barber. "The School District finally approved in the fall of 1959 for their sons to be among the first four black students at the all-white school."
But the process of integration took decades and faced many hurdles. Through the statute of “home rule,” which designated schools students went to based on where they lived, lawmakers were able to circumvent the law.
“They [lawmakers] found another way to segregate schools and that was through the neighborhood process. No matter which way you try to desegregate schools, by shifting boundaries in terms of which was the home school, that determined where you went to school. That was another way they were able to defund Black schools in particular,” said Barber on Sundial.
Barber argued the issue of racial segregation continues in Miami-Dade Public Schools to this day. Kalyn Lee agrees, she's a teacher on special assignment at Miami Edison Senior High School. She argued racial segregation exists now in the form of resources available to predominantly Black schools relative to schools in more affluent neighborhoods — and the coronavirus pandemic illuminated those disparities.
“There were so many students that went so long without a device, for students who had to work at home. Some of the devices wouldn’t turn on. Beyond that, the truancy rates were out of the roof. So many inner city schools had high truancy rates relative to their counterparts. Inequity within our school system was very much highlighted,” Lee said on Sundial.
Lee was named Miami-Dade County Public School Teacher of the Year in 2020. Last July, she called on the school district to hold a forum with Black educators, students and parents to incorporate anti-racism curriculum into the classroom. We reached out to MDCPS for a comment on this interview and received the following response from Daisy Gonzalez-Diego:
MDCPS established a Social Justice Liaison (SJL) position within the District’s Student Government Association. The SJL provides opportunities for students to discuss relevant social justice topics at each monthly meeting. This practice will continue for the upcoming school year, as well. The District’s comprehensive African American history curriculum is reviewed and updated annually by staff who work with the Florida Commissioner of Education’s African American History Taskforce. In fact, MDCPS has been recognized as an exemplary school district in designing and delivering diverse academic instruction that is relevant across a wide spectrum of subject areas. We also currently offer two courses dedicated solely to Black History: African-American History and African-American History (Local Honors) that schools can offer 10th graders. Additionally, Social Science standards across all grade levels provide students ample opportunities to discuss how various groups of individuals throughout history have fought for a more inclusive and equitable society (e.g., the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage Movement, etc.). We purchase books for all students and check out technology to those who request it. While we have run short of devices at different times during COVID, we have continued to purchase additional devices. Prior to COVID, device checkout was largely limited to high schools and the majority of high schools were checking out relatively few devices despite having plenty of devices available for that purpose. We work with schools and our post-secondary institutions each year to increase dual enrollment and other advanced academic offerings and will continue to do so.
Listen back to interviews with some of the first women to integrate Florida schools, on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, here.
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival starts Thursday. The country’s largest food festival includes cocktails, wine, beer and, of course, trying new foods. Anyone attending their in-person events is expected to be fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test.
“Nobody had a magical mirror or a crystal ball to look into and say the [COVID-19] positivity rate was going to go down or the vaccination rate was going to ramp up. We knew that nobody knew any of this stuff," said Michael Cheng, the dean of FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. "Throughout our whole planning, we always rely on our health professionals that give us the best guidance available at that point in time."
All of the net proceeds from the festival benefit Florida International University’s school of hospitality and tourism — which has been instrumental in making it all happen. To date, the festival has raised more than $31.8 million for the school.
“Our role here as educators in the hospitality industry, we always want to make sure that our students remain passionate about our industry. So as much as we can do, we try to tell them it's [the tourism industry] going to come back even after the last year when there's so much uncertainty," said Cheng. "People are going to travel. We look at the demand and all this pent up pressure from consumers to want to go out there to travel, to eat and try different places."