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Palm Beach County Black Caucus plans to place public pressure on Democratic candidates

Attorney Richard Ryles attends a voting rights rally in West Palm Beach to honor the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Wilkine Brutus
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Attorney Richard Ryles attends a voting rights rally in West Palm Beach to honor the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

From voter protection laws to better political representation, a new group in Palm Beach County is seeking to address Black voter issues that they believe have been ignored by the major parties.

The group says Black voters are specifically challenging false promises made from leaders in the local and national Democratic party.

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Richard Ryles is an attorney, a registered Democrat, and former West Palm Beach city commissioner. He's the president of the newly formed Black Caucus of Palm Beach County.

The group plans to meet often and coordinate with the county's multi-ethnic Black community to push a unified socio-economic agenda.

Ryles said during the past several administrations, including the Obama administration, people working within the party structure who fought for a Black agenda could not bring about the change necessary to satisfy many socio-economic needs of Black Americans in diverse communities.

He says a strong presence in local politics could stoke national urgency for policy-driven concerns, not just social. And that requires a concerted group effort.

“We have political power that is untapped right now because throughout Palm Beach County there are seats where African-Americans should have influence but we’re not voting smartly,” Ryles said. “We’re not voting in a bloc. And we’re not requiring anything for our vote.”

The caucus says it has nearly 100 members and that they are accepting people from all backgrounds into the political group. The group wants politicians representing Black communities to better address local concerns about better business opportunities, housing insecurity, inequities in health care, voting rights protection legislation, police reform, and the creation of a federal commission to study reparations. Ryles said these concerns have been boiling over in Black voters' minds for years.

“It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It wasn’t whimsical,” Ryles said. “It was as a result of trying to work within the party structure and being frustrated by either the party structure itself or by individuals in the party whose agenda was not total inclusiveness.”

The caucus plans to hold a political forum Thursday, Oct. 7, for candidates who are vying to fill the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings' Democratic House seat. The vacant congressional district has majority-Black precincts and stretches from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach and Belle Glade.

The group says it will not affiliate itself with any single political party; it plans to make local politics more transparent and that means making sure that every politician, regardless of their party affiliation, is made accountable for their actions and inactions.

The group plans to establish an "election report card" for all of the people who are elected so that, according to Ryles, "our community will know those who have worked earnestly towards fulfilling the promises they made and those that didn't.”