The Florida Voters’ League 55th Annual Convention was held in Orlando this month June 28-30 at the Rosen Centre Hotel on International Drive. The Florida Voters’ League is the state’s premier black voter advocacy organization, that for more than 55 years has engaged in registering and educating voters about the need to get to the polls. This year’s convention was hosted by the Orange County branch, headed by Rev. Kevin Seraaj, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Orlando. Members of the organization from around the state poured into Orlando for the prestigious event, which this year focused on honoring luminaries from the local area for their work and leadership in the local community.
“It was important that we recognize the individuals we chose because of their long-standing contributions to the local community and because we see them as role-models for young people,” said president Seraaj. “The Convention is in part a Youth Scholarship fund-raising event, so it made sense that our selection of honorees would relate to that effort.”
The event was well-attended and well-received. Awards were presentd to Dr. Bridget Williams for her work in education and transforming the culture of learning at Jones High School, Bishop Alan T.D. Wiggins for exemplifying the church’s role in local economic development through partnerships with city government private business, and businessman Arthur Lee for his leadership role in developing multiple successful businesses that provide jobs throughout the local community. A special President’s Award was presented to Ezzie Thomas, a founder of the local branch and former branch president, by Rev. Seraaj.
“I created the President’s Award as a way of providing the branch president with a means of calling special attention to the work of any individual outside of the three designated categories– church, business and education– whose efforts deserve to be held up high and applauded,” said Seraaj. “Ezzie Thomas, for me, is that person. His determination over the years to increase the numbers of black people voting in local elections has been nothing short of spectacular, and the payoff has been seen in the numbers of people voting by absentee ballots. Say what you will, but his contribution to the cause of voter education, registration and participation deserves this special mention.”
Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings was the night’s keynote speaker and she delivered a powerful message to the crowd during dinner on the power of the vote, telling attendees that as powerful as the vote can be it is useless unless actually used. She was introduced as speaker of the hour by her husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
Mr. Eugene Poole, Florida Voters’ League founder and former president, who recently accepted the position of Chairman of the Board, was also on hand, along with new President Curtis Smith, and both made closing remarks to the guests. Former State Representative Alzo Reddick served as Master of Ceremonies for the event. President Seraaj presented each of the awards. Arthur Lee was unfortunately unable to attend.
General meetings of the OCVL are held every 2nd Saturday at the J.R. Smith Center, 1723 Bruton Boulevard, in Orlando, at 10 a.m. New members are always welcome.