By Roger Caldwell
In just over two weeks, there will be an election in Orlando for Mayor of the city. There are two Black candidates, Commissioner Samuel Ings and Aretha Simmons, against the incumbent Mayor Buddy Dyer. Mayor Dyer has been in his position for 16 years, and it appears that he will win again on 11-5-2019.
Orlando election participation results are terrible and only 20 to 22% of the registered voters vote. The Black community and Black youth don’t appear to care who wins the election.
The history of Blacks voting in Orlando is frightening, terrible, and unfair, and when Blacks tried to vote, they were harassed, bullied, beaten and murdered.
“In fact, 1951 was a particularly gruesome year for Orlando Blacks. The Klan burned crosses, made threats, beat people and bombed an apartment complex and custard stand that dared to service Blacks. Orange County officials, as was the custom of the day, either looked the other way or were complicit in the violence,” says reporter William Dean Hinton.
Many Blacks tend to forget that Florida was the last slave state to be admitted to the union.
In 1921 in Ocoee, July Perry was lynched with a sign that read, “This is what we do to niggers that vote.” Two dozen houses, two churches and a lodge were burned, and according to an NAACP observer, more than 60 Blacks were killed. It is so easy to forget what our ancestors had to go through in order to vote. Now it is 68 years later, and many in the community don’t vote, and the youth think it is a waste of time.
In the late 60s, 70s and 80s Blacks voted, and politics was important to the community, but since there was a Black president we have gotten complacent. There are historic numbers (55) in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and all over the country in state and local legislations, more than ever before. But there is still room for improvement, and the question in the Orlando election is: “Will Blacks show up and vote in 2019?”
The Black vote in Orlando has the power to determine if there will be a run-off, and who wins the election. If the Hispanic and the Black community build a racial coalition, there is a new power block in the city.
Recently, strategist Cornell Belcher’s firm polled 1,000 Black voters to examine the essential factors that motivate Blacks to vote. Only one in 10 Blacks believe they are getting ahead economically, and three-quarters see an increasing trend toward racism. As the election gets closer, which candidate for mayor is more in touch with the Black community, and will be able to motivate a larger percentage to vote?
Gentrification has raised its ugly head in District 5 and the Black population has decreased from 20,000 to 6,000. With the displacement of 14,000 residents, most Black businesses have also closed up, and there appears to be a plan in the city to wipe out Black Orlando. There is also a plan on the books to demolish 6 apartment complexes that would displace 2,500 residents and 1,022 units. With Orlando being one of the worst cities in the country for affordable housing, it is important and essential for every registered Black voter in the city, to vote.
Candidates must make a pitch for the Black vote in Orlando for more of our community to show up at the polls. Now is the time to make robocalls, and use the technology of texting. It is important to get 100% behind the Black community starting with the youth, helping the senior citizens get to the polls, and listen to the Black community. The Black vote counts, and candidates must use their bully pulpit to raise awareness of the Black plight and issues.