The state budget, voter redistricting and health care were just a few of the many issues addressed at the recent Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.
The two-day conference was held on Jan. 25-26. Held quarterly, the conference is divided into a five-part workshop dealing with a host of items particular to both the local African American community and the larger national arena of politics.
President of the Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP, Anita Davis, talked about the importance of conducting such a conference, pointing out that it almost exactly coincides with the state’s legislative sessions.
Davis talked about what redistricting or rezoning meant to African- American voters. “We need to be concerned about reapportionment and gerrymandering of districts,” said Davis.
While the NAACP has historically dealt with civil rights issues, Davis said she hoped the conference would “serve as a how-to manual in addressing both social and political discrepancies.”
The current issue of reapportionment will factor heavily in vote to pass the current “axe the tax” initiatives. “We’re asking the voters to make the decision,” said Sen. Les Miller, D-Tampa.
Miller said his goal as a senator and Black Caucus member is to increase or maintain the current number of seats African Americans hold in the Senate. He went on to criticize Gov. Jeb Bush on his lack of attention to minority issues.
Miller said Gov. Bush made the comment that he wanted to work closely with every minority member of the Senate. “I’m still waiting on that call,” Miller said.
Miller went on to praise the NAACP in its past efforts to increase voter registration among African-Americans. “The NAACP in Florida will have to be the lead organization in getting Blacks to the polls this year,” Miller said.
Closely related with the state budget were matters of health care and education unique to the African-American community, AIDS/ HIV treatment programs and prescription drug benefits for the elderly.
As the conference’s focus shifted to education, Florida A&M University’s name came up in the dialogue. Adora Obi Nweze, President of the Florida State NAACP, talked about the issue of funding for a FAMU law school and the importance of neighboring Florida State’s medical school to remain accessible to FAMU students.
Nweze also talked about the often reoccurring rumor of a FAMU-FSU merger. “We want to see FAMU remain FAMU,” said Nweze.
While all in attendance did not agree on all points (Everyone who attended did not agree on all points, but), the overall reaction was positive. “This conference gives us a lot of input on issues we need to be aware of as Blacks,” said Randy Hepburn a retired high school football coach.
Hepburn said he was particularly pleased with the number of youth in attendance. “Conferences like this are important, especially to youth that that (too many that’s) don’t actually know the history or didn’t take part in the struggles,” Hepburn said.