The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Miami-Dade Branch was formed from the consolidation of five (5) local branches (Greater Miami-Willie Lawson (President), Liberty City- (the late) Richard Powell (President), Opa-Locka-Adora Obi Nweze (President), South Dade-John Due, Esquire (President) and Homestead-Roscoe Warren (President)) and was established in 1988. Though the civil rights road has been long and arduous, the branch has managed to leave its foot print of activism and accomplishments to improve fair and equal practices within the Miami-Dade community. Adora Obi Nweze was the branches’ first president, followed by Bishop Victor T. Curry, (the late) Juvais Harrington, Dr. Bradford Brown, Dr. Shirley B. Johnson and now Ruban Roberts.
Much of the branch’s labor was accomplished under the leadership of Adora Obi Nweze, who served as Opa-Locka’s Branch President for 2 years and Miami-Dade Branch President for 12 years. The branch has spearheaded scores of initiatives to thwart discrimination from equal hiring practices, equal education, to fair housing opportunities. The branch has been at the forefront of the movement to draw local and national attention to the plight of Haitian refugees. When the community called for help, the branch was there in a dynamic way, from supporting hurricane relief efforts in South Dade, to confronting city and county government for their layoff policies, that put black people in unprecedented numbers of unemployment lines.
A few additional highlights include; over 30,000 new voters were registered through the NAACP Miami-Dade Branch – a community record. During the branches tenure, more blacks held elected offices and the socio-economic arena produced the largest black middle class this country has ever experienced. The community was very supportive of the branch and membership was at an all-time high, with over 5,000 registered NAACP members.
The following are a list of branch accomplishments:
- Created one of the most active NAACP Branch Legal Redress Committees in the nation, with twelve (12) participating attorneys, volunteering to take cases
- Investigated cases of discrimination in several Dade County educational institutions
- Lobbied for Fair Share Agreements and adamantly encouraged the African-American community to do business with those who do business with them
- Ensured minority set-asides would be safeguarded
- Spearheaded an investigation of police brutality on African American males-this resulted in the United States Civil Rights Office holding meetings in Dade County
- Challenged radio licenses for discriminatory hiring and promotion practices-over five licenses were challenged in Dade County
- Investigated hundreds of complaints of job discrimination in the work places located in Dade County
- Lobbied for Single Member districting in the City of Miami
- Files several discrimination cases with regional and national NAACP offices
- Initiated tutorial programs, Back-to-School/Stay-in-School programs and SAT Preparation Clinics
- Through lobbying efforts, the Miami-Dade NAACP won approval of multi-cultural education in the Dade County school system
- Provided several scholarships to high school students
- Participated in the NAACP Ad-Hoc Committee National Membership Radiothon and as a result, the Miami-Dade NAACP’s Youth Council became the #1 Youth Council in the United States.
- Organized the nation’s largest successful employment discrimination testing project, covering 85 hotels and restaurants in Miami Beach, as well as two leading department store chains. Nineteen establishments were caught discriminating. The resulting litigation before the EEOC opened thousands of desks clerk, waiter, front office and high-end sales clerk jobs for African-Americans throughout the state of Florida
- Spoke out vehemently against the blood ban on Haitians and Sub-Saharan African immigrants
- Challenged the licenses of area radio stations that would play black people’s music, but not pay black people to work there
- Abhorred the conditions at the Krome Detention Center and kept fighting until blacks were released
- Developed a mentor program that matched lawyers with black law students
- Voiced outrage for the community over the Lazano case and assisted to maintain the peace that held true throughout most of the community.
- Led a survey of 14 public school history textbooks, rooting out dozens of false and misleading assertions about African American history, which convinced the school district to phase out several outdated and unreliable textbooks
- Recipients of the NAACP National Membership Laydown Award
- Recipient of the NAACP Benjamin L. Hooks Life Membership Award
- Recipient of the Thailheimer’s Award for Branch Activities
- Miami-Dade Youth Council received first place of the national “Be a Better Youth Contest (BABY)”
- Recipient of the first place NAACP M-PAC Award (Membership and Political Action in the Church)
- Processed and addressed over 500 employment and housing discrimination complaints
- Mounted a successful campaign against the nomination of Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp.
- Mounted a campaign in support of the Civil Right Bills for 1990 and 1991
- Coordinated a successful “Black Dollar Day” campaign to circulate over $150,000 black dollars throughout the community
- Conducted successful media workshops for the Miami Herald and television stations, addressing issues pertinent to the African American community, including employment and promotional opportunities
- Conducted several voter registration and get-out-to-vote campaigns
- Supported the conference on Educating Minorities
- Supported a collaboration between North Broward, West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale NAACP Branches to address the education of African American youth.
- Hosted one of seven hearing held in major cities for the purposes of examining local police conduct-offering an opportunity for citizens, law enforcement professionals and interest groups to be heard
- A special committee was established to recommend directions regarding the problems in local secondary education
- The president represented the branch in Washington, DC coalescing local legislative support while demonstrating on report card from those legislators who have been inactive in voting on issues that affect the African-American community.
- Under the leadership of Dr. Shirley B. Johnson, then the Youth Council Advisor, distinguished itself as one of the NAACP’s finest through having 2,500 youth members
- NAACP Miami-Dade Youth Council has feed the homeless, developed and participated in testing and tutorial workshops, voter registration and leadership development
- The Afro-Cultural Technological Scientific Olympics of the Mind (ACT-SO) committee, under the leadership of then the late Doris Hart, has earned 24 gold, silver and bronze awards in 22 different categories during the 11 productive and creative years she chaired the committee
- Miami-Dade Branch Women In NAACP (WIN) committee, under the superior leadership of Doris Harden, adopted two (2) senior citizen homes, launched an innovative program named, “All About Me”, in which the youth council members learned about their cultural and historic heritage
- The branch spearheaded the struggle to reverse the injustices of the Bush’s administration on the immigration policy to keep Haitians away from the shores; a policy rooted in racism and remains a duplicitous thorn in American foreign policy
- Hosted one of seven hearings held in major cities, law enforcement professionals and interest groups to be heard
- Established a special committee to recommend directions regarding problems in local secondary education
- Adora represented the branch in Washington, DC, coalescing local legislative support while demonstrating in report card from those legislators who have been inactive
- Adora went to Guantanamo Bay during the 1991-92 crisis and responded with numerous supplies. A letter writing campaign to the U.S. President brought a tremendous outpour of community support
- The 1992 District Conference in Mississippi brought rewards for the numerous hours of volunteer work by the Miami-Dade Branch.
On August 24, 1992, Miami-Dade County was deluged by the third largest natural disaster in the country’s history…..Hurricane Andrew. In the multiethnic population of Dade County, certain groups have consistently faced linguistic, cultural and racial barriers. The NAACP recognized immediately that because of these barriers, some aspects of emergency relief efforts would be masked in the milieu of the aftermath, therefore bypassing a significant portion of the minority population. In keeping with the overall mission to improve the quality of life for people of color, the development of a system of assistance was set in motion.
August 30, 1992, under the coordination of now, Adora Obi Nweze, Miami-Dade Branch NAAP President, an agreement was made with the cooperation of Dade County Public Schools, furthering her duties as Assistant Director on Special Assignment, to answer the needs of the disenfranchised victims of the community.
The NAACP Relief/Recovery Office, located in the FEMA headquarters, was secured through the assistance of Mr. William Lucas, U.S. Department of Justice, Director of Community Relations; Mr. Ozell Sutton, Community Relations Region IV Southeast Director; and Mr. Thomas Battles, Community Relations Coordinator.
The establishment of the relief operations was done following an assessment of the South Florida region by (the late) Mr. T.H. Poole, Sr. President of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches, at that time and (the late) Mr. Earl Shinhoster, Region V Director.
- National headquarters presented the branch with $5,000 to initiate the operation of the Relief/Recovery Office to assist with the needs of the victims in South Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. Its objective was to:
- Provide support to victims as it relates to the interpretation and completion of necessary paperwork toward the acquisition of food, shelter and clothing;
- Advocate for inquisitors needing provisionary assistance from state, federal and local non-profit agencies;
- Create and information service center for ongoing assistance and follow-up on loan, credit and government agency applications;
- Advocate for equitability as it relates to the availability of minority representatives from FEMA;
- Providing ongoing recommendations to applicable federal and state agencies as to the critical nature of accessibility to the good and services offered by mobile sites such as Disaster Application Centers (FEMA-DACS).
- Adora ran the hurricane relief office with a staff of four people. In-office as well as field assessments were conducted by the designated office staff and accomplished:
- Processed 4,500 telephone calls;
- Processed approximately 2,000 cases to families in the targeted areas of Richmond Heights, Perrine, Princeton, Southland Pines, Goulds, Florida City, Naranja, Homestead and other affected areas in the south and north end of the county;
- Fed an estimated 500 families per week at the Neva King Cooper Elementary School in Homestead;
- Gave direct financial assistance to 31 families, totaling $27,560;
- Gave technical, employment, contract, insurance, medical and housing assistance.
- Solidified food supplies from Daily Bread Food Bank, World Church Services, Voice of Jesus Ministries and People Helping People Organizations
- Secured contributions for direct financial assistance were provided by David Little and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Daughters of Isis, and the Philadelphia Tribune
- The NAACP developed a partnership with NationsBank at that time, a Community Development Specialist, Smyther Fallen, was assigned to the hurricane relieve initiative in October 1992
- Mr. Fallen continues to work with the NAACP to enhance and accelerate the community development process for the hurricane-impacted areas
- Sustainable initiatives in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew:
- NationsBank/NAACP Initiative was a comprehensive plan developed to identify sustainable funding sources;
- Educational assistance, training and employment skills interventions where established
- Provisional child and senior care;
- Partner with agencies to convene family activities to cope with juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, peer pressure and social interaction;
- Provided a service hotline and mobile units to provide information regarding medical health care and family support services for home-bound residence and others.
- Organized and convened an unprecedented public hearing on police brutality; the lead witness was (the late) Attorney General Janet Reno
- Called for the creation of a law center to honor the memory of a law center to honor the memory of (the late) Grattan Ellesmere Graves, Jr., a pioneer Black attorney and untiring civil rights crusader, who died in January 1992
- Held several seminars on the Voting Rights Acts and sponsored and co-sponsored several voter education workshops.
- Conducted hearings on discrimination in jobs; where over 500 persons attended.
- Joined a national campaign to block the appointment of Ed Carns, an Alabama assistant attorney general with no judicial experience, to the federal bench. Ed Carns was confirmed.
- Protested the treatment of Haitian boat refugees who had been taken aboard U.S. Coast Guard cutters and housed behind barbed wire at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.
- Continued to lobby for support of subpoena power for the Independent Review Panel (task force set up by the Dade County Commission to investigate citizens’ complaints of police abuse).
- Challenged the Dade County Elections Department when they appeared prepared to violate the fair elections process by creating three mega precincts out of the 101 precincts in the devastated area of the county. As a result, all precincts were set up in their original locations.
Miami Partner for Progress
New Business Partnership Pledges Development, Resolves Black-Led Boycott
As indicated in the Miami Herald, May 12, 1993 a tri-ethnic group of business, professional and civic leaders formed an alliance called “Miami Partners for Progress” to improve economic conditions among African Americans in Dade County. After the 34-month black -led boycott of Dade County’s convention and tourist industry boycott, it finally ended. As a result of the boycott, 20 specific goals where designed to strengthen African American businesses and stimulate hiring, training and promotion of African American employees, especially in the visitor’s industry. Over the course of three (3) years, there where over 175 events (conferences, national conventions, and corporate meetings) not being held in Miami-Dade County.
“The group focused on Dade’s visitor industry because it occupied about one third of the area’s total economy, supplying many jobs and business opportunities. The group emphasized its deep concern about the economic disparity between the African American and non-African American communities in Dade County.” At that time, African American owned firms with employees less than 1% of the county’s work force, even though 21% of the population, and 17% of the work force where African American.
Some of the goals that came out of the partnership included: African American owned convention-quality hotel; stepped-up purchasing from African American-owned businesses; scholarships, internships and work-study opportunities for African Americans in education and training program for visitor industry jobs; support for African American financial institutions; loan and equity funds for African American businesses; and recruitment of African Americans for jobs in Dade’s visitor industry and other business sectors. The partners worked tirelessly for 16 months to develop a blueprint to push for fuller inclusion of African Americans in the economic life of Dade County- and the determination to follow through.
Coalition members and partners included: H.T. Smith, Esquire and Marilyn Holifield, Esquire, were spokespersons for Boycott of Miami. Carlos M. de la Cruz, Sr., James K. Batten, Rodrick N. Petrey, Esquire, David Honig, Esquire, (Johnnie R. McMillian) now known as Adora Obi Nweze, Thomasina H. Williams, Esquire, R. Ray Goode, Donald E. Lefton, Dr. Eduardo J. Padron, Robert H. Traurig, Dorothy Weaver, and Gilbert Raiford. Smith and Batten served as co-chairmen of Miami Partners. Rodrick N. Petrey served as the part-time manager of the program and John H. Copeland III, worked as a full-time staff director.
The boycott “built a new era of cooperation among all the people of Dade County and advance a healthy common future.”
- Joint Voter Registration with Southland Corporation (7-11 stores)
- Lobbied Dade County School Board Members to continue the set-a-side policy
- Coordinated successful “Black Dollar Day” throughout the community
- Transported 2 bus loads of Miamians to participate in the Silent March on Washington
- Monitored the highly publicized riotous Lazano Trial to keep the community abreast of the day-to-day court actions
- Organized successful Membership Radio-thon utilizing community leaders to bring over 2,000 new members
- Continued testing program on Miami Beach for hotels, restaurants for discriminatory hiring practices.
1996, the Miami Dade Branch started a serious of voter’s registration drives, under the leadership of Branch President, Adora Obi Nweze, Chaired by Representative Kendrick Meek and Co-Chaired by Al Dotson, Esquire and Yolanda Cash-Jackson, Esquire. In preparation for the 1996 Presidential general election, “Operation Registration” yield 30,000 new registrants in Miami-Dade County.
It is evident that our struggle continues with the same frightening urgency that has characterized this movement throughout. While much work has been done, the branch must continue to reject and eradicate the senseless violence and inequity that plagues our community.