Columns

Come on, FDP, Black Women in Florida Deserve a Voice

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: September 3, 2014 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

If ever there was an opportunity for Democratic black women to launch their own caucus in Florida, it's now, when the party's nominee for governor desperately needs their vote to win.

Yes, I said desperately. The Charlie Crist campaign team has acknowledged Crist needs 93 percent of the African-American vote to win in November, and by all accounts, African-American women make up nearly 70 percent of that 93. 

So, shouldn't the Florida Democratic Party be oozing over the new Democratic African-American Women's Caucus (DAAWC) like syrup on a stack of flapjacks?

One would think. But it's not.

Could the reason be Leslie Wimes? Is it because the party holds a grudge against the outspoken Wimes, the DAAWC's founder? Remember, it was Wimes, president of the Palm Beach County-based networking group Women on the Move, who worked hard through primary day on behalf of Crist's opponent, Nan Rich.

The party tried but couldn't bring her to heel. Leaders and surrogates went toe to toe with her, belittled her in blogs and in comments on stories and accused her of secretly working for Gov. Rick Scott -- all because she didn't trust "Chain Gang Charlie," an ideological eunuch, to represent traditional Democratic values.

But if Wimes thinks her caucus is getting the bum treatment because she's being punished, that's not what she said to me. Seems to me she thinks it's worse than a personal punishment. She thinks the Democratic Party is telling black women -- women who vote, who stay involved, who have their own businesses, their own health issues, their own need for party attention and support -- that they're incapable of leadership, they're unimportant and in the end, there's no place for them under the big blue tent.

"They want our vote but they don't want to hear what we have to say," she said.

One by one, party leaders have shown Wimes that they've ignored the 1,200 "Likes" she gathered on her website and Facebook page when she discussed formation of the new caucus for black women. Wimes told me this:

-- Maureen McKenna, president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida, opposes a separate caucus and instead wants Wimes to create a task force for African-American women from within McKenna's own club.

-- The FDP's Nick Pelitto likes that idea -- yeah, work with another group.

-- Henry Crespo, president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, agreed -- African-American women don't need to do their own thing.

-- What about Ken Evans, state committeeman from the Broward Democratic Party and chair of the state party's clubs and caucuses committee? Not interested. He's "too busy" working with (Congresswoman) Lois Frankel’s campaign to get involved.

"They want to relegate us to a task force or a committee? "Come on," Wimes said. "African-American women have a voice that deserves to be heard. We deserve a seat at the table.

Wimes points to recent current events -- the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the trials of Marissa Alexander, the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. "We have a point of view," she said. "We have concerns, ideas. We can be part of the solution. But look around. When you look at all the party leaders talking about Stand Your Ground, for instance, or making decisions on who we should vote for, do you see a single black woman's face? You do not."

"Do you know how many black women die of diabetes?," Wimes asks. "Do you know how unequal a black woman's pay is, compared to anybody else doing the same job? Do you know how many have started successful businesses, graduated from college and are preparing for careers their parents could only dream about?

"I ask you, should these women be isolated and silent? Should they only speak when spoken to and relegated to a task force? They have issues, they have answers, they want to be included in the conversation."

The DAAWC has a Facebook group, as well as a Facebook page. The website is currently under construction, Wimes said, but look for it soon.

Ferguson police wearing body cameras

Ferguson police wearing body cameras

Wimes spent part of the Labor Day holiday talking with Republican state Rep. Neil Combee from Auburndale, who is drafting a public safety bill aimed at making sure the kind of police shooting that happened in Ferguson, Mo., doesn't happen in any town in Florida. "I'm talking to (Democratic) Sen. Dwight Bullard, too. This can be a really important bill, a bipartisan effort -- a win-win for everybody.

"It's all about community and sensitivity training for police," she said. "And about body cameras, too." Police officials have said cameras in general can add certainty to events when the facts are in dispute, and can change the course of events because they can influence the behavior of those involved in an incident.

"I think some in the party are afraid to let black women come any closer. I don't think they understand," she said. "We don't want power. We want to empower."

I don't have to be black to get a real sense of how isolated African-American women feel. I grew up, came up, started my career at a time when women -- I'm talking about white women, God knows how bad it must have been for black women -- were expected to fall in line behind men for jobs, for pay, for credibility, for respect and hey, you don't like it? Tough, go have babies and leave the rest to us.

White women are still behind in many respects (ask any woman who ever served in the Florida House), but they've made enormous strides during my lifetime. Black women, not so many. Especially in the Sunshine State. They deserve a voice. They have a perspective and a depth of knowledge of American society that we've been missing in this country perhaps forever.

The Democratic Party is lucky to have Leslie Wimes, primary bad feelings or not. This is a remarkable woman, as I've said before, who wants nothing more than to aid her party, her state, her country by helping African-American women open the door.



Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


Comments (20)

Scott
1:27PM SEP 5TH 2014
Why not an organization for left-handed Democratic lesbian substitute teachers? Right-handed Democratic lesbian substitute teachers just don't know what it's like to go through life in a world designed other-handed people.
Eddie Thompson
11:10AM SEP 5TH 2014
If Repub Leadership treated Leslie like the FDP treats her...there would be howls of racism charges leveled. They only want her vote but not her opinion-
Thelma Jones
2:31PM SEP 3RD 2014
Leslie, looking more and more like an attention hog? First hog is a bad choice of word. My opinion a great job, the responses from African American Women in Florida and other States is remarkable.(1,200 "likes") I encouraged you to support Democratic African-American Women's Caucus (DAAWC) No personal agenda for me, it time African American Women sit at the table in great numbers.
Michael
7:06AM SEP 4TH 2014
"Attention Hog" is a common metaphor used to describe those who constantly seek to make themselves the subject of attention and discussion.
Which in my view appears to be the case with Ms Wimes.
Is she entitled to vigorously express her views?
No doubt.
But they need to be more substantial than "Pay attention to me!!!!!!!"
Leslie Wimes
7:33AM SEP 4TH 2014
Is this man saying that African-American Women are not substantial, because that's what it sounds like to me! I can only HOPE that the rest of the Florida Democratic Party doesn't share this sentiment. If African-American Women stayed home Nov. 4th, because they aren't "substantial", where would the party be? Shane hit the nail right on the head. Michael is threatened by a Black Woman who isn't afraid to voice her opinions. Deal with it. I'm not going anywhere.
Michael
7:53AM SEP 4TH 2014
I certainly do not feel threatened by you. And I vew you as an individual. Not as "the voice of black women."
You are a black women with a voice. Who continues to use that voice to make it all about you in my opinion.
Sharon S.
8:27AM SEP 4TH 2014
Well, what she is saying is exactly how I feel, so YOU may not think she is speaking for all Black Women, but WE sure as heck do! We are tired of people like you telling us how we feel and how we should act. You are exactly what the problem is and why I Will be supporting the DAAWC 150%!!
Leslie Wimes
8:18AM SEP 4TH 2014
Thou dost protest too much. I get it. You can't handle me, or any other Black Woman who doesn't "fall in line". As I stated, I'm not going anywhere, and neither is the DAAWC. Marinate on THAT.
Michael
12:20PM SEP 4TH 2014
You have proven again and again to be exceedingly thin skinned.
You state some serious issues yet always manage to put those issues in the backgound and you and your reactions to any criticsms in the foreground.
When you promote those issues rather than your sense of entitlement to not suffer any sort of criticism then I would consider chaging my mind.
Until then I believe there is abundant evidence supporting my position.
Leslie Wimes
12:42PM SEP 4TH 2014
No, the only thing that has been proven here is that you have a bug up your butt when it comes to me. I get that too. Not everyone can handle a Black Woman who doesn't cow-tow. You are the only one here that is focusing on the messenger, rather than the message. We all know why that is.
Michael
5:30PM SEP 4TH 2014
Whatever.
Once again you show your sense of being entitled to suffer no criticism.
It is pointless to engage you so this will be the last post to respond directly to you.
Leslie Wimes
8:44PM SEP 4TH 2014
I will say this, though. If, as you say, I'm seeking attention, I certainly got yours!! LOL!
Leslie Wimes
8:44PM SEP 4TH 2014
I will say this, though. If, as you say, I'm seeking attention, I certainly got yours!! LOL!
OrlandoChris
1:57PM SEP 3RD 2014
Both the D & the R are bad, very bad.
Why vote between 2 known liars? Florida, we are fortunate enough not to
be stuck picking one liar or the other this time. We actually have an
alternative. Take advantage of the opportunity. Adrian Wyllie deserves
my vote. He is a honest average Floridian just as you and I , that is
willing to stand up and do something for the interest of all of us here
in Florida. The other candidates both Republican and Democrat are owned
and controlled by special interest, like puppets and will lie to your
face to gain your vote, then continue the same old agenda that we
complain about year after year. Time to get off this merry-go-round,
election after election, thinking it will be any different. Take a
stand, vote for the candidate that loves this state and is willing to
take time out of his life, effort and money to SERVE the people of
Florida and stop voting for these ‘paid for’ career politicians that are
only out for money and fame and have zero interest in us Floridians.
Even if it’s just for honesty alone, vote for Adrian Wyllie instead of
the other two (Scott/Crist) which are proven liars. The choice is yours
and yours alone, if you want the same old corruption and slap in the
face, go ahead and vote for one of the two puppets (Scott/Crist) OR do
what is right for our (yours and your children’s) future and vote for
Adrian Wyllie. Support him by donating to his campaign, spreading the
word and contribute to the super brochure program which I think is very
powerful. Visit his website today
VeeDubb
12:02PM SEP 3RD 2014
In my opinion, the FDP has not made any significant attempts to address the concerns and needs of Democratic Women and Democratic African American Women, to be more specific. Why try and block our attempt at becoming a viable Caucus? Why advise us that "we'll develop a subcommittee" to address the concerns and needs of African American Women? We have a saying..."if you don't have a seat at the table, you're either part of the meal or serving the meal." Florida's Democratic African American Women refuse to be part of the meal and we're definitely not serving it!
Michael
9:10AM SEP 3RD 2014
Wimes is more and more looking like an attention hog.
The one constant throughout Charlie Crist political career and adult life has been an advocacy for improving race relations and backing generally policies that enhance the opportunies for African-Americans.
The obvious glaring exception being his time as "Chain Gang Charlie."
Shane
10:18PM SEP 3RD 2014
God forbid a strong black woman speak up, right? Time to break out your white sheets, pal.
Leslie Wimes
2:55PM SEP 3RD 2014
I guess you are another one who feels Black Women shouldn't be seen or heard. How sad. Our party is supposed to all about diversity.
VeeDubb
11:45AM SEP 3RD 2014
Michael do you know Leslie Wimes personally to call her an attention hog? We're all entitled to our opinions, however, facts are what are important. Stop with the name calling. It doesn't look good on you.
Frank Day
8:22AM SEP 3RD 2014
I agree completely with Leslie. The FDP really has no choice in whether the DAAWC is approved or not. If Leslie's group forms the required Committee and meets the other requirements the FDP will have to vote to approve the Caucus at their October State Conference meeting, or face an uncomfortable position of discrimination. Not a good position for FDP this close to the November General election and the questionable chances Charlie Crist has at beating Rick Scott. Perhaps it has something about control though. The DAAWC Caucus will have one vote in Party Affairs and that one vote means a lot in the current "weighted voting" system. Go for it Leslie Wimes!

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