tomas_regalado_web_fc.jpgEric Battles has a dream. He would love to see his Florida African-American and Caribbean Empowerment (F.A.C.E.) Alliance take off like the Tea Party movement.

“I look at the Tea Party and they have made a lot of headway,” said Battles. “That goes to show you that with the right amount of resources and the right amount of people behind you, the sky’s the limit.”

Battles, who is the South Florida political director for F.A.C.E.’s Unite for Dignity South Florida arm, would like to make his organization’s presence known.

“I look at the Tea Party and they have made a lot of headway,” said Battles. “That goes to show you that with the right amount of resources and the right amount of people behind you, the sky’s the limit.”

Battles, who is the South Florida political director for F.A.C.E.’s Unite for Dignity South Florida arm, would like to make his organization’s presence known.

“We can influence people, not think for them but say, ‘Hey we are a force to be reckoned with,” said Battles. “We are here to help the African-American and Caribbean community.”

The organization, which held its kickoff on July 13, was formed by a coalition of black lawmakers and civic leaders who wanted to ensure that the black voters who turned out during the 2008 election, would be encouraged to cast ballots in future elections. The group is chaired by State Sen. Tony Hill , D-Jacksonville, and Jabari Paul, the deputy state director of F.A.C.E. Paul also served for four years on the national board of directors for the NAACP.

“The difference between other civic groups and F.A.C.E. is that building the electorate and voter registration is our complete agenda,” Paul said in a phone interview. “We wanted an organization that focused on our community year round.”

In its first voter registration drive, F.A.C.E. registered 1,422 new voters between Aug. 9-24. The task was not easy but it was made possible through the use of paid staff and volunteers who went door to door to get residents to register.

“Having people out there on the ground makes such a difference,” said Ayo Tillman, executive assistant at F.A.C.E. Alliance South Florida headquarters in Miami Lakes.

Tillman first heard about F.A.C.E. through a friend who was a canvasser for the group and soon she was out making the rounds on its behalf.

“I’ve always been very interested in issue advocacy,” said Tillman. “When people think of elections, they think mainly of Presidential elections but I like the idea of making people aware that they can vote on issues and how you vote can have a direct impact on your life.”

Staff and volunteers visited more than 8,500 homes on Primary Election Day in Miami-Dade and Broward counties known for having low voter turnout.

The group launched a new voter-registration campaign Sept. 17 with a joint appearance with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. It will take place at four Neighborhood Enhancement Team offices in Little Haiti, Liberty City, Overtown and Little Havana.

“One of the obstacles we run into is that the people who voted in 2008 feel like their situation hasn’t changed much since then,” said Battles, who  worked as a political and campaign consultant before joining the alliance.

F.A.C.E., which is funded by donors, is bipartisan but has endorsed Congressman Kendrick Meek’s run for the U.S. Senate and Alex Sink’s bid to become governor, both of them Democrats.

Beyond the elections, F.A.C.E. would like to make a difference in the communities that it serves through youth outreach programs.

“We want to educate young women on how to be women and young men on how to be responsible young men,” said Battles.

He hopes to accomplish that through programs for teenagers, primarily those in lower income neighborhoods, to show that there is more to life than their surroundings.

“They are living in the type of environment that, if they don’t have the proper guidance, they can be swayed and become another victim of the community,” said Battles. “And I don’t want that for them.”

Battles and Paul would like to have an open dialogue with the communities that they serve, which also include Palm
Beach, St. Lucie, Hillsborough and Leon counties, so that they can help with problem-solving.

“We want to become a part of these communities to establish long-term relationships with the leaders,” said Paul. “So that we can work together in a collaborative process and come up with real solutions.”

To learn more about F.A.C.E. Alliance or to volunteer with the organization, log on to www.facealliance.org.