gilbert-raiford-web.jpgIt is with great pride and even greater expectations that I enthusiastically congratulate the African American community in Miami. Although Jean Monestime won the race for County Commissioner, it was the African Americans in this community who won a place in my heart.


The recent history of our community is fraught with senseless voting for African Americans who seldom represent us and, therefore, have done little to ease the economic conditions of our brothers and sisters. I nearly cry whenever I go into Liberty City and witness unskilled jobs being performed by non-black people while our people are denied these same jobs and are relegated to sitting under the tree playing dominoes.

 Too long, we have been satisfied just rushing to the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade and waving at our “leaders” as they ride through like peacocks.  We demand nothing of them and they, in turn, give us nothing.

Jean Monestime, now Commissioner Monestime, promises “change” and he has articulated that he means economic change.

However, he is only the commissioner, not the community. He can do nothing without our fullest support. We cannot expect our few commissioners to stand up to overwhelming recalcitrance without our fullest backing.

On every single important issue relating to our community, we need to be visibly represented in large numbers, holding not only African-American commissioners accountable, but every single one of our elected officials and their staffs as well.

I have had many encounters with Commissioner Monestime and I am very impressed by his social, emotional and intellectual maturity. He is a very affable man who possesses a great deal of commonsense and I am certainly willing to believe in his integrity and industry, as well as his announcement that he will faithfully represent all of the people of District 2.

My great expectation is that the voting in of Commissioner Monestime signals an awakening in the African-American community.

With the backing of a great proliferation of churches, associations, high-profile individuals and a very expensive blitz of divisive propaganda, the incumbent was easily defeated, paving the way for new blood, as it were. Commonsense and intelligent voting prevailed.

Without diminishing the ethnic value of the Haitian community, in the final analysis they, too, are African Americans; they are Africans and they are Americans. As H.T. Smith once said, “We came here in different ships, but we are in the same boat now.”

As for Commissioner Monestime, I send him this message as I paraphrase President Lincoln: The world may little nor long remember what you say here, but can never forget what you do here. As I said before, you cannot do it alone. I pledge my full support toward your efforts to help our community and I urge all African-American Miamians to do the same.

Our salvation and progress are highly dependent upon our ability to carry this heavy load together.

I say all this with a great deal of love for this community.

Gilbert Lancelot Raiford has a long career in teaching at various universities, including in Lagos, Nigeria, and served as English Language Officer for the U.S. Department of State for the past 40 years. Now retired, he lives in Miami, where he volunteers at homeless facilities, the Opera House in Miami, and as a fundraiser for after-care school programs.