hashim_yeomans-benford_web.jpgFlorida International University

Organizers of a community forum at the Church of the Open Door said the meeting was an important step toward developing a new organization, the Alliance for Urban Revival. But some participants thought it was a waste of time.

Co-sponsored by the Miami Workers Center and the Belafonte-TACOLCY Center in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, the meeting sought input from about 100 participants on ways to make the community safer and hold
government officials accountable.

The forum was the second held at the church in the last four months and Hashim Yeomans-Benford of the Miami Worker’s Center called it a success despite the fact that fewer people attended this time.

“The alliance is only four months old. In that time, we have held two successful events,” Yeomans-Benford said. “The purpose of the meeting was to bring people together to encourage discussion.”

Some others were not so optimistic.

“These meetings are never a success because they don't provide solutions for the problems,” said Liberty City activist Kathy Giddarie of the Inner City Development Corp. “This meeting was about nothing.”

Added Dr. Rene Christian of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida,  "These meetings are a waste of time. Nothing gets done by people sitting on their butts.

Their pessimism aside, the forum offered lively discussion about recent drive-by shootings in the neighborhood, the poor quality of local schools and increased funding for state prisons. Participants argued that the two are related: better schools would mean fewer prisons.

Yeomans-Benford said it was important to talk about what the community would look like after the proposed change and that the meetings served another purpose, as well.

“Meetings like these are important because they uplift the good work being done in the community,” he said.

The alliance began in February at the “Heart of Liberty City Forum” held to begin discussions on the issues to be addressed by the organization.

Organizers say it is intended to provide opportunities for those doing work in the community to come together, share resources and give a collective voice to the community’s interests. 

“The next step of the alliance is to come together and debrief on what has happened here tonight,”  Yeomans-Benford said.

Alec Scott may be reached at ascot002@fiu.edu.

Photo: Hashim Yeomans-Benford