MIAMI GARDENS – One of Miami’s oldest civil rights organization marked its 31st anniversary recently and handed out awards to notable community advocates.
People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE), born in the aftermath of the 1980s urban upheavals and headquartered in the historic Overtown community, drew a cross section of leaders and residents at its anniversary celebration and annual
People’s Choice Awards Luncheon at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens.
“PULSE was created to fight for the rights of the low- to moderate- income citizens of Miami-Dade,” said Nathaniel Wilcox , the group’s president. “As long as we have low to moderate income citizens, PULSE will be needed in our community.”
“PULSE must remain diligent to address the civil rights and needs of the Black community,” said Wilcox.
The anniversary fell on Sept. 26 but the observance came a bit early, on Sept. 14.
The People’s Choice Awards began 13 years ago.
The honorees this year were Elaine Black, president/CEO, Liberty City Community Revitalization Trust; the Rev. Dr. Jimmie L. Bryant, pastor, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church; Neighbors and Neighbors, headed by Leroy Jones, executive director; Dr. Henry Lewis III, president, Florida Memorial University; and the Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis, pastor, Church of the Open Door.
”We honored these five individuals because they represent the goals and objectives of the organization in each of their categories,” Wilcox said in an interview.
PULSE traces its origins to the civil disturbance that followed the acquittal of four white Miami-Dade police officers charged with the killing of black motorcyclist Arthur McDuffie in the 1980s. Outrage over the acquittals resulted in damages to more than 200 businesses, loss of 3,000 jobs and an estimated $10 million adverse economic impact.
Several members of the black clergy met with concerned citizens to decide on how best to address the problems raised by the riots and decided to establish an advocacy organization for black Miami. Officers were elected and bylaws adopted on Sept. 26, 1981, for the organization that came to be known as PULSE.
Membership currently comprises 37 churches and social service organizations.
The continued influence of PULSE could be seen by the turnout, which included dignitaries such as the new Miami Gardens Mayor Oli-ver Gilbert, Miami Mayor Tomas Regaldo, School Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, incumbent Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and challenger Keon Hardemon, and Miami Fire Chief Maurice Kemp.
Aviation pioneer Barrington Irving was guest speaker.
“PULSE was founded on the principles of social change. This is an example of how successful you can be when you believe in something that is right,” Gilbert said in a brief welcome address.
The Rev. Richard P. Dunn, a past PULSE president and former Miami city commissioner, described the organization as the “most powerful civil rights group in South Florida historically.”
“PULSE has fought and continues to fight for the issues that are affecting our community until the very end,” Dunn said. “It is paramount that there is someone who can respond to the people it represents. For representation at all levels, PULSE has stood in the gap and fought.”
“I could go on and on about the work that PULSE has done in the past 30 years but what I will say is that day in and day out PULSE has fought for the least, lost and left out. They represent a historical stand for the people in South Florida and they are here to stay,” he said.
Dunn cited the involvement of PULSE in the revived city of Miami’s HOTSPOT campaign, as the lead agency in collecting information regarding criminal activities in the community.
“The HOTSPOT camp-aign is a very valuable program that gives citizens an opportunity to anonymously report illegal dumping and crimes in our community,” Dunn said.
The Rev.James Pacley, president of PULSE, welcomed such remarks and commended the honorees for being “watchmen on the wall for the welfare of the citizens in the community.”
“Our fight tirelessly continues for the rights of low- to moderate-income citizens of Miami-Dade County,” he said. “As voices cease and passions diminish, PULSE is an ever-present beacon and catalyst determined to hold our public servants accountable for the welfare of their constituents.
“As we celebrate and honor outstanding community, religious and edu-
cational leaders, I am more than encouraged to continue persevering through minefields of adversity, racism, injustices and apathy alongside these great men and women.”
Elaine Black, who received the Community Activism Award, said it demonstrated that a person who follows his or her passion has the ability to make a difference in the lives of others.
“PULSE provides assistance and support for people when they think they have no voice by showing them that they can achieve,” Black said. “The PULSE award is truly important to me because it recognizes my passion that a person – no matter how difficult their situation — can accomplish anything that they want if they believe. I am a living ex ample.”
*Pictured above is Miamie Mayor Tomas Regalado and FMU president Henry Lewis, III.