Special to South Florida Times
WEST PALM BEACH — A national civil rights leader jumped into the heated debate over Gov. Rick Scott’s determined purging of Florida’s voter rolls when he addressed a premier social gathering on Saturday.
The Rev. Al Sharpton of New York, founder of the National Action Network, questioned the motive behind the drive to get some people off the rolls as he gave the keynote speech for the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Men of Excellence Awards.
Sharpton told the gathering at the Palm Beach County Convention Center that the move targets minorities and their right to vote.
“Right now Florida has (attempted to change) the voting I.D. laws and (is) purging voters off the books,” he said. “There is no voter fraud when you look at the data, the level of voter fraud in the last 10 years, according to the Department of Justice.”
The department has ordered Scott to halt the purge but the governor has refused to comply and the federal government is suing him, saying he is violating U.S. elections law.
Sharpton, who hosts a talk show on MSNBC, described the purge as a solution looking for a problem rather than a problem. The state, he said, is taking aim at Latinos and Haitians who have lived in the United States for decades.
State Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, agreed with Sharpton.
“There’s no fraud that is taking place; however, they’re purging the folks’ right to vote. They’re denying them the right to vote,” Mack said.
Sharpton also took time to commend the honorees at the Deltas’ celebration. They included Reginald B. Asberry, who received the award in the Arts; Bruce R. Lewis, the Business Executive award; Bradley G. Harper, the Education award; Avery T. Siders, the Health and Wellness award; Paul A. Nunnally, the Humanitarian award; and the Rev. Kevin L. Jones, the Social Action award.
The Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network, founded by C. Ron Allen, received the Keeper of the Torch award.
Sharpton said it is important to honor those who have excelled in their service to the communities because role models help mold each generation.
“Blackness has always been about when others put us down and how we rose above it,” he said. He added, “This is the first generation that wants to glorify being down, glorifying ‘thugism.’”
He said the children must be taught a better way.
“We must fight the enemies within our own communities, within our own families,” Sharpton said.
Photo: Al Sharpton