The im­por­tance of sup­port­ing black leisure

South Florida Times - - OPINION - Ruban Roberts is Pres­i­dent of the Mi­ami Dade Branch of the NAACP.

There is a schol­arly ar­ti­cle writ­ten by Regina Austin of the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia en­ti­tled “Not Just for the Fun of It.” This ar­ti­cle speaks to “the re­straints on black leisure, so­cial in­equal­ity, and the pri­va­ti­za­tion of pub­lic spa­ces when large num­bers of black peo­ple fre­quent those spa­ces.” This ar­ti­cle also speaks to the real rea­son for The Mi­ami Dade Branch of the NAACP ad­vo­cates f or black and brown peo­ple to have ac­cess to places like Mi­ami Beach.

I do not be­lieve that the groups of civic or­ga­ni­za­tions, pas­tors, and black com­mu­nity lead­ers are ad­vo­cat­ing for the rights of law­less peo­ple of any kind. I do be­lieve that these so­cial jus­tice ad­vo­cates re­mem­ber how re­str ic­tive go­ing to Mi­ami Beach was less than 45 years ago.

I am sure that most of you are aware that black peo­ple could not fre­quent most of South Florida beaches only 40some odd years ago. Only af­ter protest by civil r ights or­ga­ni­za­tions, pas­tors and other black com­mu­nity lead­ers in South Florida were we granted ac­cess to places like Vir­ginia Key Beach. I am a f er­vent be­liever that a peo­ple who do not know their his­tory are des­tined to re­peat it.

City’s like Mi­ami Beach ben­e­fit con­sid­er­ably from black con­sumers that visit their com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing off peak sea­son. Lo­cal ho­tels and restau­rants raise their rates by three­fold in some cases and black con­sumers pay with­out ques­tion. Per­son­ally I would love to see those black dol­lars cir­cu­late in com­mu­ni­ties like Over­town, Lib­erty City, Mi­ami Gar­dens, or Gould’s. How­ever, not to the ex­clu­sion of black peo­ple hav­ing the right to fre­quent pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions for leisure like Mi­ami Beach.

The facts are sim­ple re­gard­ing Memo­rial Day week­end on Mi­ami Beach. Ar­rests have gone down con­sid­er­ably in the past three years be­cause of the new poli­cies in­sti­tuted by Chief Oates on Mi­ami Beach. At the height of the ar­rest­ing pe­riod, black vis­i­tors were ar­rested for open carry law vi­o­la­tions and other friv­o­lous charges that were not en­forced on high vol­ume hol­i­days with mostly white vis­i­tors fre­quent­ing the beach. Mi­ami Beach Po­lice De­part­ment in­sti­tuted a com­mu­nity policing ap­proach that as­sisted in low­er­ing the num­ber of in­ci­dents and ar­rests on Mi­ami Beach. This mon­u­men­tal ef­fort still does not rest well with some Mi­ami Beach res­i­dents be­cause what they see as an in­va­sion of young black peo­ple has not stopped.

There­fore we con­tinue to hear the sto­ries of events that hap­pened over ten years ago be­ing prop­a­gated by res­i­dents and jour­nal­ists who re­peat these dated ac­tiv­i­ties. I must say that I am not pur­port­ing that there are no neg­a­tive events hap­pen­ing dur­ing Memo­rial Day Week­end, how­ever, what I am sim­ply say­ing is that based on the facts of po­lice re­ports, things have got­ten much bet­ter over time.

At the end of the day, leisure of any kind is a right, and law-abid­ing black peo­ple should not be treated in a man­ner where we should feel priv­i­leged to have ac­cess to pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions.

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