Mandela Tributes Sugarcoat Truth
As world leaders memorialized Nelson Mandela last week in Johannesburg, Miami media outlets — except New Times — have tried to put a positive spin on the snubbing of Madiba by Miami-Dade elected officials during his visit to the Magic City on June 24, 1990, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison. City leaders were upset the former political prisoner had expressed solidarity with Fidel Castro, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat in a TV interview.
Then-Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez and then-city Commissioner Victor de Yurre withdrew their support for a resolution honoring Mandela as "a champion of human rights in his country." Suarez also joined the mayors of Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Sweetwater, and West Miami in denouncing Mandela because he wouldn't condemn Castro. When Mandela gave a speech at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Suarez and company were no-shows.
It was a slap in the face to the African-American community, which went on to organize a nationwide three-year boycott of Miami's tourism industry called the "Quiet Riot." Today, some opinion-makers want to pretend the incident is water under the bridge.
Suarez, who is now a county commissioner, recently said Mandela was a "great man." If he really means it, Suarez will hold a news conference with de Yurre and the other four ex-mayors to apologize to black Miami for dissing Mandela. That would be more sincere than the token concessions that came from ending the boycott in 1993 — like getting an out-of-town black developer, R. Donahue Peebles, to open the first African-American-owned hotel on Miami Beach. Of course, he sold it in 2005 to a pair of white Chicago investors for $128 million.
Peebles quickly realized what others have known for years: Your black ass is not welcome in the city. And in Miami-Dade, the black community continues to grapple with a high unemployment rate, gun violence, and an extraordinarily high rate of AIDS/HIV infection.
The boycott did nothing to improve the lives of African-Americans in Miami. The Quiet Riot was all noise and no action, just like the politicians who turned their backs on Mandela.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.