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| Columns |

On Memorial Day Weekend in Miami Beach, Black Tourists Are Second-Class Citizens

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For more than a decade, African-American tourists have returned to Miami Beach for Memorial Day weekend even though it becomes a military green zone. Every business, from the valet parking stands to the hotels, gouges those who visit and makes them feel unwelcome.

Past and present city leaders have shown no interest in making this weekend an officially sanctioned event like the South Beach Wine & Food Festival or the Miami International Boat Show.

As a Miami Beach Senior High alum, I tried to partner with the city 13 years ago to create an atmosphere that was inviting to blacks while also maintaining the peace. I called it Umoja Festival, which featured food and retail tents and a concert stage near the beach on Ocean Drive. The first year, Umoja's lineup included the Isley Brothers, Chaka Khan, Ludacris, and P. Diddy.

But the city, along with the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board, hijacked Umoja, did a shitty job and then stopped doing the festival altogether. Honestly, Miami Beach city officials and business owners see Memorial Day weekend as a cash cow even though they don't like dealing with the throngs of black visitors.
The goal seems to be to rob African-Americans blind, lock up as many of them as possible, and occasionally use some for police target practice. (Remember the 2011 killing of Raymond Herisse, in which 12 officers fired more than a hundred rounds, four others were wounded, and no one was charged?)

If Memorial Day weekend were treated like a convention coming to town, Miami Beach would get hotels to block off rooms and give visitors discounted rates. The city, the county, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, and commercial airlines would kick in money to help support the event. Government officials would work with the event promoters to provide comped rooms to celebrity entertainers and comped ballrooms for panels and events.

Meanwhile, in cities like New Orleans and Toronto, government officials are rolling out the red carpet for events that cater to a predominantly black clientele. They show African-Americans respect. More than a hundred years after it was founded, Miami Beach still treats blacks as second-class citizens.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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