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| Opinion |

County Unfairly Denies Funds to Liberty City Optimist Club and Other Black-Run Groups

County Unfairly Denies Funds to Liberty City Optimist Club and Other Black-Run Groups
Illustration by Alex Izaguirre
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When it comes to grassroots community work that helps children, the Liberty City Optimist Club does an incredible job with limited resources. So why won't Miami-Dade pitch in?

Next week, the county commission will vote on how to dole out $2.4 million to dozens of community-based organizations. The cash is set aside to pay for human and social services for children and families. An evaluation committee ranked Liberty City Optimist near the bottom of the 132 organizations that submitted proposals. So the club's request for $101,000 is being denied. The club is not the only inner-city community organization for black children that's getting stiffed. The committee recommended zero funding for 100 Black Men of South Florida, the Richmond Perrine Optimist Club, and Empowering Youth Inc., among others.

This is wrong. Liberty City Optimist has a proven track record of looking after children from one of the poorest areas in Miami.

Since I cofounded the organization 27 years ago with the late Sam Johnson, a county bus driver who coached Little League Baseball, Liberty City Optimist has mentored thousands of kids. Some of them grew up to become the best players in the NFL. Others became doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, and police officers. Recently, the club's teams starred on the season premiere of Vice World of Sports: Rivals.

County Unfairly Denies Funds to Liberty City Optimist Club and Other Black-Run Groups
Illustration by Alex Izaguirre

The club operates on a shoestring budget. Dozens of locals have volunteered for decades without ever requesting a dime. Our volunteers have faced eviction from their homes yet still shown up to put in hours. The club charges less than $100 per child to participate in youth programs when other organizations charge at least $350 a kid.

Liberty City Optimist deserves to be on equal footing with Miami City Ballet, which is slated to get $204,887, and Alonzo Mourning's Overtown Youth Center, which is set to receive $123,750. It's up to commissioners like Audrey Edmonson and Jean Monestime to stand up for Liberty City Optimist.

They shouldn't only attend the anti-violence rallies. They should be appalled that the club is slated for zero funding.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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