Miami New Times.This week, Luke recalls Miami's shunning of a great late icon.
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.
They were upset the former political prisoner 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 his 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 organized a nationwide three-year boycott of Miami's tourism indusrty called the "Quiet Riot." Yet some opinion makers want to pretend the incident is water under the bridge.
Suarez, who is now a county commissioner, recently told Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago that Mandela was a "great man." If he really means it, Suarez will hold a press conference with his former colleague 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 providing blacks with student internships in the tourism industry and getting an out-of-town black developer, R. Donahue Peebles, to open the first African-American-owned hotel in Miami Beach. Of course, he sold it in 2005 to a pair of white Chicago investors for $128 million.
Now Peebles is the go-to-black guy whenever someone needs a "minority developer." Him and the black lobbyists that made their names organizing the boycott are the only ones who actually benefitted from it.
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Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans visiting Miami Beach during Memorial Day weekend quickly realize their black asses are not welcome in the city. And in Miami-Dade, the black community continues to grapple with a high unemployment rate, gun violence, and more people infected with AIDS/HIV than any other ethnic group.
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.