Local chapter of Black Lives Matter forms

‘Muck City BLM’ states its case; other leaders respond

Posted 11/13/20

A new chapter of Black Lives Matter, calling itself the Muck City BLM, announced its formation Saturday, Nov. 7, on the steps of City Hall with several members present.

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Local chapter of Black Lives Matter forms

‘Muck City BLM’ states its case; other leaders respond


BELLE GLADE — A new chapter of Black Lives Matter, calling itself the Muck City BLM, announced its formation Saturday, Nov. 7, on the steps of City Hall with several members present.

Community organizer Robert C. Mitchell, an unsuccessful 2020 candidate for a Belle Glade City Commission seat, came together with other members of the new group and later issued a press release titled “Muck City Can’t Breathe — Glades Area Black Lives Matter Organizes to Fight Back.”

The statement said, in part: “In honor of Henry Bennett III, a Belle Glade resident killed by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office in 2016, Muck City BLM organizers laid out their current focus issues — local government corruption, voting rights, and responsibilities, economic injustice and exploitation, mass incarceration, police violence, community mentoring for at-risk youth, and environmental racism associated with pre-harvest sugar field burning — and asked community members to bring their hearts and souls to the fight.

“The Cry of Black Youth (COBY) organization started the fight for Black lives from 1969 to 1971, and now the time is right and ripe for Muck City BLM in the Glades. The juxtaposition of the announcement of the Biden-Harris victory on Saturday was noteworthy; the power of the Black vote and the demand for change in the Glades is a reflection of the wider national movement for black lives.”

The other members of the organizing group, the news release stated, are:
• Colin Walkes, former mayor of Pahokee;
• Joshua Walkes, Pahokee High School sophomore;
• Kina Phillips, “apostle” community organizer;
• Jerry “The Champ” Campbell, life coach; and
• Eric Brandon-Oce, community organizer with Food not Bombs.

Community leaders react

Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson could not be reached this week; city officials declined to comment through Deputy City Manager Beverly Scott.

Tammy Jackson-Moore, co-founder and current leader of the Guardians of the Glades civic advocacy organization, asked whether she attended, said she wasn’t aware they’d formed and knew little about their agenda. “I just heard about it at the final hour, so I did not participate.”

Her reaction, though, was direct when informed of some of the concerns Muck City BLM expressed.
She said, “Some in our community ... express or define about their issues without knowing that things are already under way or things are already in place to address some of the concerns that they might have.”
Regarding the “Muck City Can’t Breathe” dig at air quality and police treatment of minorities in the Glades and elsewhere, Jackson-Moore said: “I think that they have joined the bandwagon with that organization... the Sierra Club, that wants to ‘Stop the Burn.’ The sad part is that they really don’t understand what that really means for our community, nor or are they familiar with the science that finds that our air quality is better than the air quality on the east coast.

“You know, some people aren’t truly engaged but they want you to think that they are.”

Asked whether she supported the BLM coming into the Glades, she replied:

“Oh, definitely not. I am very much an individual that follows the science, so … I see that whatever they are trying to articulate is just not true.”

But that wasn’t all.

“And then I look at the organization that just happened to appear in the community, all of a sudden, but they don’t have a true continuing interest in the community. The Sierra Club just popped up all of a sudden, and they’re all ‘Stop the Burn, Stop the Burn’ — and they haven’t partnered with us on doing anything in the community, haven’t fostered any issues within the community … you know, nothing of the sort. I am interested in working with organizations that truly have an interest in the community and being a part of change, if that’s what is necessary.”

Barbara King, chief of the Kings Tutoring and Mentoring Program based in South Bay next door to Belle Glade, said she thought there wasn’t truly a need for the Black Lives Matter movement on the muck, because many good things are happening.

“I can’t read anything, really, into...” the fact that this group now has a Glades chapter. But, queried whether she thought a BLM chapter was needed, King said: “No, no, not at all. I mean, that’s how it seems to me, because I don’t see things, um … to me, it’s minor, not major, here, that I have heard of or witnessed or whatever. And when… I’ve seen it and read things (about it)… that entice me to come, they don’t interest me. For myself, I don’t see something like that. To be honest, I really don’t know the background of the BLM movement. I … never got into that type of organization.”

What organizers are saying
All of the half-dozen organizers were individually quoted in the Muck City BLM’s release:

Robert Mitchell: “I stand before you as your brother, neighbor and friend to send the message of ‘Get your knee off our necks, and let us breathe”! I need you to know my people that our Black Lives Matter! That our Black and Brown Communities Matter!”

• Colin Walkes: “Muck City, we need to stand up. We have to be responsible for our vote. What does that mean? It means getting involved in our community. That means we attend local commission meetings. We need to organize in our community. We need to hold our voices together and hold those we elected accountable to create policies that support us. We cannot keep doing the same dance, Muck City.”

• Joshua Walkes: “Muck City BLM represents goodness, strength, courage, understanding and wisdom of humanity.”

• Kina Phillips: “For too long we’ve been silent. Whispering. Sitting in the comfort of our homes about the effects of a very outdated practice, and still we struggle to breathe. The sugar industry has banked on our silence and has taken advantage of it. How long will we allow them to rape us of the value of our lives, to put a death sentence on our loved ones? It is time to let your voice be heard to help bring about a change. It is time to stop the burn.”

• Jerry Campbell: “Everything is an example to everything that happens. We need to start teaching our kids not to look up to football stars and to rappers. We need to stop pointing to people who are not real leaders as an example to follow. Examples of real leadership for our community must start at home first.”

• Eric Brandon-Oce: “We are here to put the call out that Muck City BLM is on the map. We know how to build the power that forces change and accountability on the PBSO, Geo Group and the sugar industry, whose single-minded pursuit of profit has turned the blessing of black soil into a health-sapping and life-shortening curse. It is necessary to look beyond our own communities and toward others nearby and far away for solidarity and support. So this is why I am here today. In solidarity.

Look for more coverage of this story on lakeokeechobeenews.com and southcentralfloridalife.com.