Waking Up From Times of Disbelief

By Evelyn Perez-Verdia

“Who controls the past controls the future.  Who controls the present controls the past.”  -George Orwell

Because no matter who you are, red or blue, we should never stop marching  for  humanity, common sense, morality and being a civil person every day. This is for you:

I once read that for every villain there is a héroe.

For every victim there is an oppressor.

Mexicans are not all rapists and drug traffickers, and Latinos are not all Mexicans.

White Americans are not all racists, and racists are not all white.

We watch the insane try to bring down the towers where “our truths are to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

As each in their own mind feels unequal, they slowly break each other down.

Going down and dividing. Familias don’t want to eat Lechón and others stop going to sweet sixteens. So angry that we are blind to puppets dressed as trolls interfering with election ’16

After lock her ups and New York packed.

A pin drop heard.

Election night filled with disbelief.

Silent and mourning, turning Twitter pages black while others yell “Hooray!”

The aftermath?

People feeling torn down rather than building each other up.

We remember MLK. Then we say: “Hey, isint that us?  With modern clothes and even more fed up?”

From being broken, shattered, still unaware of the car that hit us called the indecency of Trump?

Seeing how some of his fellow friends play that book:  they call you liar and then make up lies so that they can get off the hook? As his tweets corrupt our language, and his language corrupts our children’s  thoughts.

Yes, that is us.

The good news?

We are a slowly waking up.

Slowly picking up the pieces.

Youth quickly standing up.

This smell is familiar, as history repeats.  Stronger, bolder, with no shame. We say “NO” to shackles on our feet.

We are stronger when united and we see corruption is not far away–and yes, neither the ability to impeach.

So take you cell phone and fight with facts before you are left in a storm of disbelief.

Protect America’s institutions, its men and women who are there for you and me. The media. The child who can’t speak.

Support those who are for decency and patriotism as the nationalist drum plays its beat.

Do what it takes. Put on your shield and speak with truth. Please do not be violent and behave, because it is time to stop our founding fathers–from rolling in their graves.

The Political Power of Mr. 305

PitbullBy Evelyn Perez-Verdia

I sometimes drive through Little Havana, which in my view is one of the most enchanting neighborhoods in Miami to go through during the night.  You look inside one barber shop, and all the men are getting their hair cut as they are covered with smocks with the Cuban flag.  Men are playing dominos in a park surrounded by murals.

There was once a little boy who lived in this neighborhood and who possibly every day took a glimpse east toward a powerful downtown Miami while he had nothing in his pockets.  Born in 1981, the little boy grew up in the midst of drugs, neglect, and corruption in the ghetto known as “la Pequeña Habana”.  At 3 he could recite the poems of Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero.  He grew up in rough circumstances, in a time where so many had so much dislike for the influx of Hispanics that had arrived to Florida.  What is so amazing is that those same conditions were what gave him the power to overcome fear and try to take all of his pain out through the spoken-word known as rapping.

That little boy was named Armando Christian Perez, the son of Cuban expatriates, born from a Peter Pan Mother and a Mariel Boat Father.  Destiny picked Armando, a powerful man now known to the world as Pitbull to overcome it all and become the skin and bones of the “American Dream”.

Pitbull and Politics

Pitbull started getting a name for himself, stopped dealing drugs and started building a relationship with his father that ended short due to a cancer diagnosis.  His father passed away in 2006.  According to an article from MTV: “From then, his father’s memory and his Cuban pride fueled Pit’s career. That year, Pitbull and a host of artists recorded a Spanish version of the U.S. national anthem which even caught the radar of President George W. Bush and allowed Pit to speak out on behalf of Latino immigrants.”

In 2012 Pitbull appeared at an Obama Rally where he gave a speech sharing the fact that it does not matter what color of skin we have, we must be united and moved forward.  See video here: Pitbulls speech at Obama event, source EFE:

In 2014, Pitbull tweeted a picture of him to his 19.3 million followers at a fundraiser for Florida Governor Rick Scott a week before Scott’s re-election campaign for Governor.  Pitbull wrote: “Proud to meet and discuss Florida’s future with Governor @scottforflorida LG @lopezcantera and Rep @ErikFresenFL

Focusing on the Unknown

Now, due to not showing his affiliation to one party, Republican and Democrats are going crazy trying to figure out who Pitbull is going to support in 2016.  With presidential elections coming around the corner, the influence of the Hispanic vote is key in winning the White House.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the 2012 presidential election, more Hispanics voted in Florida than in any other state in the nation.  Latinos came out to vote by 62%, while the average Hispanic turnout for the rest of the United States was 49%. Florida Hispanics even beat California where the turnout was 48.5% and Texas where it was 38.8%…all states with high Electoral College votes.

Danny Alvarez, a Republican and former Tampa Bay Political Director for the Rick Scott Florida Gubernatorial Campaign, thinks that the targeting of Pitbull as a surrogate is genius. “Whoever thought of it should get a big pat on the back. We are not in the day and age where one message fits all and Pitbull appeals to a very broad range of targets that we are trying to reach as far as politics and government is concerned.”

Fighting for NPAs

So, the question is, if both parties are fighting for Pitbull who is registered as ‘No Party Affiliation’ according to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections, shouldn’t both political parties fight for NPA’s in the same manner?  In Florida there are approximately 600,000 NPA Hispanics registered to vote—a little less than Democrats and more than Republicans. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, 51% of Hispanics identify as NPA in the United States.  However, once they are questioned further, their leanings show that most affiliate with the Democratic Party (52%) and this is consistent across generations.  However, 23% identify with the Republican Party and Hispanics with longer connections to the United States are more likely to be Republicans.

In politics, there is a division of thought on how important NPA’s are to an election. There are two schools of thought, one which believes that they are important and the other who thinks the opposite. Some Hispanic organizations are encouraging Hispanics to register as NPA since they believe that this will be the only way that political parties will not take Hispanic voters for granted.  According to Dr. Daniel Smith, professor of political science at the University of Florida, more Hispanic youth are now registering as NPA.  However he is not convinced that being NPA is the way to go when we live in a nation with a two-party system. When asked about Pitbull being NPA he states: “People in politics are not targeting Pitbull because he is NPA, they are targeting him because he is Pitbull.”

However, others think that Pitbull being NPA is a great example of why the Hispanic independent vote should not be taken for granted:

Angelette Aviles, a Republican and former political consultant thinks that both parties need to focus their energy on NPA’s. “What is so odd is that political parties do not tend to target NPAs until 3 months before the General Election.  One reason is because they consider them a waste of time being that they cannot vote in the Primary Election.” However, she believes that it is important to target them way before the Primaries.  “Like my husband, I see many Hispanics are in the middle when it comes to issues.  One day their main concerns are based on fiscal issues but the next it could be about education, or for some they may vote on a candidate who can better relate to minorities.”  Angelette’s husband recently changed his party affiliation to NPA.

Luisana Gonzalez is a 24 year old Venezuelan-American who lives in Weston, Florida and who holds a degree in International Relations from Florida State University.  Luisana is registered NPA and believes political parties should not forget about people like her. “NPA’s are more objective in their decisions.  I vote on the leader and their vision, I focus on the candidate’s policies and who the leader is, and not based on the stereotype placed by a political party,” she says.

Looking a little deeper

Most individuals interviewed all came to the same conclusion: whoever gets Pitbull, gets a great portion of the Hispanic youth vote.

However, Christian Leon, a Democrat and Political Creative Strategist says that this mentality from the parties is too general:  “Hispanics are so diverse and you are trying to find something that unites them. Everyone’s is gravitating to Pitbull because he is the common denominator that they believe all Latinos know. It shows the hunger of the parties. It also shows the lack of knowledge or leadership of the community.  What leaders are they going to turn to that appeal to Hispanics?  What person can most Hispanics relate to except for maybe the pope? If Pitbull wants to be neutral, the best thing he can do for the Latino community is write a song encouraging Latinos to vote.”

More than being neutral, it seems Pitbull has a bigger responsibility at hand.  Being an example to Hispanics, by not only talking the talk, but walking the walk.  According to his voting records, he registered to vote 5 months after turning 18.  However, from his voting history starting in 2008, the only election he has voted in is the 2008 General Election and Presidential Preferential Primary.

Maybe the next step for Pitbull is to teach the Latinos who hold our future that Politicos need to fight for their vote just as they are fighting for his.  The step is to vote himself and possibly go back to the campaign that changed the mentality of so many Hispanics living in Miami in the 80’s: “Vota para que te respeten” which means in English: Vote so that you are respected.

However, I think Pitbull knows that it is in his power to do much more than this.  He has proved he wants to see change focusing on a group of Hispanics and other minorities that we tend to forget about and who will be unstoppable in years to come.  His students at his charter middle and high school Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM), which he helped build in the same little neighborhood (Little Havana) where he lived and lacked what these children have now gained: An avenue to not get involved in drugs, receive attention, and be given the tools to become individuals that will be the leaders of tomorrow.  He needs to start voting and teach these kids the importance of voting.

The moment of truth

Republicans and Democrats should not only be fighting for Pitbull’s approval, they both should be focusing on all Hispanics and especially NPA’s or what we call political independents.

Armando Perez’ name represents Latinos who could sway either way.  The name Pitbull represents the power of Latinos and the power that we can have in politics, if we become vocal and vote.  2016 is on its way. Make a wise choice Mr. Worldwide. Like C.S. Lewis said: “There are far far better things than any we leave behind.” It’s time to start voting.  All politico eyes on you—keeping the rapping aside.

July 4th should mean something to us all

Business man with USA flag t-shirtBy Evelyn Perez-Verdia

This July 4th many Hispanics are ready to show their passion and love for their country.  They are ready to cry as they sing the national anthem.  However, their tears will not be shed for the Independence of America.  Instead, they will be showing their passion, their love for the Game of futbol (or as Americans call it, soccer).  Especially Colombians who will all be dressed in the colors of their flag and will be celebrating that they have advanced to the final eight teams for the first time in Colombia’s World Cup history.  On July 4th they will be playing against Brazil.  Colombia will proudly stand for the national anthem and sing the words that they have memorized since childhood.

So much passion exists in Hispanics and yet, so little passion when it comes to the politics of the United States. When the World Cup starts some Hispanics even take vacation time to see the games.  However, they do not take the time to go and vote here in the United States.  When talking to Hispanics many say it is because they do not feel connected to this new place they have decided to live in, but not a place that they can call home.

July 4th is a day that we as Hispanics might take as a reason to have a party.  However, as Hispanics we should always remember that we are in a land where immigrants of many places shed their blood so that we could have the liberty to pursue our own happiness.  Men and women who have  fought so that our children could have a better future and could have the right to vote.

We should also remember not to take this country for granted.  It is difficult for me to see as a Hispanic how many Hispanics live in this country and have absolutely no connection with what it means to be part of this country.  They are here for the opportunities, but their hearts stay in their homeland.  This is one of the sad reasons why sometimes Americans dislike us so much.  Because they feel that many Hispanics have no respect for the country we live in.  We show no interest in participating in the process.  It is our responsibility to change the way Americans view us.  It is time as Hispanics to make a decision: Are you an American or are you someone from your country just living in America?

The moment we understand that we are not betraying our country of birth by being an American, will be the day that we will create a sense of love for America.  It is time to have a sense of love for the American flag that has embraced us.

On this July 4th, the Independence Day of the United States, we must remember to be grateful for the opportunity to be part of this beautiful country.  This day, as Hispanics, let’s remember that our hearts are big enough to love two countries, and have some space for soccer too.

Face-Off: The Hispanic Engagement Strategy for the Crist and Scott Campaigns

 

Left to right: Jaime Florez and Omar Khan

Left to right: Jaime Florez and Omar Khan

I have been writing often in reference to the 2014 Florida gubernatorial campaigns. Whichever campaign focuses heavily and strategically on the Hispanic vote, will be the winner of the 2014 Florida gubernatorial campaign.   I decided to contact the Crist and Scott campaign and ask them about their campaign’s current Hispanic engagement efforts.  Here is what they had to say:

This is what Jaime Florez, Hispanic Communications Director for the Rick Scott Campaign had to say about their Hispanic engagement:

“This week, Let’s Get to Work will be launching Oportunidad, its first Spanish language TV and digital ad. I cannot recall a previous gubernatorial campaign in Florida where Spanish paid media started this early. The initial $500,000 Spanish media buy, which launches Wednesday, is only the first of many to come that will share with Spanish-speaking Floridians Governor Rick Scott’s record and vision for our state. Still, paid advertisements are just one component of a comprehensive effort in engaging Hispanic voters throughout our state at every level, especially at the grassroots, with a sustained volunteer-to-voter contact.

We are very excited about the foundation we have laid over the last several months to get to this point. We have a Spanish communication shop providing daily information to the Spanish-language press. Our Hispanic Political Directors have been building a strong network of support within the Hispanic community’s elected officials, civic, faith-based and business leaders. The Spanish website www.rickscottporlaflorida.com will be going live tomorrow, giving voters the option to follow our campaign and receive updates in English or Spanish. On our social media sites, we’ve posted bilingual messages, encouraging followers to communicate in the language of their preference.

Much is said about “Hispanic Outreach” in politics and gauging a campaign’s commitment to secure the Hispanic vote by a set of benchmarks: How much is spent on Spanish paid media? Does the campaign have a Spanish press shop? Is there a Spanish website? Do they have a Hispanic political team? Going by the traditional political checklist, our campaign is months ahead of the Charlie Crist operation in putting into place and executing a campaign that is committed to earning the vote of each Hispanic in Florida. It’s noteworthy that if the Crist team has not been able to maintain an English speaking spokesperson, imagine how long it will take them to hire and keep a Spanish speaking spokesperson? All kidding aside, our campaign is not traditional. From the Governor to our volunteers, this campaign is committed to not just checking a list of benchmarks. We will implement the most robust “Hispanic Outreach” seen yet.

Florida’s diversity provides for a unique campaign approach that is more substantive and goes beyond traditional “outreach” but requires a more in- depth commitment and discipline to build an enlace with the Hispanic community. By continuing to execute this approach we will prove successful in November. More importantly, the ethnic richness of our state strengthens the focus of our campaign, which is ultimately about creating oportunidades for ALL Floridians.”

This is what Omar Khan, Campaign Manager for the Charlie Crist Campaign had to say about their Hispanic engagement:

“We are focused on building a campaign that looks like the people of Florida. One of our first senior staff hires is Hispanic, and we will certainly be communicating with voters through Hispanic media. And just today, we’ve launched www.CharlieCrist.com/Espanol to share Governor Crist’s vision with Florida’s Spanish-speaking community.

But more important than the process of the campaign is policy of the candidate. Governor Crist believes that our state’s diversity is its greatest strength. He believes that we can create more opportunities by lifting all boats: investing in making college more affordable, and putting a laser focus on making Florida the beacon for Latin American trade and tourism, which will create thousands of new job opportunities for small businesses. Governor Crist will create a Florida Trade and Development Representative whose job will be to open doors for Florida businesses to new markets – particularly Latin American – and who will answer directly to the Governor.

This is a significant departure from Governor Scott, who campaigned on bringing an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida, has reduced opportunities for HIspanic students to get an affordable college education, and has made it much harder for people to vote. Charlie Crist believes everyone should be able to live the American Dream here in Florida.”

My thoughts?  If I could give two pieces of advice out to any campaign it is this:

1.  Make sure you are sending out press releases in Spanish to media en Español  and Hispanic community leaders.  Every press release you have in English should be in Spanish also.

2. Invest, invest, invest statewide in placing ads with local community papers in Spanish as they are the gatekeepers of the Hispanic community.  This is the paper that the community picks up to read.  Seeing your ad in these papers sends a message that says: “you matter to me”  Contact me if you would like my opinion on which ones I would use statewide.