Let me begin with thanking all of you who voted, canvassed, volunteered and urged your family members and neighbors to participate in the most-recent election. And for those who cast their vote in the great city of Opa-locka, I knew it could be done. Back in the day when Sam Cooke sang the song, "A change is going to come,” it definitely came in a mighty big way. The winning ticket of newly elected Mayor Matthew Pigatt and Commissioners Sherelean Bass, Alvin Burke and Christopher Davis should truly bring better days and a brighter future for Opa-locka and its residents. Thank you, Vice Mayor Joseph Kelly, Tommy "scoop" Johnson and Willis Howard for your tremendous efforts in the great city of Opa-locka.
I am proud of the original members of Brothers of The Same Mind who went to Tallahassee to get the voting rights for ex-felons restored. In February 2001, Leroy Jones, me and members of Brothers of the Same Mind took an overnight journey at the behest of then-state Senators Kendrick Meek and Christopher Smith and State Reps. Frederica Wilson and Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall to appear before the Criminal Justice Committee. Our goal was to appeal to members about bringing the issue out of committee and in front of the full House and Senate.
When we arrived, we were told votes by the 16-member committee were seven for, seven against and two no votes. As we were having breakfast with Meek and Smith, they explained what needed to happen when we get in front of the committee members. We had to present why former felons who have served their time and were living right as taxpaying citizens should be made whole by having their rights restored to vote. What proceeded to happen then was the 16-member committee agreed and the final committee vote was 16-0.
When Charlie Crist became the governor, one of the first things that he did was to overturn the old ruling and automatically gave ex-felons the right to vote. When Rick Scott became governor, he stripped us (felons) of our right to vote. That allowed Desmond Meade, the New Florida Majority, the ACLU and other organizations to move on the behalf of former felons who could not vote. Those who were impacted and disenfranchised could be anywhere from 1.2 to 1.6 million. These new voters should amount to change in elections in the state of Florida. Again, on the behalf of every ex-felon in the state of Florida, and especially from Brothers of the Same Mind, we say thank you.