Before We Wrap — A Quick Rewind!

Before We Wrap — A Quick Rewind!

Courtesy of CreateHerStock

Hi RLD Fam,

I think the theme for 2017 was WTH??? Definitely life as we knew it changed dramatically. It was a mixed bag — we saw a rise in hatred, but we also saw a rise in people fighting back. People raised their voices as a collective to say “this is not what America stands for”.

Now that the year is coming to an end, I actually had a moment to breathe, and acknowledge that my posts have not been as consistent as I would like. No excuses – just reality!

My new job at the ACLU of Florida has been amazing. With it, I received a very steep learning curve, of which I am still on the front side. However, I am learning from the best team in the country, so hopefully I’ll make more strides next year! The transition from prosecutor to full time social justice warrior has been interesting. I miss the courtroom and being able to work with victims of crime. But a whole new world has opened up to me. I get to speak regularly on issues that I care deeply about, with no fear of repercussions. I can keep it “100”, which is so refreshing. I’ve been writing for work as well — check out my death penalty piece in the Tampa Bay Times, as well as my work in support of State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s discretion in death penalty cases.

In the process of this new journey, I have not been able to share as much as I would like to on the blog.

There is also an emotional piece. When I was a prosecutor, discussing social justice issues was not my main job. I infused it when I could, but it was not a daily act. Now that it is my job, and in the current toxic environment, it’s become harder, and sometimes exhausting.

It’s no longer about educating folks on the system.

It’s now having basic discussions like Nazis are evil, pedophilia is a crime, and we need to believe victims.

It’s not about debating the finer points of policing. I’m now having to discuss my basic humanity as a person of color.

It’s left me like WTH? How did we get here?

But we were always here. It was artfully hidden by pretense, political correctness and the false sense of complacency after the election of President Obama.

So what now?

I keep fighting, keep resisting. I pledge to you to continue to bring you quality content when I can. But, the new year awaits — one of my goals is to focus more on writing — not just for RLD, Huffington Post and Blavity, but for newspapers as well. In order for me to grow as a writer, I need to be more intentional about how I work. Stay tuned!

keep calm surprises

Before we close the year that was, let’s take a look at the top 5 pieces on the Resident Legal Diva for 2017! Be sure to click the link in the title to see the original post.

5. I’m Angry and Ready, Now What?

This piece was in response to folks saying to me “Melba, what can I do? How can I fight?” These resources will be evergreen for the next few years.

4. #MeToo Is Not Just Hollywood’s Problem

I shared my personal experience with sexual harassment, which was super tough to do. I realized that I’m a wee bit more of a private person than I first thought; but it was critical (in my opinion) that more voices be heard. It originally appeared in Blavity, and received a ton of feedback wherever it was shared. As Gabrielle Union stated, and as we learned from the revelations coming from the floor of the Ford factory, sexual harassment is not a rich white woman Hollywood problem. It is a disease of power and entitlement — which can take many forms.

3. “You’re So Articulate” is not a Compliment to a Woman of Color

#BlackWomenAtWork was trending on Twitter, and many of us shared experiences of how some folks can be dismissive or downright insulting of our abilities, I shared how “you’re so articulate” is not a compliment — it’s backhanded at best and based in the stereotypes of where or how a woman that looks like me should be in life.

2. 1st African American Head Prosecutor Wrongfully Removed

2017 saw the first African American elected prosecutor in Florida take office. She took the stance that she will not seek the death penalty in any murder case in her jurisdiction. Governor Rick Scott promptly took away her death penalty eligible cases, and the legislature later cut funding for her office. I believe that his was a gross overreach of his power — it should be the voters who decide what direction their community and their public servants go in. Prosecutors are given wide discretion for a reason; re-election (or not) is the way to send a message as to what is acceptable.

And — the most popular piece for 2017 is:

My New Normal Post Philando Castile

I shared my disturbing encounter with a law enforcement officer in the Huffington Post as well as the RLD. It was my personal reminder that following the rules to the best of your ability does not guarantee your safety as a person of color; this is NOT the way it should be.

 

Thank you to each and every one you who have supported, commented, read, shared, and suggested post ideas. As I enter my 5th year of the RLD, I look forward to making it stronger while continuing to educate folks on life and the law! If you have a question or a topic you want me to write about, tell me in the comments or contact me.

The Cowboy & I in Stowe, Vermont for Christmas

Happy New Year!!!

Legal Divas of Color: Jewel Lafontant- Mankarious

Legal Divas of Color: Jewel Lafontant- Mankarious

Every February, in honor of Black History Month, I feature a series called “Legal Divas of Color“. These are African-American female attorneys who blazed the trail on which I am honored to follow, as well as acknowledging those who are doing big things today. Feel free to browse past features and share your comments!

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This year’s first Legal Diva of Color is Jewel Lafontant- Mankarious.

Ms. Lafontant- Mankarious was born April 22, 1928 in Chicago, IL. It was as if her path was predetermined; her father Francis Stafford was an attorney who practiced before the United States Supreme Court, and was a co-founder of the National Bar Association, which is a voluntary bar association for African-Americans. In 1946, Ms. Lafontant- Mankarious became the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School.

In the early years of her practice, she partnered with her husband in a family law firm, and also worked at the Chicago Legal Aid Society. However her work did not go unnoticed. She made history again when she was appointed as an Assistant US Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois by President Eisenhower in 1955 — the first African American in that office. She held that post until 1958, when she returned to private practice. 1963 brought Ms. Lafontant- Mankarious another historic moment — being the first African American woman to argue a case before the US Supreme Court. The case she argued set the groundwork for Miranda vs. Arizona (the case we get our Miranda rights from). President Nixon tapped her talents to be the first female and the first African American Deputy Solicitor General in 1973, a post she held until 1975. While she returned to private practice, her public service continued under President Bush, serving as Ambassador at large and US coordinator for refugee affairs from 1989-1993. She practiced law until her death from breast cancer in 1997. Hear an interview with her here.

Thank you Jewel Lafontant- Mankarious for being a Legal Diva of Color, blazing the trail for African American prosecutors on both the state and federal level!

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New Year, New Level: Starting Your Own Business

New Year, New Level: Starting Your Own Business

As we approach the month of December, I know some of you are reflecting on the year that was, as well as the promise of the year to come. Soon, we will be making resolutions (or as I like to do, set intentions) for what we will accomplish in 2016.  Inevitably, we resolve to “get to the next level” — whether it be in a career, relationship, finances, or attaining some dream.

Here is the first in a series of posts designed to get you to the next level in your life.  Yesterday was #SmallBusinessSaturday, to be followed by #CyberMonday.  The push to support small and minority businesses is growing, especially with the #BuyBlack hashtag on the internet.  I was honored to have guest blogger Robert Rogers, a business and immigration attorney in Coral Gables, Florida, share his expertise on how to start a small business of your own.  If this has been your dream, or one of someone close to you, this one’s for you! Let’s make it happen!

A PDA and a laptop for planning at the office
Photo credit: Business planning by abductit/Flickr

 

How to Start a Business and Protect Yourself

Starting a new business is an exciting time, but it’s also one that you should approach with caution and ample preparation.

Follow these tips for your blossoming business and help protect yourself in weathering any storms.

Craft a Business Plan

Putting together a business plan is your way of creating a set of goals for the future and articulating the mission of your company. Logically creating a business plan will help you to prepare, plan and manage your business for the long run.

Select the Right Business Location

If you’re going to have an office location, it’s important to identify a location that’s ideal for customers, but also one that is in compliance with local zoning laws. You may want to consult with a specialist on zoning laws before moving forward with your business. Carefully consider whether your physical location will impact your business in a big way.

Your next step should be to study your business market carefully. You need to see how your products or services compare with what’s already available on the market, who your target customers are, and what licensing or government regulations may impact the set up or management of your business. Looking at demographic data can also tell you about how many of your target customers may already be in your physical area.

Establish a Brand Identity

You’ll need both a professional logo and a name for your business in order to bring legitimacy before the day of your launch. Although there are online tools that can help you with this, it’s strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney to protect all of your rights and ensure that you’re in compliance with any relevant regulations as well as industry best practices.

Consulting with an attorney can also help you figure out whether your logo is indeed unique or whether it might potentially cross a copyright infringement barrier. Knowing this ahead of time can save you significant headaches down the road. Be sure from the beginning and get a lawyer’s expertise sooner rather than later.

Consider Business Structure

The nature of your startup will determine how much help you’ll need as far as determining the process of incorporation or formalizing partnership agreements. It’s a vital decision to select what type of structure your business will be founded under. So it’s one you should consider carefully both with regard to your current and your future goals.

The business structure you select will also significantly impact your tax situation so it’s a good idea to bring in an accountant on board from the beginning so that you understand the various implications of your final decision.

As with all things business related, it’s better to work with an experienced attorney when handling any kind of complex legal matter. At the start of your business, the selection of your initial structure can be critical and therefore requires the inside of an outsider.

You also should consider getting a federal tax ID number as soon as possible. This is to help establish your business as a separate legal entity from you and may also be referred to as an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is issued by the IRS and allows the IRS to track any company transactions.

Bear in mind that a sole proprietor is not obligated to obtain a tax ID number but it may still be a good idea so that you don’t have to provide your private information like a social security number for business matters.

Review Potential Employee Laws

As soon as you establish a new company and hire your first employee, you have legal obligations as an employer. Make sure you’ve consulted with an employment law professional so that you understand these various obligations such as self-employment taxes, worker’s compensation rules, anti-discrimination laws, wage and hour requirements, unemployment insurance, withholding taxes, federal and state payroll, and safety regulations.

Obtain Necessary Permits and Trademarks

Depending on the physical location and the type of business, you may need to obtain one or more business permits or licenses from a state or local authority. This could include health department permits, sales, tax, licenses, or land use permits among others.

Although you’re not actually required by law to register a trademark, doing so can allow you to have common law rights as an owner. Trademark law is notoriously complex and should only be handled by an experienced attorney.

Final thought

Venturing into your own business is a very responsible decision. Following an organized and well thought out plan is the first step to the pursuit of success and there are many professionals that will assist along the way.

 

rogers_owner_s_imgAttorney Robert Rogers practices in small business and immigration law with an office in Miami, Florida. He has extensive experience helping internationals in United States business ventures along with helping foreigners with their immigration needs. Please feel free to visit his website at http://www.coralLaw.com. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, Linkedin.

Knowledge Trumps Racism Part III: Why Violence is NOT the Answer!

Knowledge Trumps Racism Part III: Why Violence is NOT the Answer!

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Over the weekend, two police officers from the New York  Police Department, Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were gunned down in their police cars at close range and lost their lives. The lone gunman had posted pictures on social media before and after the murder, and had made statements that this was in retribution for the recent police involved deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

The backlash has been instant and fierce. Social media has been on fire, as well as mainstream media. The “us versus them” mentality has gone into full effect. I have seen statements from both sides that have been completely horrific. I have seen statements from police officers which basically amount to “it’s all out war on African-Americans” (and not put so politically correctly); I have also seen statement from African-Americans basically saying that those police officers deserve to die, or that somehow, their lives are less valuable as a result of the actions of the police officers that were involved in the recent high profile deaths of African-Americans.

Here is the danger in this thinking. We have now gotten to a point where we are in a standoff in our thought process. And from that standpoint, there can be no winners. There is no middle ground. The only way we can have progress is to find a middle ground.

At the end of the day, what do we really want? All of us, as a nation?

We want police working with the community; we want an end to senseless deaths in all forms; we want peace in our streets.

We want life to go back to normal where everyone can go to work and go about our business without looking over our shoulders, whether you are a police officer or a civilian.

By getting so entrenched in our positions and making statements that are so offensive to either side, we can never reach a point of compromise.

Because here’s the reality — unless we are willing to quit our jobs and do the job ourselves, we need the police to keep us safe.  And if we cast the police out, the police department ceases to exist.  So, we need each other, and MUST find a way to work together.

Let’s address violence as a solution.

Looking back in American history, violence has not been the route to success. During the civil rights movement, there was a debate as to whether  or not African-Americans should follow the early, more militant path of Malcolm X , noted for his quote of “by any means necessary”, or follow the nonviolent path of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  The path of Malcolm X seemed to be more energetic, and the quickest way to get results. Dr. Martin Luther King’s path was painful. There were more deaths and was a slower path to success.

However history told the final story. And in the end, it was Dr. Martin Luther King’s way that proved most effective. Malcolm X eventually converted to Dr. King’s way of thinking. I recently watched a special on PBS entitled “Many Rivers to Cross“. It was a very poignant series which covered the many decades of African-Americans in the United States. It discussed the history of the civil rights movement.

It also talked about Bloody Sunday.

When Dr. Martin Luther King led the march in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, he and the other marchers were confronted by police officers who brutally attacked them while they were protesting peacefully. The media documented this atrocity. As a result, the civil rights movement received many more supporters of all races, including leaders from the Jewish faith, from the Catholic faith (there were nuns in full habits marching with the civil rights movement!) and the movement towards voting rights gained more momentum. Alabama was exposed as a hotbed of intolerance. This incident was one of the catalysts of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The moments before...Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965
The moments before…Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965

Selma is an example of how the nonviolent path is so effective.  If the marchers had been violent, they would not have gotten the support from such a wide base, and the resulting laws would not have been enacted.

After the video of the death of Eric Garner was released, if you look at the protests that resulted, you would’ve noticed that there was a wide range of protesters from all races in the crowd. Many people were very disturbed by the tactics used in the video. No matter what your stand on the grand jury findings, this was an opportunity to discuss policing in the 21st century, and to explore whether or not current methods were working or needed to be changed.  The act of this lone crazy gunman threatens the positive dialogue that was being started.

So where from here?

This is the perfect time to show decency. Let the New York Police Department grieve, and support them in this time of sorrow. No family deserves this. This was a horrible act and no one should sanction it. And if your argument is “they wouldn’t do that for us“, I say, hold yourself to a higher standard! If you do, then you inherently challenge others to either do the same, or expose them for who they are. You’d be surprised at the results. I find once you elevate, people elevate with you.

We cannot hold an entire police force accountable for the acts of a few. The majority of police officers that I have met in my career are good decent folks who want to do their job and get home to their families.  The same applies to African Americans — the majority are law abiding citizens who want a good life for themselves and their families, and want to see justice in the world. Neither side should be painted with the same negative brush.

Change is a tough thing. We want it, but it comes at a cost. Change does not need to come at the cost of human life. We are a civilized country, and we hold ourselves out as such to the international community. Death can cause us to realize change is needed; but if we start to condone violent acts against each other, then we are no better then the foreign countries that we criticize. We need to distance ourselves from those who promote violence, and we need to stand tall and claim our human dignity. There is a time to grieve, and there’s a time to act. Declining to protest for several days until the funerals are over will not harm the movement. It would actually gain the respect of many people and would bring a conciliatory tone to the issues at hand. It would also highlight our strength and decency as a people.

I will end with a quote I will be using a lot in the coming days from Dr. Martin Luther King: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”.20140202-120430.jpg

Knowledge Trumps Racism, Part II

Knowledge Trumps Racism, Part II

IFWT_Bill_De_Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio came under fire for regarding comments he made regarding what he has told his son about how to interact with law enforcement.

Mayor De Blasio, who is married to an African American woman and has a biracial son, stated in a recent interview:

“It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country,” de Blasio went on. “And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cell phone, because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”

The head of the New York City Police Union was infuriated, and stated that the Mayor “threw cops under the bus” and was not helping race relations.

Here’s the deal.

Mayor De Blasio a white man, and a parent, is speaking his truth.

He’s speaking of the discussion that thousands of African American parents have with their sons across the country on a daily basis.

He’s a responsible parent, making sure his child knows how to act appropriately in a police encounter. Be polite, don’t make any sudden movements, don’t do anything to escalate the situation.

He’s also being practical! As angry as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch may be, does he really want people making sudden movements in police encounters, creating situations where officers will have to draw their weapons?

I should hope not!

Mayor De Blasio’s statement is actually helping race relations…because when African Americans make similar statements, it can be viewed as an overreaction. “Their kids must be doing something bad.” “They’re just paranoid”

But the Mayor says it…this draws attention to the fact that this is a real issue.

So before dismissing his comments, listen.

Knowledge trumps racism.

Understand what the other side is saying. Mayor De Blasio is speaking his truth. So speak yours and let’s have a productive dialogue on how to move policing forward as opposed to “us” vs “them”.

Not all kids of color are bad; not all police officers are bad.  If we start from that premise, we may actually get somewhere!

See my list of my practical tips on interacting with law enforcement here.

Feel free to weigh in!

M.

For Every Year & Every Life…A Season!

For Every Year & Every Life…A Season!

fall sayings

Being born and raised in NY, I used to love fall. It was the beginning of cool weather, the leaves change, great food, long sleeves and boots. Not too cold, but just right.

Now that I’m in my 40’s, I realized that seasons don’t just apply to the dates in the year, it applies to your life.

In doing this assignment, I’ve read some great blogs. One is the Namaste, the journey of a 15 year old Indian girl, through pictures and poetry. I was struck by her innocence, and how she views the world through the lens of beauty and happiness.

The next blog I explored was Bridget, who is a life coach making her transition into her 40’s, and giving life guidance on how to de-clutter and get back to basics. Basically, Bridget is trying to get grown ups back to that pure happy place that Namaste is currently enjoying.

What brought all of this together for me was the blog by Indamixworldwide, who transported me back to my own time of innocence through his music driven blog. He had great throwbacks to the days in my early twenties when all I cared about was dancing to Tony Humphries, Lil Louie Vega, Masters at Work and Frankie Knuckles all night, then eating a big greasy diner burger with cheese fries with my friends at 7am.

I didn’t have a care in the world.

This is before the days of bills, mortgages, responsibilities. This was before seeing how ugly the world can be, and how horribly people can treat each other (especially in my line of work). This was before love, death, and loss.

And becoming a pescatarian along with a bit more health/weight conscious  😉

Frank Kaiser had a great statement about older women (ironically, incorrectly attributed to Andy Rooney). You get to the point that nothing shakes you, because you’ve seen it all. But the one thing you learn is to enjoy every season as it comes. You even get good at recognizing when the season has changed in your life! You can be like “oh, this is about growth. This is about patience. This is about decisions.”

It’s certainly a season of growth for me…I’m sensing that the foundation is being laid now for big changes ahead. I’m learning some tough lessons about human nature; but I fight to still see the good in people.

No matter what, you can’t take life or those you love for granted. Enjoy, life, laugh, love. Tomorrow is not promised; today is a gift– that’s why it’s called the present.

M.

 

Is Helping the Homeless a Crime?

Is Helping the Homeless a Crime?

arnold abbottThe Bible tells us to love thy neighbor. Even if you don’t subscribe to a particular religious belief, most people have a basic need to help others.

Arnold Abbott has spent the last 23 years of his life doing just that. He runs an organization called “Love Thy Neighbor Fund”, which feeds the hungry in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The organization was created in the memory of his late wife; he dedicated his life to aiding the homeless upon his retirement from the jewelry business.

Last Wednesday, he was arrested and cited for doing what he and his volunteers had been doing on a regular basis.

Not only was that shocking…what made it worse was that he is 90 years old.

abbott citeedSo, one can imagine the media frenzy, as the police handcuffed this elderly man in his white coat, as well as his volunteers, and cited him for doing good works. The news went viral…even Jon Stewart weighed in on his show.

The Mayor of Ft. Lauderdale, Jack Seiler, had stated this was part of the enforcement of a new city ordinance. He further explained this past Sunday on WPLG Channel 10 South Florida’s This Week in South Florida the reasoning behind the ordinance.

Bottom line? Hygiene. The area in which Mr. Abbott conducted the feeding was near the actual beach. Mr. Abbott believes that the homeless has the right to eat their food while enjoying the natural beauty of South Florida’s beaches. Mayor Seiler states that under the ordinance, all feeding of the homeless needs to be done close to restroom facilities (standing or a portable toilets), and with other hygiene restrictions. Mr. Abbott states that he met all of those requirements….but the interesting compromise that came from that on air roundtable interview was that there would be no further issues if he moved his feedings to a local church.

Both gentlemen discussed the effect the feeding of the homeless had on the tourists. Mr. Abbott said that the tourists he encountered would commend him for his actions, and would often offer to assist (a request he quickly grants); Mayor Seiler states that the tourists are horrified and claim they would NOT return to Ft. Lauderdale Beach until this horrible homeless problem is solved.

And now, we have arrived at the true struggle between views on the homeless. “Oh how sad, yes I’ll donate, but don’t come near my car, stay away from me you stinky person, hide the problem from me so I can enjoy my vacation” vs. “There but for the grace of God/luck/a good family go I”.

There are so many misconceptions about the homeless. They did not all get there from alcoholism, drug addiction or some form of laziness/irresponsibility. In this latest economic downturn, it could be as simple as the unemployment benefits ran out and the person had nowhere to go. It could have been a terrible turn of life events, and the person did not have the friends/family support to get back on their feet.

And, on this Veteran’s Day, think about those wounded warriors who came back from war suffering from PTSD, and could not get back on their feet. Some of the homeless are veterans who volunteered, risked their lives for us in various wars, and we have forgotten them – abandoning them to live on the streets.

Yet, we subject those who assist the homeless to possible fines and jail time rather than working with those who have the passion for change to find real solutions.

There’s this lady called Karma. And she does not like to be trifled with.

To learn more about Arnold Abbott and his organization, see Love Thy Neighbor.

M.

Looking Back to Move Forward…

Looking Back to Move Forward…

20140323-142740.jpgSo, as we wait for election results, there’s no better time than now to be reflective.  My blog, The Resident Legal Diva, has recently had its one year anniversary.  Ironically, I took on a 30 day Blogging 101 challenge…because why not? Nothing like a challenge to step up your game! In the next 30 days, you will see a lot of posts from me covering a variety of topics (which remain a mystery to me at this moment)!

The first assignment was to talk about my blog.  Why am I writing publicly instead of writing a personal journal? Who do I hope to connect with? What is the end goal a year from now? And what’s the story behind my tagline?

Whelp, let’s get started.

Why am I writing publicly instead of writing a personal journal? If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I am a prosecutor. (If not, welcome!) I love the law.  The law brings equality; the law brings change; the law brings justice. Often, the media gets it wrong (ratings are king). Often citizens get it wrong (due to just not knowing).  Sometimes the system gets it wrong. Facts and details get lost in the struggle between passion, history, and confusion as to how the system works.  My goal is to educate people about how the system really works, and what goes into the decision making process in cases.  Also, I want people to know what their rights are, and what remedies are available. This can only be done in a public forum.  With the internet reaching more and more people every day, what better way to educate the world?

Who do I hope to connect with? EVERYONE! My blog is not just for legal professionals (who are always welcome by the way). It’s for the students, the curious, the old, the young…anyone who cares about the world we live in and how the law governs us.

What is the end goal a year from now? I hope to have (and continue to have) great dialogues with folks from all walks of life.  My eyes have opened to issues as a result of discussions started on my blog.  I love to teach, but I enjoy learning as well.  The exchange of ideas is the only way our world will get better — it is the way to promote understanding.

And what’s the story behind my tagline? The Resident Legal Diva…I’m your in house legal expert.  And I love the word “Diva”.  I’m on a mission to reclaim the word from the negative connotations that come from reality television.  A Diva is a woman who is well spoken, well put together, and who carries herself with grace and elegance.  Most of all, a Diva is successful from her own intelligence, hard work and merit.  Notice there are no temper tantrums, outbursts, or generally “acting a fool” in that definition. What I described is the definition of a “hot mess”…which does not deserve air time (not on this blog anyway!).  And the rest “My Collection of Thoughts About Real Life and the Law”…is just that.  My thoughts…my opinions…but always open for discussion!

Looking back, the last year of blogging has been fun, uplifting, emotional, and really enlightening.  Here’s to many more!!

M.

The Time For Talk Is Over!

The Time For Talk Is Over!

I’m not much of a “let me take a selfie” kind of woman, but it’s all about the evidence (I am the Resident Legal Diva after all).

So here it is. I early voted today.

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On Miami Beach, it wasn’t too bad. Definitely more people than during the primaries; but certainly low numbers. I’m hopeful that the numbers will increase as early voting comes to a close, and as November 4 arrives.

There are two themes that keeps recurring. One is “I’m so tired of those nasty ads on television and radio. How do I know what’s true? One is as bad as the other”

The second theme is “I know I’m supposed to do my research, but I’m busy. Being an informed voter takes WORK. I have a job, family, kids….ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Well, here is my answer to both.

That magical thing called the Internet.

There is a great site called Politifact that is run by a group of non partisan journalists. They fact check the claims of politicians across the country, and rate them as True, Half True or False. You can even submit facts for them to check or requests for corrections. That’s a great way to see if what was said in debates or in the ads was true.

Also, go on the election website for your county. You can check out a sample ballot to see what amendments are on the ballot. Usually, the main newspaper in your area will break down the issues and endorse or object to an amendment. You don’t have to agree…but what you gain is the explanation in plain English. It makes it easier to make a decision from there.

Lastly, if there is one person in your circle that you trust, task them with doing the research. But also make them break it down for you so that you understand the issues. At the end of the day, YOU are responsible for your vote — make sure you are clear on what you are voting on!

Voting determines our destiny as a nation. If it wasn’t so important, voter suppression wouldn’t be an issue. Voting fraud wouldn’t be a crime. Voter ID laws wouldn’t be so hotly contested.

This is your life. Your future. So many are quick to complain, march and protest; while it is important that your opinion be heard, politicians respond to the power of the ballot box. Use it or lose it!

M.