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From the Palm Beach County Democratic Black Caucus "Black History Celebration" luncheon

Luncheon program

What it was all about

“Building a modern, long-term political infrastructure succession plan … The strength of our movement in Palm Beach County depends on all of us working together.”

-- Strategic plan description from the luncheon program

Where it was at

Seacrest-Martin Luther King Jr. corridor "Heart of Boynton Beach" affordable housing project
Boynton Beach Mayor Ty Penserga

Boynton Beach, a city where the government is working for the people, Mayor Ty Penserga, one of a team of Democrats on the City Commission, bragged, pointing to affordable housing that the city is building in the Seacrest Boulevard-Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor.

Words to get us going in the fight for Florida

Florida Sen. Bobby Powell

“Florida is the most controversial state in the union – except for Tennessee.”

-- Florida Sen. Bobby Powell, West Palm Beach

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel

“What’s happening to this state is a disgrace. It’s shameful and … we have to fight back….The only thing that is going to free us is ourselves.”

-- U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, West Palm Beach; recipient of the Alcee Hastings and John Lewis Trailblazer Award

Delray Beach activist Charles "Chuck" Ridley

“We survived slavery. We survived Jim Crow. You telling me we can’t beat this little pipsqueak in the governor’s office?”

-- Chuck Ridley, Delray Beach community activist; recipient of one of the caucus’ Community Awards

History lesson 1 – the one that choked us up

Yvonne Lee Odom

“I had what I needed when I stepped on that campus.”

-- The oft-repeated refrain of special speaker Yvonne Lee Odom, grandmother of tennis star Coco Gauff, who told her own remarkable story of how she, at age 15, integrated Seacrest High School in Delray Beach all by herself in September 1961

When the Palm Beach County School Board finally got around in September 1961 to implementing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, it evaluated students from Carver High, the Black school, looking for a star to be the first to go to Seacrest, the white school.

Yvonne Lee adored Carver. She had amassed friends, played basketball and won “Miss Teen Town. She didn’t want to go to Seacrest but in September 1961, after she returned home from a Thursday night football game at Carver, her father, a minister, told her he had enrolled her at Seacrest because he thought she was the right person to go.

“I had what I needed when I stepped on that campus.”

When she informed her schoolmates at Carver, their reaction bolstered her. They also deemed her the right person, as a representative who would make them proud.

“I had what I needed when I stepped on that campus.”

On her first day, she was instructed to arrive at school hours after classes had started, and all the streets around the school had been blocked off to prevent any photos of a Black child integrating the school for whites. During her years at the school, she was called racial slurs and refused service at restaurants when she went to events with other students, but she remained outgoing and active in student life.

“I had what I needed when I stepped on that campus … because of family support, school support, community support ...

“When you are intentional about doing the right thing, it will always come out.”

History lesson 2 – the one that ticked us off

“Accurate teaching of African American history will make Black folk better, not bitter.”

-- Sen. Bobby Powell on the DeSantis administration's elimination of College Board’s Advanced Placement course on African American History from Florida’s high school curriculum

History lesson 3 -- the one we will make happen

Sen. Powell’s speech was bracketed at each end by strong statements about how race inevitably comes into play when Democrats say they are searching for a candidate who can win an election, so that a Black candidate always makes the short list for lieutenant governor but not always for governor:

To start: “I was on the short list to be lieutenant governor in 2022 … one of the 18 people on the short list for lieutenant governor … I hate to tell you this, but more than Black people vote for me.”

To end: “I promise you this, it may not be me, but there will be a Black candidate running for governor in 2026.”


Thank you, Palm Beach County Democratic Black Caucus, for a Sunday afternoon of good food, friendship and inspiration!


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