MDEAT it is!!!

MDEAT it is!!!

By The Culture

Miami Dade Economic Advocacy Trust has been a staple in advocating for Black Miamians. According to their website, the agency started in the ‘80s. Following the riots that erupted in 1980 after white officers were acquitted for the death of Arthur McDuffie, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County collaborated to create Metro-Miami Action Plan (MMAP) in 1983 as a solution to socioeconomic disparities in employment, economic development, education, housing, health and human services and criminal justice. In 1992, MMAP was further empowered by becoming a trust, and in September 2009, it was reorganized into MDEAT by ordinance 09-70.

Since its inception, MDEAT’s focus has been on addressing socioeconomic disparities within the Black community. MDEAT does so by focusing on the individual (i.e., youth and individual family member support), building neighborhoods through the expansion of homeownership, and supporting the foundation of strong Black businesses and economic development via job creation, entrepreneurship, business retention, and expansion. These three gears – family, neighborhood, and business – work together to connect the Black community to resources, funding, and programming that together create whole communities.

Miami-Dade County is thrilled to unveil its eagerly anticipated second Black Business Month celebration throughout August. This momentous occasion aims to honor the multi-billion-dollar contributions of Black-owned businesses to the regional economy while fostering an environment of belonging and prosperity for all. Miami-Dade County is rolling out the figurative red carpet during a launch event at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park on Thursday, August 3, at 6:00 p.m. The Culture sat down with the Economic Empowerment Manager, Robert Parson, to get all of the details on business opportunities for Miami’s Black owned business leaders.

What are MDEAT’s committees: Housing Advocacy?

Robert Parson:

I tell people, we’re a four-headed monster. We have a housing division, which in the beginning it was just for homeowner down payment assistance. It transformed into also having a rehab program where we’re giving out $50,000 to do rehab on houses that really need some work done but the residents can’t afford to get it done.

They elected to take some money from what we already had in our budget and set it aside to rehab homes. Say if you need a roof or if you need, storm windows, if your bathroom needs to be redone. It’s sad to say a lot of people don’t see what we see in our communities. When you go into some of these homes and you realize that there’s no floor in the bathroom, people have boards across the floor just so they can go to the bathroom.

Most are seniors and they don’t have the income to keep their houses safe and maintained. So, Mr. Diggs, the Executive Director for MDEAT, decided that we are going to do something about it. We allotted $50,000 per house to where we use up all the [allocated] $1.5 million [to] take care of these homes and get our people a standard lifestyle instead of substandard.

It’s not a program just for the elderly. It is income based. What we tell people is we’re going to spend this $50,000, but we’re not going to come in a home that needs a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of work because we can’t leave a home that’s not completed.

You don’t have to go look for a contractor. We are bringing the contractors. So you don’t have to worry about any shams, any schemes. We are bringing all that to the table. So you don’t have anything to worry about. All you must know is that we got you.

Another is that every year they’re abandoned lots throughout the communities in Miami-Dade County. And some of the commissioners to try to help bring up some of the standard of living in these areas. They donate this land to different organizations, churches, schools, things of that nature, hoping that they are going to do something with the land to bring housing or business. So, some of the commissioners have gotten together and they have decided to give us some empty parcels, and we’re going to start doing some development on them. Our neighborhoods are starting to lack, and as they lack, we move, and then everybody else moves in. And then they raise the standards of our communities where we can’t come back.

The average senior cannot afford insurance on their home in Richmond Heights because the value has gone up so much. Being raised in Richmond Heights myself, the taxes for my grandmother’s home were $900 two years ago. Now it is $5,000. Not many seniors can afford to maintain, and it only takes three years for you to lose your house for not paying taxes. So we have to make sure that we are prepared and we have things set aside to make sure that we don’t lose grandma’s house.

What are MDEAT’s committees: Youth Advocacy?

Robert Parson:

It started out as teen court. And teen court was created to give our children a second chance. I remember that. To where you didn’t have to get into the court system. You were judged by your peers. The jury, your prosecutor, the defense attorney, all of them were your peers. And the only person that was a professional was the judge. So whatever sentence came down, it was binding. The court systems were willing to accept that, so our kids don’t get stuck in the system with all these backgrounds that never go away. You know, even though kids get stuff expunged, it’s going to be a black spot. And people want to know, “Well, what’s this right here?” Now you have to explain it. It would almost be better if it just sat there.

You know, the truth is going to be told regardless. And that only expungement is only on the state level. Everybody knows if you get a government job, nobody supersedes the government. So, we want to give our children an equal opportunity like everyone else is getting because they’re not catching and releasing our children when they catch them. You’re going down. Some of these kids, they get warnings, and they send them on their way. But the numbers are high with our youth, and they’re starting to lock up more females now than ever before. Because if we’re going to progress, you have to grab them early if you want to stop it. They’re locking our kids up faster than anybody.

We just did a study a couple of days ago where we realized that the school police have locked up more of our children than Miami Gardens, Opa-Locka and Liberty City. Three cities. Locked up more kids just in school, just because they’ve been given that autonomy to do that. And before they were just security guards, but now they have the ability to take you down. And it’s creating havoc on our youth. I’m not worried about everybody else’s youth because it, it affects everybody. But when you look at the numbers, we outshine anybody when it comes to arrest and it’s just not fair. For the same crimes.

And this program exists to assist with youth for non-felonious offenses. But anything minor, you can be recommended to teen court, and you’ll be judged by your peers. And most times it’s community service. You have to participate in teen court, you have to give back things of that nature. But now we’ve taken it to another level. Dr. Marcus Bright, which is the manager of youth services, he is now doing career pathways. We have to know that there are other opportunities for our youth. Everybody’s not going to go to college. But there are other careers out there that these young kids can do and be just as successful. So, we are pushing that right now to make sure that we are in these schools to let our children know that.

We are going to show you things that, oftentimes, you don’t see, because we wanna be more than bus drivers. And being a bus driver is great. But that shouldn’t be the ultimate goal that you want to do. And there are other opportunities that pay far more and have more opportunities to grow than being a school bus driver. I used to work with the youth, and a few of the kids, I would ask them,” So what do you wanna do?” “Oh, I wanna be a bus aide. Like my auntie.” I’m like,” A bus aide? The most you want to do?” There are other opportunities out here. And that’s what Dr. Bright is trying to bring to our young people. And we’re gonna make some headways, we’re going to change some things around here.

What are MDEAT’s committees: Legislative and Research?

Robert Parson:

We have a legislative and research division. What we are doing now, we are currently doing our disparity study. Every so often you have to do a disparity to know what’s happening with our people. And we are finishing that up now. So we are gonna know where we are lacking resources, fundings, and opportunity for better living within our own communities. And that’s gonna help us prepare to do the other things that we do.

Housing and economic opportunities are some of the concentrated efforts we’re looking to analyze. You know, “Do we have the same resources that everyone has?” And we are asking the community to come out and let us know what they want to see in their communities because I might live in your community, but I don’t know what you need if you don’t tell me. And it is hard sometimes to get us to come out and tell us, “Hey, I need this.” “Why we don’t get our trash picked up on these days or during these times” and “why my trash sit out here so long.” And, you know, it is little things, but they add up, you know, and it affects us as a community. So we are trying to find out exactly what you need and how we can best get it for you.

What are MDEAT’s committees: Economic Development?

Robert Parson:

And then lastly, we have economic development. That is my division. I started May 9th of last year, and the charge was to see how many resources we could get to our people. We have a plethora of small businesses. There are over 50,000 small businesses in Dade County that are black owned, and most of them don’t have the resources they need to succeed. And some of them have been in business for years, and they’re making it, but they could be doing so much better because they don’t know what they’re not doing.

You know, sometimes it’s what you don’t know that hurts you the most. So, when we have our workshops, I bring people that can help them with technical assistance, with marketing. I even bring Andre Coley, which is with Credit 360, and he talks about personal credit and business credit. Most people don’t know the difference, you know, and it is just mostly education to help us get to where we need to be.

I had a workshop yesterday and I brought in a young lady, Oma Thompson. She’s with Tech LLC. And some of us are not equipped with the technical aspect of things that are going on. And times are changing. We have to be on social media. The cheapest way to market yourself is being on social media. And we can’t be afraid of that. And we have to know the type of posts to put on there. The conversations that need to be had when we are talking about our business. Having the proper email address, contact information, small things. You know, you can’t have “Pookie’s Barber Shop”, and people expect people to just understand what that means.

We have to step our game up and we bring people to the table to help you do that. And we also give out some funding. This year we’ve given out $350,000 to 35 businesses in $10,000 allotments to help them take their businesses to the next level to make sure that they can scale, grow, and buy equipment that they need. You can spend the money on anything except food. If you have a restaurant, you can buy a stove or whatever else you need, but you can’t utilize it for food.

Also, for the first time ever, helping the startup businesses, because a lot of people were saying, “I don’t qualify for the capitalization grant because I haven’t been in business long enough, but I need help.” And most of the help that they need is capital. So we are giving out $50,000 by the end of August to 20 recipients in $2,500 allotments to help them with capital. Also, we are paying for one year’s membership for Chamber of Commerce, Black People Network and Tech LLC. You know, to help make sure that they have somebody that can help guide them along the way.

And we can’t do everything. So that’s why we partner with people. The Miami Foundation, the Bayside Foundation, the Chamber, and we bring small business development, Ms. Lada Wright, to help them with certifications because most of these businesses need to be certified if you want to do business inside the county. As far as becoming vendors and things of that nature.

The Mayor, Ms. Kaba, I must say, has a strong passion for small businesses because she was a business owner herself. And she knew that every business started small. Amazons, Martha Stewart, everybody started small. You never know where it’s going to take off, but you have to have some compassion and vision to know that we can help people to take it to the next level.

On the KickOff Event:

Robert Parson:

Last year, for our grant recipients, we brought them to the kickoff event because we started late this year. We had a reception for them two weeks ago at the Stephen P. Clark Building, where we brought in all our recipients and gave them mock checks. We gave them the opportunity to take pictures amongst their peers and for the commissioners to be able to be there. And if they weren’t there, some of their representatives in their offices would acknowledge them, to let them know, “Hey, you’re doing a great job and keep up the work, and you represent my community.” And that does a lot to people sometimes. Just being recognized to know that “Hey, you do really care, because I do mean something to you. And my vote counts.”

The kickoff event is August the third, 6:00 PM at Virginia Beach. You don’t have to worry about the heat. We’re going to have an air-conditioned tent. And we are inviting everyone to come out and have a great time. You know, we got commissioner Christine King from the City of Miami to support us with getting Virginia Key Beach. So we take our hat off to her as well. This really is a collaborative effort. We can’t do anything by ourselves. We are trying to make this work for all of us.

I was happy when I was asked to come on the show. You know, it’s strange. I’ve seen the show and I was like, “Dang, that’s something special.“ And then to get to know who the people are that are running the show I was like, “All right.” It makes people believe that things are possible, because everyone doesn’t come from a Silver Spoon background. We’ve all gone to college and done what we had to do and to maintain the standards of living that we want to have, and to see you all take this to another level is just, it’s just great to see.