Can 'My Life Matters' campaign save Miami Gardens?
Carla St.Louis | 1/16/2014, 9 a.m.
2013 was a tumultuous year for the residents of the City of Miami Gardens and their police department.
The South’s largest Black city second to Atlanta was besieged with gun violence and unsolved murders involving youth. While officials attributed the violence to revenge-hungry gang members, residents complained of the police department’s unwarranted stop and frisk policy.
In 2014, City officials are hopeful that their pro-community initiative, “My Life Matters,” which centers around the principles of community-building events, reverence for life and mentorship will bring them in good favor with residents.
Visitors to the Miami Gardens 111 website are met with smiling Black faces of children and families; however speaking with residents about the state of Miami Gardens will draw a conflicting reaction.
“It’s a good step in the right direction but it’s not the only thing that’ll help,” said Robert Haye, a resident of Miami Gardens. “Everything can’t be solved overnight — you must have building blocks in place.”
The initiative includes a flashy website, Miami Gardens 111, that acts as a portal for Miami Gardens 110,000-plus population to access resources on topics like strengthening families, employment and provides information on civic engagement events.
Representatives for the City like Bernadette Morris, president & CEO of Sonshine Communications maintain the website is “not a marketing ploy.”
“As with all social media services, we will gauge our success by the comments, replies, number of hits on the site, likes and activity the site and its social media components receive,” she said.
As of today, the City’s campaign has received a lukewarm response on social media accumulating 41 likes on Facebook, 25 followers on Twitter, and receiving only ten views of Mayor Oliver Gilbert’s public service announcement.
“It’s not a bad thing,” said County Commissioner Barbara Jordan regarding the “My Life Matters” initiative. “There are a lot of wonderful things happening in the City of Miami Gardens that needs to be told in its totality instead of being skewed in a negative direction.”
“We have been working diligently with our residents and business owners to develop a program that would encompass our community in a comprehensive manner,” said Bernadette Morris, president & CEO of Sonshine Communications on behalf of the City. “This is a grassroots approach to making that happen--not a marketing ploy. This program was discussed and planned by the City in early Fall 2013. We needed time to conduct focus groups with the residents, develop a common theme around our findings, draft the website and coordinate activities planned with its launch.”
Engage the youth, stop the violence?
The common thread in last year’s gun violence in Miami Gardens was the youth--whom were either victims or perpetrators. According to Mayor Oliver Gilbert young people are involved in crime due to a lack of constructive alternatives.
“We have to better engage all of their time and their energy,” Gilbert said. “When we see 14, 15 and 16-year-olds committing crimes, we can’t have them out there idle. That’s an issue.”
Residents like Victor Alex, whose lived in Miami Gardens for 19 years, agreed.