McKenzie is an organizer for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. At 15, he was arrested on charges of armed robbery and served 2½ years in prison. McKenzie, who now runs his own cleaning business, was a part of the movement that successfully championed the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, or Amendment 4, that passed in 2018, enfranchising up to 1.4 million fellow Floridians. Now, at 29, McKenzie can vote for the first time.
The Voter Suppression Film Festival is sponsored by the Center for Social Development in the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, in partnership with the St. Louis Area Voting Initiative, St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition, Gamma Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Metropolitan Congregations United.
Florida voters made a landmark decision to restore voting rights to 1.4 million ex-felons via a ballot initiative last November that amended the state’s constitution. Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and a “returning citizen” himself, led the effort, traversing the state for two years to help collect more than 760,000 signatures for the measure and then advocating for its passage.
The Orlando Urban Film Festival aims to raise its profile by moving its sixth edition to downtown Orlando this weekend.
“It’s been a hidden secret,” said Jason Gregory, the festival’s new president. For the past few years, the festival had been at Universal CityWalk, and only the local film industry knew about it, he added.
The Orlando Sentinel Central Floridian of the Year Awards Ceremony at Sheraton Orlando North on Thursday, March 28, 2019. Desmond Meade won the honor of Central Floridian of the Year for working to restore voting rights to former felons through the Amendment 4 project.
Desmond Meade decided to break this pattern for 1.4 million Floridians. Homeless and suicidal, with a felony record, Desmond fought to graduate with a law degree. When he learned he could not vote for his own wife, a candidate for the state legislature, he became president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and led the charge to adopt a constitutional amendment to re-enfranchise Floridians with felonies. Amendment 4 needed 60% of the vote to pass; in November 2018, it received 65%.
If Desmond Meade has his way, there are 1.5 million people in Florida who will regain the right to vote in November – the largest re-enfranchisement of voters in history besides the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is holding a "Get Out the Vote Kick-Off Event" with Legend at Evans High School. Aside from voter registrations and resources, there will be free Ben & Jerry's ice cream, music, a screening of the documentary Let My People Vote and a community conversation.
Voting rights, moderated by Craig Melvin: “Let My People Vote,” directed by Gilda Brasch, is a day in the life of civil rights activist Desmond Meade; “Public Money,” directed by Jay Arthur Sterrenberg, about an innovative new community participation budgeting process in New York City; and “Voting Matters,” directed by Dawn Porter, about a woman fighting to ensure the right to vote.
Wednesday’s event also featured some emotional moments. Before Legend performed, the crowd assembled in the auditorium was treated to a screening of “Let My People Vote,” a short documentary film about Meade’s advocacy efforts. The film shows Meade recruiting an older man in Tampa to vote in the 2016 election. When Meade and the man get to the polls, they learn he’s ineligible to vote because of a decades-old conviction for driving with a suspended license.
Filmed in Tampa during the 2016 presidential election, this verité short covers a day in the life of civil rights activist and former felon Desmond Meade. What begins as an upbeat day of faith in our democratic process ends in a heartbreaking realization for Desmond - Jim Crow is not dead.