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IN MEMORIAM: Garth C. Reeves, Sr., Retired Miami Times Publisher, Dies

CHICAGO CRUSADER — Regarded as a titan in the Black Press, Reeves was widely respected in Miami for using his power and influence to advance the agenda of the city’s Black community. After experiencing the pain and humiliation of segregation in parks, schools and the U.S. military, Reeves grew into an uncompromising crusader who smashed racial barriers in some of the most prominent organizations in Miami and the nation.

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Retired publisher, Garth C. Reeves, Sr., of The Miami Times’, died on Monday, November 25. He was 100.

By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader

Garth C. Reeves, Sr.

Garth C. Reeves, Sr., The Miami Times’ retired publisher who became the enduring patriarch of a family newspaper dynasty after decades of fighting the political establishment and while guiding the Black community through the city’s racial problems, died on Monday, November 25. He was 100.

Regarded as a titan in the Black Press, Reeves was widely respected in Miami for using his power and influence to advance the agenda of the city’s Black community. After experiencing the pain and humiliation of segregation in parks, schools and the U.S. military, Reeves grew into an uncompromising crusader who smashed racial barriers in some of the most prominent organizations in Miami and the nation.

During his lifetime, Reeves’ newspaper got a police chief fired, ended the career of a a Miami Mayoral, supported a boycott that cost Miami Beach’s tourism industry millions, and unapologetically called riots “protests” or rebellions. He stared down Miami’s political establishment that for decades had been accused of shutting out Blacks in government as Hispanics rose to power in the city’s political and business establishments.

THE MIAMI TIMES became the “Voice of the Black Community” after publishing stories that advocated for people of color during the Civil Rights Movement. (Courtesy of the University of Florida/Miami Times Archives)

He urged his journalists to write from a Black perspective, one that saw the struggle through a different lens than white newspapers.

His newspaper career spanned at least eight decades. At the height of Reeves’ leadership, The Miami Times earned the name, “The Voice of Miami’s Black Community.” One of the last great Black publishers, Reeves’ death closes a significant chapter in The Miami Times’ illustrious history.

Reeves was born February 12, 1919 in Nassau, Bahamas. That same year, Reeves’ father, Harry Ethelbert Sigismund Reeves, moved to Miami where he founded the Magic Printing Company in Overtown, the city’s historic Black, once-thriving neighborhood near downtown. Harry Ethelbert Sigismund Reeves in 1920 founded the Miami Sun, which closed because of a paper shortage during World War I. In 1923, The Miami Times was founded. Reeves was just four years old.

Garth C. Reeves, Sr. was among many Blacks who attended Miami’s esteemed Booker T. Washington Senior High School, the city’s oldest predominately Black high school that was built when students of color were not accepted at white public schools. Black students at Booker T. were given secondhand text books and football gear that came from white schools.

THE MIAMI TIMES iconic headquarters. The newspaper moved four times before settling in Miami’s predominately Black Liberty City neighborhood.

In 1923, Harry Reeves started The Miami Times at NW 8th Street and 3rd Avenue. It would move four more times in the Overtown neighborhood. When Interstate-95 was built through Overtown, it displaced thousands of Blacks. Many fled north to the Liberty City community, where The Miami Times sits at its present location, 900 NW 54 Street.

In 1940, Reeves graduated from Florida A&M University, a major, historically Black school in Tallahassee, FL. In 1942, Reeves was drafted to serve in the Army during World War II. During an interview in 1999, Reeves recalled a trip on a train to the Pacific coast to go overseas. Despite repeated requests, a white train conductor refused to give Reeves something to eat in spite of him having meal coupons. Reeves went to the military police, who told him to do what the white conductor said, or face being locked up on the train. Reeves was forced to pay for his meal because he could not go into the segregated dining car.

Experiences like those would fuel Reeves’ passion for Black journalism’s role in exposing racial injustices while advocating for the needs of disenfranchised people of color.

After completing his service in 1946, Reeves returned to The Miami Times. By then, Blacks could not sit at segregated diners downtown. Members of the Klu Klux Klan would often parade through Miami’s bustling downtown. Parks and schools did not accept Blacks either and living conditions among Blacks worsened as slums in Overtown increased.

Reeves joined Reverend Theodore Gibson, the president of the local NAACP Chapter and began leading protests for better conditions for Blacks in Miami. Out of 28 beaches, only Virginia Key Beach was open to Blacks. On November 7, 1957, Reeves led a group of seven Black leaders to Crandon Park, a segregated white beach near Miami. Reeves and the men earlier talked to several county commissioners, saying that as taxpayers they had the right to frequent Crandon Park or any segregated beach. Wearing their bathing suits under their clothes, Reeves and the men took off their slacks and went into the water while several police officers watched. Blacks began frequenting other white beaches after the incident.

Blacks were not allowed to play at city-owned golf-courses in the 1940s. But that changed when Reeves and Gibson filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark case, Rice v. City of Miami, the Supreme Court ruled that the city could not continue accepting tax money to build and maintain golf courses while denying its use to all residents.

In an interview on the History Miami Museum website, Reeves recalled an experience he had when Dr. Martin Luther King came to Miami during the Civil Rights Movement.

“When Martin Luther King came down, I attended some of his meetings. My friend was a good friend of King’s and I used to attend meetings where he would preach to us about nonviolence. I remember talking to Martin a few times and I said, “Martin, you really believe that if I was somewhere and a white guy spat on my face, you think I would walk away from that? I said I’d try and kill that son of a b—-. He said, ‘That’s why you’ve got to try to learn to control yourself.’ I liked him.”

That was Reeves the activist.

GARTH C. REEVES, SR. in 1981 reviews the front page of The Miami Times with son Garth C. Reeves Jr., who died in 1982. (Photo Courtesy of History Miami Museum/The Miami News).

Reeves, as the publisher of The Miami Times, was just as fierce. It was the only job Reeves would have throughout his life. He worked his way up the ranks as columnist, reporter, managing editor, and editor. When Reeves’ father died in 1970, Reeves became publisher.

By then The Miami Times had established itself as the Black newspaper of record.

During the 1960s The Miami Times ran a front-page story advocating for the termination of Miami Police Chief Walter Headly, whose Stop and Frisk policy of searching Blacks lit up racial tensions in the city. Headly was eventually fired and the Times readership grew.

When four Miami police officers were acquitted in May, 1980 of killing Arthur McDuffie, a Black salesman, Blacks took to the streets. White newspapers and local television stations described it as a riot. With Reeves at the helm, The Miami Times called the incident a “protest.” When another Miami police officer was acquitted in 1993 for killing two Black motorists in Overtown, The Miami Times called the civil unrest a rebellion.

There were other highlights under Reeves’ leadership at The Miami Times.

In 1985, Mayor Maurice Ferre lost the Black vote and was defeated in his re-election bid after The Miami Times ran a series of editorials criticizing the mayor for firing Howard Gary, Miami’s first Black city manager.

In 1993, Reeves and The Miami Times published editorials and stories supporting a boycott of Miami Beach hotels that cost the tourism industry millions of dollars.

Black leaders accused county leaders of snubbing Nelson Mandela after they withdrew plans to give him a proclamation and key to the city when the anti-apartheid leader publicly expressed his support for Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro.

The National Bar Association and ACLU were among many organizations that did not bring their conventions to Miami Beach in support of the boycott.

The boycott lasted three years and cost the tourism industry between $20 to $50 million. Mandela was given an official proclamation and the hotel industry implemented programs to boost Blacks in its facilities. Miami Beach got its first Black-owned luxury hotel, the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza.

“It was important that we had a communication outlet to get our message out,” said H.T. Smith, a prominent Miami attorney who spearheaded the boycott. “The mainstream media would not give us any coverage. The Miami Times was essential to the boycott’s success. The boycott would not have been successful without The Miami Times. And our friendship grew as a result of this partnership.”

Former Miami Times executive editor Mohamad Hamaludin, who worked for 15 years at the newspaper, said, “Reeves was a fine gentleman. By the time I got to The Miami Times, he and the staff had already established it as a voice for people who didn’t have a voice.”

Reeves was the first Black to serve on the boards of the Miami-Dade College, Barry University, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way of Dade County. He also served as organizing chairman of the board for National Industrial Bank, which was the first integrated bank in the State of Florida.

While serving on many of these boards, Reeves pushed them to hire more Blacks when they were reluctant to do so. As a board member of Miami-Dade College, Reeves threatened to lead a vote to stop doing business with the school’s law firm because it resisted his calls to hire Black attorneys in its offices.

Reeves assisted Crusader Publisher Dorothy R. Leavell in bringing the NNPA Annual Convention to Gary in 1983 after Black political power gained a foothold in the Steel City.

“He believed in the Black Press very deeply,” said Leavell who first met Reeves in 1962. “Whatever he did, he was always on the right side of the battle. He remained a forward thinker to the very end. He was truly one of the last of the great Black publishers from the old school in the Black Press.”

Today, The Miami Times is the oldest and largest Black newspaper in the Southeast. For the past two years it has been named Best Black Newspaper by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which represents over 200 Black newspapers across the country. In 2011, NNPA named Reeves Publisher of the Year. In 2017, Reeves was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.

In 2017, Miami recognized Reeves with an honorary street sign at 6 Street and NW 2 Avenue near the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida where he was a board member.

Reeves was a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and a founding member of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Miami, Florida.

He was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Miami, Barry University and Florida Memorial University.

For years, Reeves had provided scholarships to aspiring journalism students at his high school alma mater, Booker T. Washington.

Reeves served for 10 years as president of the Amalgamated Publishers Inc. in New York City, which represented over one hundred African American-owned newspapers throughout the United States. He was also elected to serve two terms as president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

He retired in 1994 and assumed the role of publisher emeritus but Reeves remained active as a prominent leader in the Black community.

Reeves outlived both of his children. In 1982, Reeves’ son, Garth C. Reeves, Jr., died of colon cancer when just 30 years old. This past September, Reeves’ daughter, Rachel died at 68. His grandson, Garth Basil Reeves now heads the family newspaper dynasty at just 29.

This article originally appeared in The Chicago Crusader.

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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