FL lawmaker: ‘There’s a lot of excitement’ in Caribbean communities over Kamala Harris

By: - August 17, 2020 6:49 pm

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, of Central Florida. Credit: Screenshot from 2020 Democratic National Convention’s website.

The Caribbean community in Florida may be motivated to vote blue now that Joe Biden has picked a running mate whose father was born in Jamaica, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Central Florida said Monday at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice-presidential pick, is a Black woman but has faced controversy over her identity, mostly from Republicans disputing her classification as an African American woman.

“There’s a lot of excitement for [Kamala Harris] among all of our Caribbean communities, given her Jamaican heritage,” Soto said in a virtual meeting, part of a series of events during the convention this week.

The Hispanic Caucus hosted several virtual events Monday, addressing issues in Latinx communities nationwide, such as disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infections, and how Latinx people have been working essential jobs that put them more at risk.

The Florida Phoenix is following events related to Florida’s delegation at the convention, and covered the two-hour Hispanic Caucus meeting, which also featured performances by music artists in a virtual setting.

Events included a panel discussion about how the Caribbean communities will play an important role in the November election and key concerns among Caribbean people in Florida. The discussion was led by Soto and Laura Jimenez, the Latino engagement director for former Vice President Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

During that discussion, Soto mentioned Harris’ Caribbean heritage as a key factor to “mobilize our communities” to come out and vote for Democrats but it’s important to get them registered to vote, Soto said.

According to a New York Times report, Harris’ mother emigrated from India and father emigrated from Jamaica.

“That’s going to help out a lot. She can speak from those immigrant experiences; she is the product of the hard work and the great journeys that her Jamaican father and her Indian mother had to undertake to give her the American dream,” Soto said.

“Florida’s Caribbean community and central Florida’s Caribbean community will play a critical role in helping turn Florida blue in electing Vice President Biden as the next president of the United States.”

Recent data from the Florida Division of Elections show the total number of registered voters by race, including 8.62 million whites; 2.37 million Hispanics; 1.87 million Blacks; almost 86,000 multi-racial voters and about 281,000 Asian or Pacific Islanders.

He added that Central Florida is home to a “very diverse Caribbean Diaspora community” in need of “greater access to health care.” Affordable housing is also a major issue in the Caribbean community in Florida.

“We have Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans, Haitians, Cubans…among others,” Soto said. “We have an international market. People are coming in from all over the world to buy houses in Central Florida.”

The week’s events at the Democratic convention also include a speaking engagement by Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Fried, the only Democrat among Florida’s elected Cabinet officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis, will join a group of Democratic rising stars to deliver a joint keynote address Tuesday about the Democratic Party’s vision for America, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.