Ken Russell: How This Yo-Yo Champ Plans To Be One Of Miami’s Next Congressmen

What’s News In This Story?

-Ken Russell is a City of Miami Commissioner who is one of the leading Democratic candidates for Congress in the 27th District. 

-The seat is currently held by retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the district by nearly 20 points and is considered one of the most likely Democratic pick ups in the 2018 Midterms. 

-Russell has been on the City Commission since he ran in 2015. He ran after getting angry about the city’s response to a toxic park near his house. On the commission, he has been a reliably progressive voice. 

-Russell used to be a professional yo-yo player and he traveled the world as an ambassador for the sport. He also ran a kiteboarding company before getting into politics. 


This story is part of a series on the 27th Congressional District race.


David Richardson Would Be The First Gay Congressman Ever Elected From The South. Will He Also Be Trump’s Nightmare?

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These Miami Kids Walked Out Of Class To Send Marco Rubio And The NRA A Message

Miami Shores isn’t normally known for its political activism. But students at Miami Country Day School poured out of class and marched to a nearby park in order to send a message to the gun lobby.

Let’s just say that they didn’t hold back.


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FL School District Says It Will “Expel” Students Who Walk Out Of Class To Protest

While more than 30 South Florida schools walked out to protest America’s gun laws on Wednesday, one Florida school district was not prepared to let its students do the same.

The Levy County School board said that they would expel students who participated in the National Student Walkout on Wednesday.

The statement came in a Facebook post made on the official school board page.

“While students have a first amendment right of freedom of speech it cannot be done so in a manner that is disruptive to the school environment,” The official school board communication said. “We cannot have students just leaving campus without the proper checkout procedures being followed.”

Thousands of students in South Florida walked out from their schools to protest what they perceive as America’s weak gun laws.

READ MORE: Live Coverage-South Florida Students Walk Out En Masse To Demand Gun Control Changes

In some cases in South Florida, schools let their students out early to facilitate their right to protest.

The Coral Springs Police Department even deployed officers to keep students safe while protesting near busy streets.

The walk out movement has sprung up in the aftermath of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last week.

Despite an incredible upswing in youth activism since the shooting, the Levy County School Board seems unmoved.

The Miami Monster called the Levy County School Board for comment but no one was available to speak to us in an official capacity.

The person who answered the phone said that students would be able to participate in a walkout, but only if a parent signed them out of school to do so.

“We do encourage supporting keeping our schools and campuses safe and encourage students to make their voices heard to policy makers,” The statement on the Facebook page reads. “I encourage you to encourage them to make sure that their opinions and voices are heard in a positive manner.”

Levy County School Board posted the controversial statement to its official Facebook page.

The statement then went on to cite the official board policy:

“Any student who participates in a boycott, walkout, sit-in, strike, or any similar
disruptive action which interferes with the orderly operation of the school shall be
deemed guilty of serious misconduct and shall be subject to suspension or
expulsion from school.”

Levy County is located in Northwest Florida and is one of Florida’s smallest and most conservative voting counties.

The School Board oversees 12 schools in total and serves a population of just over 40,000 people.

Over 70% of the county voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

So what do you think? Should students run the risk of being punished for walking out of school to protest America’s gun laws? Tell us in the comments. 

Cover Photo Credit: @karlarosario10/ Twitter


This story is from The Miami Monster, a new brand focused on telling the true stories of what life is like for a young person living in South Florida. Be sure to also follow our founder Joel Franco on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest breaking news in the area.  You can send news tips to editor@risenews.net. 

Andrew Gillum: The Pro-Weed Progressive Mayor Who May Be Florida’s Next Governor

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Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it on in to editor@risenews.net.

Watch Another Story:

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David Richardson Would Be The First Gay Congressman Ever Elected From The South. Will He Also Be Trump’s Nightmare?

What’s News With This Story: 

–Florida State Rep. David Richardson is a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s open 27th District Congressional race.

-The district is currently represented by retiring Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. While Ros-Lehtinen has represented the district for over 30 years, it is Democratic leaning. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the district by nearly 20 points in 2016. 

-Many national Republicans are concerned that the race is a lost cause. The GOP has had a hard time finding top-tier candidates to run while Democrats have 6 candidates who have raised over $200,000. (Some of the other contenders include former federal judge Mary Barzee-Flores, former Knight Foundation official Matt Haggman, state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell. 

-Richardson has raised over $1 million for his effort and is considered one of the more viable contenders in the race. 

–Elected to the Florida House in 2012, Richardson became the first openly gay person ever elected to the Florida Legislature.

–A retired forensic auditor, Richardson made a splash in Tallahassee with his efforts to reform the state jail system. He was particularly focused on the way the state treated youthful offenders.

-He has spent over 800 hours personally inspecting state prisons by using a little known law that allows state lawmakers to show up to prisons unannounced. His efforts led to the closure of Lancaster Correctional Institution in Gilchrist County. 

-In an interview with RISE NEWS, Richardson said that he would be a progressive leader in Congress. He said that he would push for increased gun control measures including an assault weapons ban, work towards making the United States have a single payer healthcare system and roll back charter schools while defending “traditional” public schools. 

-Richardson also told us that he would push to impeach President Trump in Congress. He said that his skills as a forensic auditor would come in handy during impeachment proceedings. 


WATCH: David Richardson on how he wants to go after President Trump in Congress. 

WATCH: David Richardson on the issues. 

RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital news magazine. Follow us on Facebook to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it on in to editor@risenews.net.

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Can This Millennial Lawyer Be Florida’s First Democratic Attorney General In 17 years?

NY Times Op-Ed Suggets Sunny Isles Beach Russians Could Be Key To Mueller Investigation

What’s News With This Story: 

– In a much talked about op-ed in the New York Times, the founders of Fusion GPS defended their investigation into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign. 

-The founders of the research firm and authors of the piece, Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch pushed back against what they saw as Congressional Republican efforts to “chase rabbits” instead of going after the “bear”- President Donald Trump. 

–They said that in Congressional testimony, they informed members of Congress that they were concerned by the level of Russian involvement in the election. 

-Here’s the point that should draw attention to those in South Florida: “We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.”

–Sunny Isles Beach has become an area in recent years where scores of Russian families live. 

–There is also the Trump International Beach Resort located in Sunny Isles Beach. 

Read Another Story:

This Millennial Haitian-American Activist Is Not Backing Down From A Fight With Trump

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Cover Photo Credit: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

This Millennial Haitian-American Activist Is Not Backing Down From A Fight With Trump

What’s New With This Story: 

Francesca Menes is a rising star in Florida politics. 

-She was recently named as the Treasurer for the Florida Democratic Party and has long been an immigration rights activist.

-Her well run campaign for Florida House District 108 has some wondering what her political future is, but she hasn’t figured that out yet. 

A nine-year career and numerous accolades including the Miami Herald’s “20 Under 40 Emerging Leaders in South Florida” award, already follow 32-year-old Haitian-American activist Francesca Menes.

And after a strong but ultimately unsuccessful campaign for State Representative in District 108 last year, many in local political circles are wondering what the future is for the millennial leader.

Born to Haitian immigrants in Miami, Menes saw from a young age what public involvement can do for the causes that she cared about. 

“One of the first protests that my mother took me to that I can remember was when the coup happened in Haiti for Aristide,” Menes said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “Fifty-Fourth street was shut down with hundreds and thousands of Haitians, who were basically singing in the street ‘democracy, democracy for Haiti.’”

Growing up in Miami, though, Menes remembers not interacting with other groups besides her fellow Haitian-Americans.

She said that Miami, despite being a melting pot of many cultures, is still segregated — Cuban-Americans are in Little Havana and Haitian-Americans are in Little Haiti.

That’s something she has always tried to change.

First at Edison Senior High School in Miami, and after her family moved to Kansas City, the Central Classical Greek and Computers Unlimited Magnet High School, Menes was involved in debate and remembers learning about and debating many different issues.

“That is what helped solidified me in many ways was seeing how we can debate both sides of an issue, and actually try to push something for our communities,” Menes said. 

That appreciation for debate continued at Florida International University where Menes became involved in on-campus progressive groups.

The child of Haitian immigrants, Menes views the issue as a calling for herself.

“Being in college, I was part of that radical feminist group that just wanted to shut everything down,” Menes said. “We weren’t happy with the way FIU was operating, how they were completely out of loop, and how conservative the university was.”

After graduating from FIU in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies with a minor in philosophy, Menes served two years through AmeriCorps in the Public Allies program at Catalyst Miami, which according to Menes’ website “focuses on developing the next generation of leaders who are committed to long-term social change.”

Immigration law and enforcement is now an issue at the forefront of American public discourse, and President Donald Trump has made it one of his priorities.

The Trump Administration recently announced that it would be ending Temporary Protected Status for nearly 60,000 Haitians who currently live in the United States.

That means that those people will either have to fix their immigration status by July 2019 or risk deportation.

The child of Haitian immigrants, Menes views the issue as a calling for herself.

She has worked as the Policy and Advocacy Director for the Florida Immigration Coalition for multiple years. In that role, she helped push the state legislature to grant in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. 

Menes has certainly caught the eye of more established members of the Haitian-American political firmament.

“It is always amazing to me because, and I saw this working in Tallahassee, there is this conservative wing that is like ‘small government is better.’ And the more power that is at the local level the better,” Menes said. “What I learned over time is that it benefits them. If you are going to protect your communities and we [the Trump Administration] don’t like the way you are going to protect them, we are going to take away the ways to protect them, and that is basically what Trump attempted to do even though it was challenged over and over in the courts.”

While she may sound like a candidate, Menes is currently not considering running for office.  

Menes said that it was members of her community who pushed her to run in 2016 for the Florida House of Representatives in District 108 (an area that includes Little Haiti, Liberty City, Miami Shores, and large parts of North Miami).

She ultimately lost to Roy Hardemon in the seven-way Democratic primary.

In the aftermath of her strong electoral showing and the decimation of the Florida Democratic Party in 2016, Menes was picked to be the Treasurer for the state party.

“At the moment I do not have a yes or no answer [whether or not I am going to run for office again] because when I decided to run it wasn’t me it was a community that asked me to run, and I had that support system behind me to know that I wasn’t going into this alone,” Menes said.

But Menes has certainly caught the eye of more established members of the Haitian-American political firmament.

Marleine Bastien, the executive director of  FANM, whose mission, according to their website is to “empower Haitian women and their families socially, politically and facilitate their adjustments to South Florida,” recommended Menes for the Miami Herald’s “20 Under 40 Emerging Leaders in South Florida” because of her hard work and dedication to helping all immigrants.

“Her work has benefited immigrants in general, especially what she had done at FLIC,” Bastien said in a piece published by the Herald. “Anti-immigration laws have been defeated in Tallahassee because of her no nonsense leadership, and hard work. ”

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EXCLUSIVE: Senator Tried To Use Connection To FPL Lobbyist To Get Power On For Her Family Post Irma

One day after Hurricane Irma hit South Florida, Sen. Daphne Campbell tried to use her connections to get power turned on for her family. Meanwhile, millions sat in the dark.

Mr. President, My Mother Is Not A “Welfare Queen”

Over the course of American history, politicians have adopted a clever, yet nefarious way of using racial stereotypes as a tool for political gain.

From the War on Drugs that frames black men as “criminals” to the emergence of the so called “welfare queen,” history has shown us that framing particularly disadvantaged groups as “dangerous” or “unworthy” enables politicians to gain political support from the public, particularly white middle and low-class Americans.

If I had to sum up, in two words, the United States’ racial marginalization of the poor and financially dependent, “welfare queen” is as good and as bad as it gets.

The myth of the welfare queen is still a prominent weapon used today in U.S politics that tends to go unnoticed.

The U.S political system has maintained these false ideas about marginalized people in our society by reducing them to a second class citizen status and enacting discriminatory policies that perpetuate durable systems of injustice within our democracy.

The legacy of legal discrimination persists in our society today as low-income mother’s struggle to gain and maintain financial benefits from the government.

The burden of the welfare queen has become one of the most cutting stereotypes that plagues families across the United States.

It hurts because it has worked in changing policy.

The birth of this political myth emerged after the criminalization of Linda Taylor, an African American woman, who quickly became the embodiment of a pernicious stereotype after being sentenced to prison for welfare fraud in 1977.

Ronald Reagan gave a speech in his unsuccessful 1976 campaign for president that managed to frame poor African American and Latina mothers as “users of the system” without any concrete evidence other than the act of a single woman.

“She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

One woman who cheated the system evidently became the face of all welfare recipients, despite the fact that white families, typically, have been more likely to be on welfare.

Although it is not entirely clear all of which she fraudulated, Reagan’s intent became less about exposing the ways in which “liberal policies” had fractured the economy and more about turning the white American majority against minorities as a tool for political gain.

You can thank Reagan. Photo Credit: kate gabrielle

Reagan’s attack on welfare suggested that programs such as these, paid by tax dollars, only aided irresponsible black people.

Using the story of Linda Taylor, Reagan labeled millions of America’s poorest people as “deceitful” and funneled the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be terminated.

This image of widespread and unbridled welfare fraud allowed Reagan to convince voters to support his cuts to public assistance spending.

This was not the first instance that an American politician used self serving tactics to turn the public against the poor and displaced.

Much like the coined term “American Negro” the welfare queen became a convenient target for hate by simply framing Linda Taylor as the stereotypical lazy, black con artist.

Despite the fact that Reagan gave Taylor the most critical identity, the welfare queen stemmed from a longer and much deeper racialized history of prejudice and animosity toward families receiving welfare benefits in the United States.

This inequitable idea of the “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor” became a political weapon that Reagan introduced into U.S politics that his forerunners would all sustain.

Today, over 20 years after the implementation of Bill Clinton era welfare reform, the unwarranted stigma against poor women of color remains.

This telling of the “welfare queen” as users of the system continues to influence public policy by distinguishing between those who are “deserving” of support and those who are not.

President Donald Trump’s administrative budget cuts are now putting Americans on edge, especially those who rely heavily on public assistance programs.

Trump’s budget will potentially force millions of poor people off of food stamps and benefit programs such as Medicaid.

A recent article from Time Magazine states:

Cuts include a whopping $193 billion from food stamps over the coming decade — a cut of more than 25 per cent — implemented by cutting back eligibility and imposing additional work requirements, according to talking points circulated by the White House. The program presently serves about 42 million people.

Among these 42 million people, is my own mother, a 59 year old, single Latina mother suffering from chronic kidney disease, who directly relies on welfare benefits.

Being raised by a single mother on public assistance has allotted me with a perspective that a majority of politicians and policy makers could never understand.

It is clear that public policy continues to reflect the interests of the elite rather than the needs of the poor.

Such conditions only further the economic and racial divide in the U.S and perpetuates existing stereotypes about families and women receiving government assistance.

Although my mother has been on welfare my whole life, she is not your stereotypical “welfare queen.”

She is not Linda Taylor nor is she a “user of the system.”

My mother is a woman who managed to raise six children on her own with the little help she did receive from programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Yet, our story will remain under the scrutiny of those who may have never had to step foot in a welfare office.

Ending the myth of the welfare queen within public policy means acknowledging how we manifest these stereotypes in our everyday lives.

It means recognizing that one person’s mistake cannot suddenly be the burden of others that look like them.

For far too long, our society has reduced people of color to a second class citizen status, resulting in the unremitting struggle to overcome the burden of such baseless conclusions.

We must overcome this myth by restructuring and developing policy around families as they are—not who society deems them to be.

Rather than stigmatizing recipients of public assistance programs, the government must strengthen the ways in which these programs respond to critical social and economic needs.

Even more so, we must acknowledge how failure to reconcile the racial discrimination of our nation’s past infringes our ability to ensure that all Americans have the dignity they deserve in the present.

We can fight against this stigma by advocating for the full participation of all Americans our society and the economy.

Instead of dwelling on individual failures or mistakes, we should be asking ourselves how we got here and how we can move towards a more equitable society.

RISE NEWS is a news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

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Cover photo credit: U.S. Army



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