South Florida

Easter In South Florida Is…Different

What’s News In This Story?


-Miami Shores celebrated its 23rd annual “Marshmallow Drop” Saturday. 

-The event saw over 1,000 people come to the community recreation field as a helicopter dropped 16,000 marshmallows. 

-While similar events happen all around the country, Miami Shores was one of the first communities that helped popularize it. It also used to be one of the largest in the country. 

-In 2005, “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” featured the Miami Shores event because of how strange they found it. 

Watch Another Story: Meet Miami’s Queen Bee And Her Backyard Insect Revolution

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Small Florida Town Comes Together To Clean Up Inactive Black Cemetery

Hobe Sound, FL is a sleepy town in Martin County where people work, play, and enjoy a quiet life.

But for over twenty years, the people of Hobe Sound lived alongside an important piece of history that they little about: an inactive cemetery hosting over twenty graves.

Down Kingsley Road, what’s informally known as Gomez Cemetery rests quietly alongside a small neighborhood.

The cemetery was part of the Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, and resided in Hobe Sound in 1910 and closed in 1991.

Captain Lloyd Jones, a retired captain of the Martin County Sheriff’s Department, has a personal connection with the cemetery.

“My father, Isiah Jones, is interred in the cemetery, and as a boy, I grew up in the same church where he attended and my mother attended,” Jones said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

The church resided in Hobe Sound until it burned down in 1992, according to a Palm Beach Post article from that time.

The church itself relocated to Jacksonville afterwards, but the cemetery stayed.

“I think at that point in time, when the church services ceased, I think that began the time when the deterioration of the cemetery began,” Jones said.

A grave at Gomez Cemetery in Hobe Sound, FL. Photo Credit: Kevin Boldenow

Black cemeteries have been historically subject to both the ravages of time and people, and Gomez Cemetery is no exception.

Photos dating back to 2007 show the graveyard surrounded by weeds and brambles, and registers display the various states of damage that some of the headstones and graves are in.

“There’s people out there,” Boldenow said. “You just don’t want to see them not have their proper respects.”

“It’s a really sad thing if you’re hearing this about other cemeteries around the country and around the state as well, but I don’t know if any of them have been in this type of disrepair,” Kevin Boldenow, a photographer who concentrates on disappearing Florida landmarks.

A local showed Boldenow Gomez Cemetery, and he took some pictures of the cemetery before an initial cleanup and posted them on social media to encourage people to become involved in Gomez Cemetery’s restoration.

Photo Credit: Allyn Farach

“There’s people out there,” Boldenow said. “You just don’t want to see them not have their proper respects.”

Regarding attempts to preserve the cemetery, Boldenow explained, “Cemeteries, they’re walking museums, they tell stories. If we let them go, if we neglect it like we have been, those stories disappear.” 

There is engagement in the restoration of the cemetery.

Pastor James Gibbons of the AME South Conference has also been involved in the cemetery’s renovation.

“There [is] other work that we also handle as conference trustees, entrusted by the Church to assert that all properties of the AME church is safeguarded and taken care of as much as possible,” Gibbons said in a phone interview.

Gomez Cemetery falls under the jurisdiction of the 11th District African Methodist Episcopal South Conference, which extends from Fort Pierce to Key West.

As a member of the Conference, Gibbons volunteered to be the coordinator of Gomez Cemetery’s cleanup.

Photo Credit: Kevin Boldenow

In Gibbons’ case, this involves working with local organizations like Keep Martin Beautiful and organizing the cleanup.

For the folks who have worked hard to cleanup the long forgotten cemetery, they do it out of duty as Rev. Patricia Wallace, vice chair of the Board of Trustees of the AME South Conference explained in a phone interview.

“We are happy to be working with Martin County and its other partners as we do the cleanup and restoration of the Gomez Cemetery property,” Wallace said. “We take pride in the work that we do on behalf of the AME church. It is our responsibility, it’s given to protect and take care of our properties, as entrusted into the hands of others on behalf of the AME church.”

Jones, the retired captain from the Martin County Sheriff’s Department vast connections around Martin County enabled him to help in the cemetery’s restoration.

There are ways that other people can help.

Call 782-781-1222 or email [email protected] to find out how to help with the cleanup of Gomez Cemetery.

Cover Photo Credit: Kevin Boldenow

LGBT In SoFlo? You Want To Live In Wilton Manors, Not Hollywood

The Human Rights Campaign released its fifth annual Municipal Equality Index, which measures the state of LGBT equality in 506 cities across the country.

The Index also measured 18 Florida cities on a series of 44 criteria that fall into five general categories.

1) Non-discrimination laws
2)Municipal employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage and non-discrimination requirements for contractors
3)Inclusiveness of city services
4)Law enforcement, including hate crimes reporting
5)Municipal leadership on matters of equality

“This year, dozens of cities across the nation showed they are willing to stand up for LGBTQ people in their communities even when some state governments are not,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “This builds on a trend we have long observed: that local governments are at the forefront of our fight for equality.”

Here is how the 18 Florida cities fared on the list. South Florida cities are bolded.

  1. Orlando- 100%
  2. St. Petersburg- 100%
  3. Wilton Manors– 100%
  4. Gainesville- 98%
  5. Tallahassee-92%
  6. Miami Shores– 91%
  7. Oakland Park- 86%
  8. Tampa- 86%
  9. Fort Lauderdale- 80%
  10. Pembroke Pines- 78%
  11. Coral Gables- 61%
  12. Hialeah- 49%
  13. Jacksonville- 49%
  14. Miami- 49%
  15. Daytona Beach- 48%
  16. Hollywood- 43%
  17. Port Saint Lucie- 30%
  18. Cape Coral- 25%

Cover Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Algae Blooms Are Making People Sick In Parts Of Florida

Algae blooms that have been making people sick have spread to Martin and St. Lucie Counties in Florida, according to WPTV.

TCPalm reports that officials in both Martin and St. Lucie County have appealed to Florida Department of Environmental Regulation to test the water, determine what type of algae is in it, and see if it’s related to blue green algae linked to Lake Okeechobee’s freshwater discharges.

Tourism could be affected by the algae blooms.

Nerissa Okiye, who is the Marketing and Tourism Director for Martin County, told WPTV that she has been fielding questions from people who had placed trips to Martin County before the algae blooms began.

She told WPTV that “When they’re seeing this, it puts a hesitancy. Do I want to go there?”

The algae has been known to cause rashes and hay fever like symptoms in people that it has come in contact with, and nausea and vomiting in people who ingest it.

In the meantime, signs have been put up advising people not to approach the algae, and affected beaches have put up red flags as to advise swimmers.

Martin County Health Department spokesperson Renay Rouse told WPTV that “It is unusual…As a precaution we wanted to get the signage out there. The big message is if you see algae avoid contact with it.”

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Cover Photo Credit: Brian Goodwin/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

41 Percent Of South Florida Millennials Still Live At Home, And That’s Ok

This story was originally published on on May 28, 2015.

By Damian Gordon

Every year that passes, there seems to be less people who are saying “hold up, let me clean my place” and instead say “hold up, let me tell my parents first”.

The sign of being well off as a young person is no longer having one’s own place; instead it’s just having a place at all.

It’s no secret that living is South Florida is more expensive than anywhere else in the state.

But here’s the thing. There’s no shame in living at home in a city that doesn’t support people of our generation.

Millennials include people born from roughly 1980 to the early 2000’s, basically meaning the age group from 15-35.

Living at home allows young adults to prepare themselves financially for later in life and lets them avoid living in debt.

However, Census Bureau data shows that millennials have acquired more student loans compared to previous generations, despite being better educated. Education costs much more than it once did.

If a boyfriend or girlfriend complains about their “roommates”, the logical question in South Florida would be to ask if that roommate also gave birth to them.

At least when living at home, you’re surrounded by longtime roommates, instead of some sketchy person met on Craigslist or a dorm assignment. There is also less to be paid for, leaving someone additional time to further their career as well as lessen any financial strain.

According to the Census Bureau, a historic 30% of today’s U.S millennials live at home with the number in South Florida being 41%.

If a boyfriend or girlfriend complains about their “roommates”, the logical question in South Florida would be to ask if that roommate also gave birth to them.

Another reason today’s younger generation is living at home is because the average earnings for the age group is lower than it’s ever been in the last 30 years, coming in at just $34,000. Payscale, reports the cost of housing in Miami is 24% higher than the national average, while the average earnings by Floridians in the age group are lower compared to the rest of nation.

During the “Great Recession” when the economy collapsed on itself, many were forced to move back in with their parents after losing their household or job. For many people coming out of college in that period, there were no jobs open to them as companies looked to cut costs.

Recently, Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University commented on the subject in a poignant interview.

“Recessions are always rough on younger people, but this one has been particularly rough. The recovery has been so slow, and it’s also been kind of slow on the labor market side of things,”Rugy said.

While the country is considered to be out of an official recession, the effects from it are still felt today. It’s ok for the younger generation to live at home because the alternative could be a constant struggle that could limit future growth and opportunities. A friend might joke about it while eating ramen noodles the other is chowing down a nice home cooked meal.

If you’re a millennial, don’t pull this article out in another 20 years to point out why you’re still living at home. Instead, be proud that countless others are going through the same thing and plan for a better tomorrow.

Cover Photo Credit: elvissa/Flickr

23% Of Cars On The Road In Hialeah Have Been Recalled And Never Fixed

Maybe you will want to even more careful when driving on the roads in South Florida from now on.

A new report from car history company Carfax says that over 2.7 million cars in Florida have at least one unfixed safety recall.

South Florida cities perform particularly bad in the study with over 23% of cars on the road in Hialeah and 21% of the cars in Miami having recalled elements that have never been fixed.

“Many people in Florida still are unnecessarily risking their lives by not staying informed or taking action when their vehicle is under a recall,” Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax said in a press release. “Millions of vehicles will likely be recalled this year, adding to the ones already with outstanding airbag recalls, ignition switch recalls, electrical system recalls and more.”

The company says that people can use one its free tools- to see if their car has been recalled.

Here are the top ten cities in Florida that have recalled parts on them that have not been fixed (we’ve italicized all the South Florida cities):

City                      Est. % of vehicles
1 Hialeah                   23%
2 Miami                     21%
3 Hollywood               19%
4 Jacksonville              19%
5 Fort Lauderdale        18%
6 Tampa                     18%
7 West Palm Beach      18%
8 Pompano Beach       18%
9 St. Petersburg         17%
10 Orlando                 17%

Cover Photo Credit: Phillip Pessar/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

How This Photographer Fights For The Environment With His Camera

Ever since he was a child, South Florida-based photographer Ben Hicks has been fascinated with the inner workings of nature. Growing up exploring the woods near his childhood home, the young Hicks learned to love being outside and observing the natural world around him.

Nowadays Hicks’ profession leads him all around the globe, channeling his passion for the environment into a career that’s spanned several continents. He’s well known for his work with waves and wildlife in particular, and readily admits over a phone interview that he has a deep affinity for aquatic landscapes.

“In general I really do enjoy going out in the water with my camera,” Hicks said. “I’ve gotten my start shooting professional surfers. I’ve traveled quite a bit around the world covering professional surfers mainly based in Florida and that’s really where I started to love shooting in the water.”

Hicks’ photography is very popular throughout South Florida, and many of his pictures feature the sunshine state’s signature wildlife as their subjects.

He acts as a brand ambassador for several different companies and his work is so well liked that numerous prints of it are often sold as phone cases and other merchandise online.

More important, however, is how Hicks utilizes his success to advocate and raise awareness for conservation causes that he’s passionate about. Sea turtles in particular are of an interest to him, with Hicks’ work often featuring them. Some of the species that he photographs throughout Florida are known for being especially vulnerable to human activity.


“As far as my conservation work. It was really just natural because I was out there seeing the [trials] that they were having to face as far as environmental efforts being done to try to help sea turtles,” Hicks said. “And there’s just so many things that are really going against sea turtles as far as beach nourishment programs, pollution, and the lighting from condos and houses that trick the orientation of the hatchlings.”

Hicks first became interested in sea turtle conservation back in 2009. He describes accompanying a marine scientist friend on a daytrip to research the reptiles, claiming that this was the catalyst which helped set in motion his advocacy work for their preservation in the first place.

“I was amazed that I could use my photos to educate people and help save sea turtles and [aid] their ability to reproduce in our area. That fascinated me, and I was amazed that people could really listen just by looking at one of my photographs,” Hicks said.

The future of Florida’s sea turtles, much like the future of many of the state’s endangered species, is inherently dependent upon factors like public perception and education.

Hicks’ passion for sea turtle conservation is made evident through his extensive photography work as well as his collaborations with various environmental organizations.

Many of his most popular pictures even feature some of Florida’s more endangered species, most notably loggerheads and leatherbacks. He hopes that documenting the life and habitats of these animals will further raise awareness to the public about their struggle and spur people to aid in their preservation.

Over the last few decades Florida’s sea turtles have faced a myriad of environmental problems. Most of these issues can be attributed to humanity’s growing ecological footprint and the turtles’ ingestion of plastic bags, something Hicks himself is concerned with.


“One of the main things with sea turtles is plastic bags, because plastic bags look like jellyfish. So [the turtles] eat the plastic bags and it goes in their stomach, and pretty much it’s a done deal once they eat one,” Hicks said. “So eliminating plastic bags is something that the U.S. is now really starting to grasp, not just for sea turtles but for many reasons.”

The future of Florida’s sea turtles, much like the future of many of the state’s endangered species, is inherently dependent upon factors like public perception and education.

Teaching people the ecological importance of these creatures and securing legislation to ensure their protection has been a difficult struggle for many activists, and even nowadays incidents still occur of turtles being harassed or threatened by locals.

When asked about any possible future projects, Hicks cited a children’s book he was planning on publishing in the next year or so, one that tells the story of sea turtle hatchlings entirely through photography. He also spoke of two upcoming exhibitions, one of them located in New York City and another in South Florida. Similar to Hicks’ other work, these endeavors will aim to emphasize the importance of wildlife conservation and environmental awareness.

“Nobody’s ever really told the story of hatchling sea turtles and how researchers are really making a strong effort to conserve their populations in the U.S. and the world with real photographs in a children’s book before,” Hicks said.

Photo Credits: Ben Hicks/ Facebook.

New Professional Club, Miami FC Announces Plan to Enhance South Florida Soccer

By Abel Iraola

While Miamians continue to be kept in the dark about David Beckham’s upcoming Major League Soccer club, a local team in the second-tier is hitting the ground running.

The Miami Football Club Miami FC was announced in May, already making strides to begin playing next April. The ownership group, led by legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini and sports media rights mogul Riccardo Silva, have made major moves to ensure success for the new club.

Last week, Miami FC announced the hiring of Alessandro Nesta as the club’s first head coach. Nesta, a renowned Italian defender like Maldini, made his name as a key player for Serie A giants Lazio and Milan before heading to Montreal for MLS. They also hired Cesar Velasco to manage the team. Velasco comes with extensive experience in sports management, serving as director of communications, marketing and community relations for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Toronto FC and most recently, FC Dallas.

On Wednesday afternoon, Velasco held a Q&A on the club’s Facebook page to address supporters directly for the first time.


Although no major announcements came from the event, the general manager hinted that the new organization is aiming to make an impact in the often sports-averse Miami scene. The club hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls of running a second-tier club in a country not yet used to following teams below the major leagues.

Issues that have troubled other teams, including broadcast rights, stadium deals and player quality and development, were addressed during the hour-long question session.

Velasco said that that the club is currently in talks with broadcasters. The “goal is to have all Miami FC matches available for our fans,” Velasco said. It is still unknown where the club will play, but they are in negotiations and expect to make an announcement in four to six weeks. FIU Stadium has been rumored to be the preferred site, and it was confirmed on Wednesday that it is among the locations currently under consideration.

Looking ahead to on-the-pitch decisions, Velasco deferred to Nesta when questioned about the expected style of play, paraphrasing the coach’s recent response to a similar question, which indicated that he prefers an attacking style, however: “As an ex defender he will make sure he will have a strong defense,” Velasco said.

The club is looking at players both at home and abroad, and plans to make its first announcements within the next few weeks. They will also hold tryouts for local footballers in November.

Maldini, Silva and Velasco are intent on not only creating a successful club, but promoting the sport of soccer in South Florida.

Velasco said that a player development system is “a key objective.” However, he did not indicate whether that means they would follow an academy model.

Asked about Beckham’s MLS side, Velasco reiterated Miami FC’s support for Maldini’s former teammate.

“We support the project of the Beckham United Group to bring a team to Miami,” Velasco said. “This is great for soccer and all fans in South Florida.”

The front office remain confident that the club will succeed, drawing fans in Miami and across South Florida by building a championship-winning team. They plan to go full-strength into the NASL season as well as the U.S. Open Cup, the country’s domestic cup competition that spans all levels of American soccer.

“We believe in Miami and we believe in Miami soccer fans. We are building a club for Miami fans to call their own and be an active part of, hence ‘one club one voice’. We are working hard to build a championship caliber team for our city.”

The NASL’s spring season begins in April 2016.

Cover Photo Credit:

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