The woman who made this also had a boot cast; she had broken her toe. We instantly bonded! She is an artist who works in mosaics and jewelry.
I typically don't like getting into politics, but when my friend Brad told me about the 100 Days of Obama event at Kafa Café in midtown Miami, I was more than happy to attend.
The event was free and a delicious Ethiopian food buffet, as well as drinks, were available at modest prices. Elastic Bond, a great local band, entertained us and Progressive Rags sold Obama merchandise.
Several non-profits were present to create awareness. They weren't after money; they were seeking a commitment of time. About 100 people attended the event and 265 hours of community service were pledged.
Ani Mercedes, an elementary school teacher who volunteered during the Obama election campaign, organized the event.
When I asked her if there was something special about getting politically involved in Miami, her answer was a resounding yes. "There is something special. We had a lot of field organizers creating connections in areas that were small, but extremely well organized," Ani explained. "That wasn't the case in other regions of Florida."
"After the campaign there were a lot of people looking for direction," Ani said. "There was so much energy left over."
All that energy, Ani believes, could be directed to continued efforts in volunteerism: "The organizations at the event have a sustainable, long-term impact on the community."
Here's a list of the organizations and causes that were present (the list and descriptions compiled from Ani's follow-up email):
ECOMB: Working towards the sustainability of our community’s natural environment.
Miami Workers Center: Working towards welfare reform, affordable housing, tenants and voter rights, racial justice, gentrification and economic development, and fair trade.
North Beach for Progress: Working toward the fair districting of Florida.
StandUp for Kids: Working to get homeless and runaway teens off the streets and into safe homes.
One.org: Working to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa.
I'm very happy to see people like Ani, Brad and all the others representing their non-profits, working hard to make a difference. In my work as a forum editor at Miami Beach 411, I come across people who criticize Miami as a place without culture, full of a bunch of hedonistic, uneducated slobs who only care about fancy cars and who don't speak proper English.
Honestly, such criticism says more about the people doling it out than the city itself. It makes me wonder what circle they're hanging out in ... because it's certainly not mine and that of so many talented and smart people I know in Miami who are devoted to making this community a better place.
Volunteering is a great way to have a direct impact on your city, even if you aren't into politics. And besides, single ladies (and guys!) it's a GREAT way to make new friends.
Are you interested in getting involved? Check out the organizations above or visit Hands on Miami and Imagine Miami.
We've also been discussing volunteerism over at Miami Beach 411.