Note to African-American tourists who showed up in Miami for Memorial Day weekend: Next year, book your four-day vacation in Myrtle Beach, Nassau, or Cancun, where your tourism dollars will be appreciated. Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower and the city commissioners have certainly made it clear that they don't you back. In response to last year's police shooting of an unarmed man and several innocent bystanders, the politicians turned Miami Beach into a three-day police state.
Of course, the enormous police presence was just a show to make the residents feel safer. But it created even more racial tension in a city with a history of excluding people of color.
Miami Beach doesn't roll out the red carpet for African-American visitors as it does for those who attend the boat show, Art Basel, and the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Instead, black people are greeted by thousands of cops, paddy wagons, police watchtowers, DUI checkpoints, cameras scanning their license plates, and a healthy dose of racial profiling.
It's no wonder some African-Americans stayed away from Miami Beach this time around. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau projected Miami Beach hotels were only 76, 77, and 72 percent full Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, compared with 82, 90, and 85 percent during the same three-day period last year.
Earlier this year, I met with Bower and told her the city needed to take ownership of Memorial Day weekend with an organized event -- maybe something like the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, which offers a mix of hip-hop, R&B, and jazz. She ignored my advice and locked down the city.
Now I understand that residents leave town and some businesses don't make money when the crowds descend on the city for Memorial Day, but the city is pitting people against each other by creating all this tension. I certainly don't want residents to feel they have to leave their homes. I want us to work together to put on an event that we all can be proud of.
It's time for Bower to bring blacks and Miami Beach residents together with a host committee that will work on making Memorial Day weekend special for everybody.