Gov. Rick Scott signs bill to put statue of Mary McLeod Bethune in US Capitol

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed a bill that will make Daytona Beach educator and civil rights icon Mary McLeod Bethune the first black American with a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall Collection.

Scott signed 30 bills into law and his office released the list Monday night, eight days after the annual legislative session ended.

The Bethune bill (SB 472) received nearly unanimous support in the House and Senate before getting Scott’s signature.

Bethune was born in South Carolina, the daughter of former slaves, and came to Daytona Beach as a young woman, starting in 1904 a private school for black students, which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. She was active in the NAACP and served as an adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt and three other presidents, before her death in 1955.

Dr. Michelle Carter-Scott, chairwoman of the B-CU Board of Trustees, was pleased with the news.

“Today, it became official. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune will take her place in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.,” Carter-Scott said. “This reminds us that this country’s rich history is inclusive of many races and outstanding accomplishments of men and women.

“Until January 2018, the university had never elected a female chairperson of the Board of Trustees. I am honored to be the first of what I hope to be many female leaders of this board. The glass ceiling is broken. Let us take wings and soar to new heights.”

Bethune’s statue will replace a likeness of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.


Efforts to replace Smith’s statue began after nine people were killed in 2015 at a black church in Charleston, S.C., by a white supremacist, prompting a reevaluation of Confederate memorials across the country.

Lawmakers in 2016 approved replacing the Smith statue and organized a panel to recommend a replacement. Bethune was among three famed Floridians — environmental author Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix founder George Jenkins were the others — who were passed onto last year’s Legislature. But lawmakers got stuck and couldn’t agree on who to honor.

The legislation signed by Scott includes a provision that requires the Florida Department of State to retrieve the Smith sculpture and “make the statue available for public display.”

The state’s other representative in the hall is John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

The Bethune bill was sponsored by Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, Rep. Patrick Henry, D-Daytona Beach, and Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach.

B-CU plans to spearhead fund-raising efforts for the statue, whose full cost and installation is expected by state analysts to near $400,000.

The list of bills signed by Scott also included a measure that could make more permanent a controversial pregnancy “support services” program, a measure that will revamp regulations for the payday-loan industry, a plan to create a slavery memorial at the Capitol and a series of proposals dealing with health-care issues.

National Fair Housing Alliance Announces New President and CEO

Washington, D.C. - Shanna L. Smith will be retiring from her role as President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) on March 30, 2018. Ms. Smith was the first hire and established NFHA’s office in Washington, DC, in 1990 after NFHA’s incorporation in 1988. She has been dedicated to NFHA’s work for the past 30 years as a founding member and the organization’s first executive officer. During her tenure at NFHA, Ms. Smith directed the course of the organization’s programs and helped shape the national fair housing movement. Since its founding, NFHA has become the leader in developing investigative and testing methodologies to uncover systemic discrimination, including racial steering, lending and homeowners insurance redlining, unequal maintenance and marketing of REO units, inaccessible construction of multi-family housing, and failure to provide services to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

NFHA’s Board Chair, Keenya Robertson, said, “The fair housing movement as we know it today would not have been possible without Shanna’s vision. Through her leadership, NFHA has become the voice of fair housing in the United States. While Shanna will be missed, her retirement is well-deserved and her absence will be deeply felt by NFHA’s Board, staff, members, and partners.”

Looking to the future, NFHA’s Board of Directors has selected Lisa Rice, NFHA’s Executive Vice President, to be the next President and CEO.

Ms. Robertson adds, “The NFHA Board engaged in a thorough and thoughtful process with the assistance of a nonprofit strategic planning expert, Dr. Marcia Penn, and Raffa, P.C. as professional consultants to facilitate the process. To identify the desired qualifications for NFHA’s next CEO, we reviewed NFHA’s mission, vision, and strategic goals, assessed the industry’s current climate, and considered input from stakeholders and staff alike. I am confident that we made the absolute best choice in selecting Lisa. Her keen grasp of the organization’s operations and passionate commitment to the work we do perfectly positions her to lead us through a tumultuous time for fair housing and civil rights.” Ms. Rice will assume her role as President and CEO on April 2, 2018.

For the past 25 years, Ms. Rice has been committed to managing and leading fair housing organizations and has advocated for NFHA’s mission of ending housing discrimination and ensuring equal housing opportunities for all people. She has helped lead teams that have investigated, brought, and resolved precedent-setting fair housing cases resulting in the elimination of systemic discriminatory practices in the areas of lending, appraisals, insurance, rental, and real estate.

Ms. Smith stated, “Lisa is the very best person to lead NFHA and to develop creative ways to challenge the new technologies that foster discrimination and perpetuate segregation. The companies creating algorithms to select tenants and price apartments or to establish insurance premiums or interest rates for loans will be forced to look at the fair housing implications of their policies. The discriminatory impact of such systems will be exposed as Lisa leads the organization in combatting these and other inequities.” 

In accepting the position, Ms. Rice said, “I am excited about this new chapter. We still have challenging issues to address: America’s discriminatory dual credit market, resurgent redlining practices, sexual harassment by unscrupulous landlords, and discrimination against those who have a criminal record, to name a few. My goal is to help lead this wonderful organization and build upon NFHA’s great foundation as we tackle these complex issues. The NFHA staff is an amazingly dedicated group of people, and I am so pleased to continue my work with them to help the millions of people who need our assistance.”

In her 11+ years at NFHA, Ms. Rice has worked extensively to advance fair housing principles and to preserve and broaden fair housing protections, expanding equal housing opportunities for millions of Americans. She played a major role in crafting sections of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and in establishing the Office of Fair Lending within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Ms. Rice is leading NFHA’s commemoration of the 2018 Fair Housing Act 50th Anniversary which includes building an Advisory Council of key leaders in civil rights, public service, and housing as well as organizing an 18-month slate of events and activities to mark this important milestone.

Prior to working at NFHA, Ms. Rice served as the CEO of the Toledo Fair Housing Center where she generated a reserve fund of over $10 million for the organization. Recognizing the need for funds to help Toledo homebuyers, she established the Northwest Ohio Development Agency, a community development financial institution that provides below-market interest loans, grants, and financial services to historically under-served markets. She also developed and implemented Restoring the Dream, the State of Ohio’s first anti-predatory lending remediation program. Under the program, hundreds of consumers victimized by predatory lending practices were refinanced into affordable, sustainable prime loans or received loan modifications to help them avoid foreclosure. 

Ms. Rice is a published author, having contributed to several books and journals on a range of fair housing issues, including a chapter entitled “The Fair Housing Act: A Tool for Expanding Access to Quality Credit” in the book honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act: The Fight for Fair Housing: Causes, Consequences, and Future Implications of the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act (Squires, ed., 2018).

Reflecting on the leadership transition at NFHA, Ms. Rice said, “I have no words to express how much Shanna’s mentorship and friendship have meant to me. I could not have asked for a better boss, and the fair housing community could not have asked for a better leader. NFHA has established a tremendous legacy under Shanna’s direction, and we have come a long way since she helped start the agency 30 years ago. Her vision and tenacity have elevated fair housing issues at the national and local levels and helped to make ‘fair housing’ a household word.”

The National Fair Housing Alliance

Founded in 1988, the National Fair Housing Alliance is a consortium of more than 220 private, non-profit fair housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies, and individuals from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the National Fair Housing Alliance, through comprehensive education, advocacy, and enforcement programs, provides equal access to apartments, houses, mortgage loans, and insurance policies for all residents in the nation.


GlobalJax Welcomes FCHR to Jacksonville—by Commissioner Rebecca Steele

FCHR staff, General Counsel Cheyanne Costilla and Employment Investigator Manager Brook Yurgel joined Commissioners Latanya Peterson and Rebecca Steele in Jacksonville to meet with a delegation from Armenia. The meeting was requested by GlobalJax, an organization who works the US Department of State on significant global outreach initiatives related to human rights.

The Armenian delegation included Chief of Staff, Council of Justice; Deputy Prosecutor, Administrative Districts; Head of Judicial Department; Judge, Criminal Court of Appeal; and Chair of International & European Law of Russian-Armenian University. These representatives from judicial and law enforcement fields are engaged in a project focused on Whistleblower Protections, based on new legislation recently passed at the national level in Armenia.

The delegation wanted to learn about the importance of whistleblowing and whistleblower protection, as well as, organizational culture in the US at the federal, state and municipal levels. During their three-week travel schedule, the delegation has spent time in Washington DC, meeting with the DOJ, Inspector General's Office, and officials at Georgetown Law and American University Law. Additionally, the team has met with the United Nations Anti-Corruption Committee.

During Tuesday's meeting with the FCHR, the focus was at the state level, specifically discussing Florida's Whistleblower legislation and retaliation protection. The team also shared the role of the Commission and the process in place for complaints of retaliation. In addition, we provided the broader scope of the Commission, emphasizing the various discrimination protections in place.

The Armenian delegation was most interested in how to influence culture to accept whistleblowing as a "positive," and how to best engage in proactive education and communication to do so. We shared some lessons learned, those aspects that work well and also challenges still faced.

Even speaking mainly through interpreters, the FCHR representatives felt they had a productive dialogue and left with greater understanding. The Armenian delegates asked if they could reach back out to the Commission as they continue to implement the rules and processes that will guide their new Whistleblower legislation. They were assured that the Commission welcomes this and would be more than happy to provide any additional support. The Delegation next heads to Dallas to meet with state officials there before returning to Armenia later this week.

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