Updated: Apr 26, 2022
By CyNedra Blake
If you truly know the Glades, you understand the sense of pride our community holds for this region of Florida. The Glades is home to rich, plentiful soil that cultivates and produces many agricultural commodities that support our local communities and feed the nation.
Comprised of Hendry and Palm Beach County, the Glades celebrates and supports agriculture every day. Some of our biggest events of the year, the Black Gold Jubilee and the Clewiston Sugar Festival, are centered around the rich muck that exists in our region.
If you truly knew the Glades, you would understand our muck is something we are proud of.
Unfortunately, many do not know our community or understand our stories. Nor do they want to learn about our lives. Instead, they misuse our community for an eye-catching headline or viral sound bite.
They use the Glades as clickbait for environmental issues. For almost three years, our residents have been overwhelmed by the media asking about sugarcane burning.
These claims are hurtful not only to our community but to the people who live here. Our children, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons and grandparents are impacted. It pains generations of families.
The Glades is where we work during the day and rest our heads at night, this is our home. It is my hope that we can put these actions to rest. We matter. Our voices matter.
No community is perfect. We all have flaws. But the people of the Glades are tired of the continual disrespect for our home. We stand tall on agriculture and while we acknowledge the room for improvement, we cannot remain silent.
Instead of addressing real community needs like affordable housing, workforce development and increased access to healthcare, special interests brought a legal case against our community. These groups were focused on destroying a critical commodity that is the livelihood for many families.
After reviewing evidence of good air quality data and the countless stories of our local citizens, ministers, elected officials and farmers, the lawsuit was ultimately dropped. We were relieved to see our voices prevail.
The case was dismissed as the lawsuit had lacked evidence and was brought “with prejudice.” While this means they cannot retry the case, the damage had been done. This case wrongly wrote a prejudiced narrative that attempted to define our home and who we are.
Now that the case is over, we will continue our stories through the Voices of the Glades and other platforms. The Voices of the Glades is an online space that brings real, authentic and good stories of the community through real people. The online platform informs and addresses regional concerns and promotes community accomplishments.
The Glades is a farming region that is unlike any other in the state or the nation. Our soil is as rich as our culture.
We have never been interested in being clickbait. We are interested in keeping things real. Through the Voices of the Glades, we will speak about our livelihood, how we interact in our community, with each other, on our own accounts.
Despite the hardships we’ve faced from attacks by special interests, their spiteful actions have only made us stronger. Our community is special because it is filled with love and support and great opportunity. We are here to stay. We will share our love for the Glades.
But we cannot do it alone. Together, our voices are stronger to silence prejudice. Together we will rise.
Blake is a resident of South Bay and serves as a board member of the Voices of the Glades.