Decades of Leadership Honored.

3rd Annual Black History Month Essay Contest in Honor of Garth C. Reeves, Sr.

Breakthrough Miami announced winners of its 3rd Annual Black History Month Essay Contest. The contest, established to honor Garth C. Reeves Sr., publisher emeritus of one of the oldest black-owned media companies in South Florida, recognized the research and literary efforts of nine (9) Breakthrough Scholars.

Scholars in elementary, middle, and high school developed and presented compelling narratives about Black women in Florida who impacted their community, inspired generations of people, and helped shape our great state through exceptional leadership. A diverse collection of essays submitted highlighted many well-known Black women and the contributions of others whose stories are seldom told, including the late Legislator Gwen Cherry, entrepreneur Felecia Hatcher, the late Congresswoman Carrie Meek, the late educator Mary McLeod Bethune, author Zora Neale Hurston, and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

Breakthrough Miami’s CEO Lori-Ann M. Cox, reflected on the significance of this program, “It’s invaluable for our young people to learn from and be inspired by leaders whose acts of courage and innovation have positively shaped South Florida.”

The event included networking, a gallery showcase of essays, and a ceremonious announcement of winners. Complementing Breakthrough Miami’s students-teaching-students model, the 2021 Essay Contest awardees announced the 2022 winners. The student presenters were joined by Breakthrough Miami CEO Lori-Ann Cox and Director of Student Achievement Webber J. Charles. Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, LLC (Coke Florida), the local independent Coca-Cola bottler, generously donated laptops to first, second, and third place winners in each category (elementary, middle, high school). Additionally, the first-place winner in each category (elementary, middle, and high school) received a $100 gift card.

“We are proud to partner with Breakthrough Miami again this year during Black History Month,” shared Coke Florida’s Carlos Diaz-Granados, Territory General Manager for Miami-Dade. “Coca-Cola Beverages Florida is the largest black-owned business in Florida and the fourth largest in the United States. Supporting educational programs like this and providing technology resources to local students in the communities we serve is what we’re all about.”

Garth C. Reeves, Sr., in the publishing world and ultimately his founding of the Miami Times, gave voice to countless stories otherwise untold. Throughout his life, until he passed away in late 2019 at 100 years old, Reeves maintained a personal and professional mission to speak truth through the power and reach of media in South Florida. The sentiments of Breakthrough Scholars in their essay entries revealed resonating themes of perseverance, hard work, and justice—greatly reflecting Reeves’ life-long practices and vision.

Breakthrough Miami is honored to have Regina Jolivette-Frazier, Reeves’ niece, is a long-standing member of the executive committee of its board of directors.


We are pleased to announce the winners in each category.

Elementary School Winners:
Izaiah Afflick, Grade 5
Shadowlawn Elementary
1st. Place – Esther Rolle “When Black Women Lead, We All Win”

Kaitlyn Burse, Grade 5
Lorah Park Elementary School
2nd. Place – Mary McLeod Bethune “When Black Women Lead, We All Win

Jayden Santana, Grade 5
Whispering Pines Elementary School
3rd. Place – Mary McLeod Bethune…Women’s Voice
Middle School Winners:
Nathan Samuel, Grade 7
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School
1st. Place – Felecia Hatcher Moves the World

Cheyenne Santana, Grade 6
Herbert A. Ammons Middle School
2nd Place – Mary McLeod Bethune “The Black Leadership”

Sheila Fernandez, Grade 8
South Miami Middle School
3rd Place – Dr. Tina Carroll Scott “My Doctor, My Hero”

High School Winners: 
Evodie Alvarez, Grade 12
School for Advanced Studies North Campus
1st. Place – Esther Rolle “The Symbol of Power: Black Women and Their Impact”

Bradshyr Mortimer, Grade 11 
MAST Academy
2nd Place – Roxie Roker “Power of Empathy”

Gaelle Supplice, Grade 10
Coral Reef Senior High School
3rd Place – Patricia Stephens Due “When Black Women Lead, We All Win”

The essay contest was established to honor Dr. Reeves, publisher emeritus of The Miami Times, who passed away at 100 in late 2019. As the only job he had, aside from serving in the Army during World War II, Reeves’ energy in running the landmark black-owned paper would impact the lives of countless families in South Florida. He’d found his life’s calling — to serve as a voice for the black community. He knew no better job. Reeves, who oversaw the black-owned paper his father initially printed one page at a time on a small hand press in a modest Miami home upon its founding in 1923, and who kept it in the family as it evolved into its digital edition today, died two months after his daughter, Rachel, passed. She was the publisher of The Miami Times, assuming the mantle of leadership from her father and grandfather. (Miami Herald, November 2019) Breakthrough Miami is proud to have Regina Jolivette-Frazier, Reeves’ niece, as a long standing member of the executive committee of our board of directors.

Garth C. Reeves, Sr. is a tall tree in the forest in which his community sought salvage from the elements. His work in the publishing world and ultimately his founding of the Miami Times gave voice to countless stories otherwise untold. What’s reflected in the sentiments of our scholars in their essay entries is a resonating theme of perseverance, hard work, and justice, similar themes found in the ethos of Breakthrough Miami programming. Our scholars did a wonderful job making the connection between the lessons learned from researching their chosen pioneers and what they continue to learn as Breakthrough Miami scholars. Below, are a few excerpts from our winning essays that demonstrate just that.

Winning Essays

Esther Rolle - The Symbol of Power: Black Women and Their Impact” - Evodie Alvarez, Grade 12, First place

Esther Rolle – The Symbol of Power: Black Women and Their Impact – Evodie Alvarez, Grade 12, First place

Esther Rolle – The Symbol of Power: Black Women and Their Impact

Throughout history, the arts have been an integral aspect of all cultures. From ancient China to even more ancient Greece, creative expression has influenced all facets of society. Presently, the media has taken that influence and spread it to all corners of the world. Because of this globalization, representation of any and all people is a crucial part of how these people are viewed by others. Black Americans have a long, arduous history of minstrels, blackface, and other harmful and demeaning portrayals reaching way back to the era of slavery. When television was invented, these horrible caricatures became fact to others, leading them to consider many harmful stereotypes as the truth. Accurate and inclusive representation in the media is important because of how influential the media is on our worldview, both individually and as a society. The fight for representation has picked up recently, but Esther Rolle is the spearhead of this particular movement; not only did she support better representation passively by playing a variety of roles but also actively by advocating for better representation of Black people in general. We are a culture–a people; therefore, we deserve to be portrayed as such on screen and consequently to the world.

Esther Rolle was a prolific actress that earned many awards including an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. She also earned the NAACP Civil Rights Leadership Award and the NAACP Eighth Image Award for Best Actress for her work improving the image of Black people. She fought hard not only for James Evans as a positive paternal role on Good Times but also for more relevant themes and topics to be addressed. Rolle was also very involved with the National Organization for Women, for which she has given many public addresses. Her hard work has led to many Black people feeling seen and reassured of their place in the community not only in Florida but also across the country.

Black women have greatly impacted all elements of our community: social, cultural, and political. They are the hidden figures of history; every single major movement in American history has been backed by Black women, from Harriet Tubman in the Abolitionist movement to Sojourner Truth in the Women’s Suffrage movement to Rosa Parks in the Civil Rights movement to Marsha P. Johnson in the Gay Liberation movement. Women like this–women who have fought to the death for our basic human rights–paved the way for women like Rolle to address the more subtle, but no less pressing, issues Black people face daily. Stereotypes and microaggressions are insidious; compared to issues such as workplace discrimination and police brutality, they do not seem very pressing. This makes it easy to disregard them, which allows misinformation to spread, fester, and bring our progress as a people to a standstill. Rolle refused to stand by and allow this to happen, so she decided to take matters into her own hands and advocate for realistic depiction of Black people in cinema. Her career as an actress directly confronted inaccuracies while simultaneously thrusting Black women, who have repeatedly been casted aside, and their capabilities into the spotlight. Actresses such as Esther Rolle, Cicely Tyson, and more recently Zendaya and Lupita Nyong’o make it impossible to ignore Black women and our impact any longer, and in doing so, they inspire young Black women to do the same in other fields, including STEM.

The leadership of Black women has taught me that our potential knows no bounds; Black women can and will change the world, and I want to be a part of it. Witnessing Black women permeate so many predominantly white male career fields is plenty of motivation for me to do the same. We now have more Black female doctors, lawyers, CEOs, etc. than ever before. Our Vice President Kamala Harris is even the first ever Black woman to hold such a high position in American politics. This is merely a crack in the dam through which more Black women in power will flow in. I have been inspired to be a leader myself, which is why I intend to earn my PhD in Psychology and open my own practice that treats any and all clients. Black women, despite many trials and tribulations, are the past, present, and future of America. We will no longer be disregarded; rather, we will continue to go down in history.

Evodie Alvarez, Grade 12School for Advanced Studies North Campus – Breakthrough Miami Scholar at Miami Country Day School

Felecia Hatcher Moves The World - Nathan Samuel, Grade 7, First place

Felecia Hatcher Moves The World – Nathan Samuel, Grade 7, First place

Felecia Hatcher Moves The World

In the challenge for political and civil rights in the United States, countless black women led the way for over 150 years. It started with the Seneca Falls convention in 1848. Black women played an important role in the underground railroad, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and have also created the way for constitutional protection against gender discrimination. Black women have a deep connection to the understanding of the relational nature of freedom; this is mainly because they are involved with various intersections of targeted maltreatment. Black women’s leadership is not just defined by their strength and persistence; it is mostly about how they constantly strive to fight for the common right. Whether black women are tapering the wealth gap, or running for office in the nation, when black women lead, we all win(www.forbes.com).

Felecia Hatcher, a black woman who lives in Miami, Florida, is an entrepreneur who is leading a mission to free communities across the “world of innovation desert” by working with government officials to create a diverse startup technology community. As a result of her work, the community of Miami has become one of the most diverse startup cities in the country. Hatcher once stated, “You already have what it takes to follow your most epic dreams” In this quote, Hatcher is trying to emphasize that you are born with the abilities, and don’t need anyone’s opinion to follow your dreams. Hatcher has committed her life to inspire others to follow their passion.

Hatcher spent countless hours accomplishing her mission to create 10,000 Start-Ups as the co-founder of Code Fever. Code Fever is an enterprise that trains and prepares African American youth in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship. As an author, entrepreneur, and the co-founder of Code Fever, Hatcher has managed to make a significant impact on the African American community. In 2008, Hatcher also co-founded Feverish Pops, a Miami-based gourmet popsicle company that donates money to community programs in South Florida’s 13 Targeted Urban Areas.

Hatcher was a keynote speaker who presented engaging talks on entrepreneurship, tech education, and programs such as TEDxMiami and TEDxJamaica. Hatcher is also the author of two very well-known books: How to Start a Business on a Ramen Noodle Budget and The C Student’s Guide to Scholarships. Hatcher states, “When you give and become a valuable resource, success comes back to you.” In quotes like this, she is trying to address that when you give and dedicate your time to a specific cause, it will result in success.

To help the community of Miami, Hatcher has stepped down from Miami’s Center for Black Innovation to lead Black Ambition. Black ambition is a nonprofit organization founded by Pharrell Williams. Black Ambition was created to fund projects led by Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Moreover, Black Ambition organization identifies and directly funds founders building tech, health care, design, and customer product startups. Not only has Hatcher accomplished so many things, but Hatcher originates from a black background. In the United States, getting a high position and getting a good education and graduation is difficult for blacks, and in this case, Hatcher is a black woman. The top opportunities and scholarships are hard to compete for because countless white Americans are tampering for the opportunity, and for blacks, it is difficult because many have to face racial discrimination. Hatcher had to compete with many white Americans to achieve the position she is in right now. I personally can relate to this. My family is from Sri Lanka, a small island off the coast of India, when my family arrived in America, it was very competitive not only for my parents, but also for my siblings. As of now, I am a 7th grader at Belen Jesuit Preparatory Middle School, everyone at my school is competitive, there are countless white American students competing with me in robotics and stem, so being from a different race and country, I know that in order for me to succeed, I have to dedicate effort and time just like Hatcher stated.

Throughout my life, I was always inspired by the fields of both technology and entrepreneurship. My older sister, Gayathri, and I watch a television show called Shark Tank. The show provides entrepreneurs an opportunity to bring in their inventions and get advice and investors, as well as to see if they could get an experienced entrepreneur to join their company. Similar to Shark Tank, Hatcher strives to give African Americans the opportunity to enhance their knowledge in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship. Ever since I was young, I was fascinated by the field of robotics. As of now, I am part of my school’s robotics and STEM club and I am also part of an entrepreneurship class. After learning about Hatcher, I am motivated to continue my interest in robotics and to use my knowledge to be able to invent something that would be useful to the human world. I’ve always had a desire to be able to present an innovation that would help mankind, and Hatcher has inspired me to continue to pursue this passion. Through Hatcher, I learned that nothing is impossible, and that anything can be accomplished with determination.

Throughout this essay, I dug deeper into Hatcher’s accomplishments and what Hatcher has done for our community. Personally, she has impacted me in a way that few other people have, and that shows how her constant effort has managed to make a difference in the world. She has changed the perspective of many young people, and continues to change Miami into a diverse community. As Jodi Picoul once said, “ some women are meant to change the world while others are meant to hold it together.” Felecia Hatcher’s dedication and commitment will continue to not only hold the world together, but will continue to change others and inspire countless young women.

Nathan Samuel, Grade 7Belen Jesuit Preparatory School – Breakthrough Miami Scholar at Ransom Everglades

Esther Rolle - Izaiah Afflick, Grade 5, First place

Esther Rolle – Izaiah Afflick, Grade 5, First place

Esther Rolle

Esther Rolle was born on November 8, 1920, in Pembroke Pines, Florida. She was a famous Black actor best known for her role as Florida Evans in Good Times. She set the bar for black actors and was the first woman to receive the NAACP Chairman’s “Civil Rights Leadership Award” as a tribute to her efforts to raise the image of Blacks through her work. This essay will tell you how Esther Rolle inspired a wave of positive change in Florida and how the community benefited from her.

First, she made a positive change in Florida by being a great Black actress who was not afraid to fight for what she felt was right. When she was in Good Times, she fought hard for a father figure and husband to be added to the show. The James Evans character was only added after Esther Rolle had fought for the father character on the show, more relevant themes and scripts and was unhappy with the success of Jimmie Walker’s character. She felt like his character did not bring any serious value to the show. Esther Rolle’s character as Florida was a stern but loving mother. She was the glue that held her family together on the show. For her role as Florida Evans, Rolle was nominated in 1976 for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress Television Series Musical or Comedy.

Second, Esther Rolle was a firm supporter of black artistic goals. Her amazing acting gave us films like Good Times, and made-for-television movies like Summer of My German, Why the Caged Bird Sings, and A Raisin in The Sun. She played as Idella in “Driving Miss Daisy.” She consistently found herself in quality shows with profound roles. She took on roles that had an impact on society. To conclude, Esther Rolle sparked a positive wave of change in Florida by being an actress who was not afraid to fight for what she felt was right, and the community benefited from of her amazing acting.

Izaiah Afflick, Grade 5 Shadowlawn Elementary – Breakthrough Miami Scholar at Ransom Everglades

View memories of our ceremony:
3rd Annual Black History Essay Contest Announcement Ceremony

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