The 44 Percent: mentorship, Orange Blossom Classic & “Rap Sh!t”

Football, fall and family go together like turkey on Thanksgiving.

The start of September means fall is around the corner and, even more fun, that football is back.

High school games started last week. The Miami Hurricanes kick off their season Saturday against Bethune-Cookman University. Florida A&M and Jackson State battle Sunday at the Orange Blossom Classic. The Miami Dolphins begin their quest to relevancy the next Sunday. Fall really is almost here.

Having grown up playing the sport, football has become synonymous with family. With teamwork. With thinking ahead. Which is why the news of the passing of Dolphins’ Jason Jenkins hit me so hard. Although his death at the age of 47 was a chilling reminder that Black men have the lowest life expectancy in the country, I want to talk more about how Jenkins left a lasting impression on a 23-year-old, fresh-faced kid from Delaware.

Less than four months after starting at the Herald, I met Jenkins at a mixer for Black sports journalists in Aventura. I heard him speak and immediately introduced myself. We chatted briefly. The conversation was nothing special: he said something about how it’s good to see another Black person at the Herald, I asked him about the Fins — really basic stuff. He then gave me his card, told me to reach out anytime and we went our separate ways.

I’d often see Jenkins around at events throughout the city. He’d smile that real big smile, shake my hand and go about his business. I reached out to him a lot during my first year at the Herald, not fully realizing that he was the senior vice president of communications and community affairs. He’d always respond promptly and nicely point me in the direction of someone on his team.

C. Isaiah Smalls II author card
C. Isaiah Smalls II author card

I thought a lot about that moment we first met after learning of Jenkins’ death Saturday. Why was he so willing to connect with a young journalist who, at the time, didn’t know Flagler from 59th Street? What brought us together? Why me?

What I have come to realize was that moment wasn’t about me or him, it was about helping the next generation. The French singer-songwriter Édith Piaf is often credited with the saying, “When you reach the top, you should remember to send the elevator back down for the others.” At that mixer in Aventura, Jenkins was sending that elevator back down. He was letting me know that, as long as he was there, I could always reach out to the Dolphins. As a young journalist in a business that thrives on relationships, that sort of connection is worth a lot. And although I’m nowhere near the top, in Jenkins’ memory, I too want to send the elevator back down.

Anybody who is looking for a journalism mentor should hit my email at csmalls@miamiherald.com. I might not have been in this business for a long time but I like to think I’ve learned a few things. Everyone who emails me will get a response, just give me time. Put “MENTORSHIP” in the subject line to make it easier for me to find. The only requirement is this: just make sure you send the elevator back down as well.

INSIDE THE 305



Jason Jenkins, Dolphins executive and ‘an icon’ in South Florida community, dies at 47:

The South Florida community is reeling following the sudden loss of Jason Jenkins, 47, who had been a staple within the Dolphins’ communications department for more than a decade. A Miami-Dade medical examiner determined Jenkins died of a blood clot.

“Jason faithfully served the Dolphins organization for 14 years, was a beacon in the community, a trailblazer and a champion for others, and above all, treated people with a kindness and dignity that left a lasting mark on everyone he met,” CEO Tom Garfinkel said in a statement announcing Jenkins’ death Saturday. “Our deepest condolences and our unwavering support go out to his wife, Elizabeth, and his three children.”

Jenkins had served as the Dolphins’ senior vice president of communications and community affairs since 2015, having worked his way up from the director of media relations. The Dolphins will host a celebration of life for Jenkins at 4 p.m. Monday at Hard Rock Stadium. Attendees should RSVP at this link.

White cornerback Travis Hunter (12) catches a pass in the first half of Jackson State’s Blue and White Spring football game, an NCAA college football contest, Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) Rogelio V. Solis/AP
White cornerback Travis Hunter (12) catches a pass in the first half of Jackson State’s Blue and White Spring football game, an NCAA college football contest, Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Jackson State’s Travis Hunter wants more athletes to choose HBCUs. Will that happen?:

With the Orange Blossom Classic kicking off Sunday, I tried to contextualize the current momentum surrounding HBCUs. Travis Hunter, the 2021 five-star recruit who spurned Florida State in favor of Jackson State, and his Head Coach Deion Sanders clearly have a lot to do with the attention so all eyes will be on the Tigers as they take on Florida A&M.

Hunter’s choice to play at JSU was not unprecedented — HBCUs used to be athletic powerhouses prior to desegregation — yet it was clear from just talking with him that he’s not only trying to usher in a new golden era of HBCU football but hopes others follow his lead.

“If they step outside their comfort zone and just go out there, go with their heart and go with their gut, there will be a lot of players to come out here and play at a HBCU.”

OUTSIDE THE 305

This image captured from bodycam video released by the Childersburg (Ala.) Police Department and provided by attorney Harry Daniels shows Michael Jennings, left, in custody in Childersburg, Ala., on Sunday, May 22, 2022. Jennings was helping out a friend by watering flowers when officers showed up and placed him under arrest within moments. (Childersburg Police Department via AP) Childerburg Police Department/AP
This image captured from bodycam video released by the Childersburg (Ala.) Police Department and provided by attorney Harry Daniels shows Michael Jennings, left, in custody in Childersburg, Ala., on Sunday, May 22, 2022. Jennings was helping out a friend by watering flowers when officers showed up and placed him under arrest within moments. (Childersburg Police Department via AP) Childerburg Police Department/AP

Black pastor arrested after watering neighbors’ flowers:

A quick list of activities that have been death sentences for Black people: running while Black, playing with a toy gun while Black, sitting at home while Black.

That’s the backdrop surrounding the arrest of Alabama pastor Michael Jennings, who was booked back in May while watering his neighbors’ flowers. Although the charge of obstructing government operations was later dropped, the body camera footage of Jennings’ arrest confirmed exactly what the pastor said: watering flowers.

“I’m supposed to be here. I’m Pastor Jennings. I live across the street,” Jennings told an officer, in newly released body camera footage of his arrest obtained by NPR.

During the 20-minute exchange caught on body camera on May 22, a Childersburg police officer approached Jennings; on camera, the pastor could be seen watering plants in his neighbors’ yard.

In an interview with NPR, Jennings wants to see changes “from the police department to the mayor’s office.”

“I hope that there are changes, definitely changes, made — from the mayor’s office and all through,” Jennings told NPR. “I hope to see changes from all over the municipality.”

Ben Frazier, Jacksonville Northside Coalition founder, has a discussion with an aide of Gov. Ron DeSantis after Frazier refused to leave the room where the press conference with the governor was to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. The planned press conference with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was relocated from the Department of Children and Families office building to the adjacent FDLE building after protesters, wanting to address the governor refused to leave the initial press conference site. Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via AP
Ben Frazier, Jacksonville Northside Coalition founder, has a discussion with an aide of Gov. Ron DeSantis after Frazier refused to leave the room where the press conference with the governor was to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. The planned press conference with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was relocated from the Department of Children and Families office building to the adjacent FDLE building after protesters, wanting to address the governor refused to leave the initial press conference site. Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via AP

Florida’s ‘anti-riot’ law infringes on right to protest, United Nations committee says:

A United Nations committee report stated that Florida’s anti-riot law restricts “the right to peaceful assembly,” in a rebuke of legislation championed by Republicans in the state.

“The Committee is concerned about reports of increasing legislative measures and initiatives at the state level that unduly restrict the right to peaceful assembly following anti-racism protests in recent years, such as the HB1 Combating Public Disorder law in Florida,” the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) report states.

Following the report’s release, Ben Frazier, one of two activists who flew to Geneva to testify about Florida’s HB1, called the CERD’s findings a “victory for democracy and common sense.”

“The United Nations just told Governor DeSantis that he’s moving in the wrong direction,” Frazier, the head of the Northside Coalition in Jacksonville, told the Miami Herald in an interview. “The legislature and the governor need to u-turn, do an about face and stop violating the First Amendment rights of Floridians to protest and to peaceably assemble.”

A committee comprised of human rights experts, the CERD monitors the efforts to eradicate racial prejudice across the globe. Gov. Ron DeSantis spokesperson Bryan Griffin told the Miami Herald that only the people of Florida have “any bearing on the governance” of the state.

“They, through their elected representatives and the passage of legislation this previous session, have decided that employees in a work setting and children in the school setting should not be subjected to racially discriminatory concepts; that it should be easy to vote and hard to cheat in Florida’s elections; and that law and order must be maintained,” Griffin wrote. “The governor supports these efforts and the will of the people of Florida.”

HIGH CULTURE

Shawna (Aida Osman) and MIA (KaMillion) are Miami-based rappers in HBO Max’s “Rap Sh!t.” Photograph by Alicia Vera/HBO Max
Shawna (Aida Osman) and MIA (KaMillion) are Miami-based rappers in HBO Max’s “Rap Sh!t.” Photograph by Alicia Vera/HBO Max

“Rap Sh!t” season finale premieres tonight:

Only a handful of shows depict Black Miami better than Issa Rae’s “Rap Sh!t.”

Partially based off of the City Girls, “Rap Sh!t” follows Shawna and Mia as they team up to pursue a career in music. Fans of “Insecure” would love “Rap Sh!t” as Rae once again nails the intricacies and complexities surrounding Black millennial life. And what better place to do so than in Miami?

From the emphasis on the pronunciation of conch to showcasing Overtown, Liberty City and Little Haiti, “Rap Sh!t” centers Black Miami in a way very few shows have done. Be sure to check out the season finale tonight at 9 p.m. on HBO Max.

Where does “The 44 Percent” name come from? Click here to find out how Miami history influenced the newsletter’s title.