by Pat Bryant
Miami gave former Congresswoman Carrie Meek as great a homegoing as she was in the life of Miami and Florida. Elected to the U.S. Congress in 1992, she was the was the first Black Congressperson to be elected to the Congress from Florida since the fall of the first Reconstruction more than 100 years before. She was the first Black woman elected to Congress from Florida.
Held at the new and spacious Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Miami Gardens, the homegoing followed two days of celebrations that included events in the city and at Miami Dade College where she was the first Black professor. Carrie Meeks, the trail blazer, opened the doors for African-American participation. She was born in 1926 and died November 28 at 95 years old.
Trumpets blazed, “Total Praise” and other songs during the service, just as Carrie had blazed for Blacks and working people in life. Strings played often with mellow tones and chords. A nearly 100 voice choir sang Carrie’s favorite gospel songs. At times the congregation seemed hypnotized swaying, standing, and clapping. Wreaths and floral arrangements decked the casket and altar. A military honor guard played taps.
Former President Bill Clinton, who credited Meeks with his election, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, joined the celebration by video. Her friend Jim Clyburn, Democratic Congressman of South Carolina eulogized this giant freedom fighter whose leadership helped raise our boats in healthcare, housing and tenant rights, immigrant rights, especially Haitians, education, labor, hurricane protection and recovery, hospice and healthcare, criminal justice and more.
The funeral was delayed minutes for arrival of a chartered flight of the Congressional Black Caucus. They marched in together and were seated on the front rows with the who’s who of Florida political movers and shakers who worked with, followed, and revered Carrie Meek. Carrie Meeks, the educator was shaped and molded by the likes of Dr. Mary McCloud Bethune, mentioned by many.
Congresswoman Meek’s family included grands and her children, former Congressman Kendrick Meek, Shelia Davis Kimuii, and Lucia Davis Raiford all recounting how their home was a community center and how all of them were involved in Movement building.
Congressman Jim Clyburn, an influential congressional leader and ally to President Joe Biden, and a good friend to Carrie Meek, gave a character sketch which portrayed Congresswoman Meek as seeming meek, but very forceful and effective. “Rest in the pleasant dreams you have earned, my dearest Carrie. You’ve gone on to meet Ms Bethune and the others whose shoulders you stood on and you leave us here to continue standing on yours” Clyburn said.
Recently deceased Congressman John Lewis’ impression of Carrie Meek was quoted. “Some people are showboats but Carrie Meek is a tug boat” describing her commitment, skills and work ethic.
Meeks served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1979-1982 and the Florida Senate from 1982-1992.
The Miami Times, the historic Black newspaper, dedicated its entire front page to Congresswoman Meek, and wrote Meek “was the epitome of lending a helping hand, leaving doors open for generations that followed and being unwilling to take no for an answer when it came to the advancement of her people”
The presidents of three colleges, Bethune Cookman, Miami Dade, and Florida A&M were recognized. Congresswoman Meeks taught at all three schools. She was educated at Florida A&M University and University of Michigan.
Also recognized were members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Present was former Governor and gubernatorial candidate Congressman Charlie Crist, state representatives and senators, local elected officials, and labor leader and former Florida Senator Tony Hill.
Leaders of the Haitian community were present. She had been dubed many years prior as “Queen of the Haitian community” for her contributions.
Congresswoman Federica Wilson, who represents the area served earlier by Meek said following her was difficult because she was so effective and was so energetic. Wilson stressed the importance of efforts often one woman in the movement for freedom. naming Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Meek.
Attending with the Congressional Black Caucus was Congressman Troy Carter of New Orleans who said to this reporter “Carrie Meek was an amazing trail blazer, educator, state legislator and member of the Congress. The world is a better place because of her exemplary service.”
Congressman Bennie Thompson who represents the Mississippi Delta said of Meek, “She was a great American. Her role as an educator, social justice advocate and political trailblazer is legendary. Her spirit and warmth will be missed by us all.” Thompson chairs the January 6 Committee investigating the Trump loyalists who attacked Congress. He was elected to Congress at the same time as Meeks. 1992 was the year the year there was an historic surge of Blacks in Congress.