Tampa’s Arthenia Joyner picked to lead Senate Democrats, hailed as trailblazer for rights of others

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Florida Senate Democrats voted unanimously Monday for Tampa’s Arthenia Joyner to lead their caucus through the 2016 legislative session. Joyner was reelected unopposed earlier this month to represent a district that includes parts of Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties.

Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando nominated Joyner calling her a history maker whose career has inspired others. Joyner was the first African-American female to practice law in Hillsborough County in 1969.

“Arthenia Joyner has been a fearless champion for fairness and justice in her adolescence and continuing throughout her adult life,” said Thompson recalling that Joyner was arrested as a Florida A&M University student protesting segregation in the 1950s and then as an adult 30 years later at an anti-apartheid protest in Washington, D.C.

“We are encouraged to not go where the path may be but rather to go where there is no path and leave a trail. Arthenia Joyner has been a trailblazer,” said Thompson.

Margate Sen. Jeremy Ring seconded the nomination. Joyner’s was the only name nominated.

Joyner participated in what Thompson called the first civil rights demonstration in Tampa as a child and remain active in Civil Rights movement through college and as an attorney. Yet, in her acceptance speech, the 71-year old Joyner recalled the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago.

She said the fall of the wall represented people on the edge of “endurable” overcoming obstacles in the struggle towards freedom.  Joyner then speaking of Floridians said when people go without healthcare, when the system to restore civil rights is arbitrary and a minimum wage is not support oneself then people are not free.

“When hardworking people are blocked from basic health care because one ideology is against it, when they are shunned from sharing in the success that they helped a company achieve, when they are struggling to pay the bills in a system stacked against them . . . that is the edge of the endurable,” said Joyner.

“The 14 members of this Democratic caucus have a proud tradition of standing fast, standing for, as one of my friends, a Republican Senator once said, the little guy and the little gal. That’s who we stand for,” said Joyner.

The caucus selected Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami-Dade as Leader Pro Tempore.