Barbara Sharief: Broward County’s American Dream

Barbara Sharief learned early in life that the best way to live her life was by always striving to help others.

Growing up in Miami, Barbara watched her parents seize the lives they wanted and model what it means to be self-supported and altruistic.

Her father, James Sharief, was a self-supported clothing salesman who had an eye for quality. He learned quickly how to determine what his potential buyers liked and sought out those styles at various thrift stores and boutiques, and would subsequently sell them out of his traveling shop (a van and collapsible stall) to various parts of Miami-Dade and Broward county.

“Unless he had to go out of town, one of us, usually me, was always with him,” said Sharief in a recent interview. “The truck had only one passenger seat and my oldest sister and I would tussle to ride with my father.”

Not only did her father instill in her a savvy business acumen, he also modeled the importance of giving back to the community. When he wasn’t selling clothes, he was running a food pantry to ensure that no one in his community would be forced to go to bed hungry.

“He believed that feeding the hungry and helping the homeless allowed blessings to be bestowed upon him.”

When she wasn’t learning how to conduct business or run charities, she was witnessing her mother’s ability to handle the financial end of her father’s business.

However, Sharief would soon lose her number one role model. One weekend morning while she and her father were out in the county, selling clothes, a 15-year-old mugger attempted to rob James at gunpoint.

“He told my father to put his hands up, which he did,” Sharief recalled. “My father said, ‘Take whatever you want. I’ve got eight kids.’ That’s when the boy shot my father one time, in the heart.”

Suddenly, Ms. Sharief and her seven siblings not only lost their father, they were now without their home’s primary source of income.

Academic Initiative

Sharief’s mother found work as a secretary, and at age fifteen, Barbara Sharief herself began working at a local retirement home until 10p.m. after attending school from 7a.m. to 2p.m.

In spite of her loss, she worked hard and graduated high school in 1989, but her education was nowhere near its finish line.

In a recent profile with The Sophia News, Ms. Sharief’s innumerable academic successes are recalled.

She not only earned her Associate of Science in Nursing degree from Miami Dade Junior College within two years of graduating high school, she became one of the youngest people to pass the registered nursing board.

She recalled that it wasn’t about being the best or the youngest, but simply, “I just did it because I had to.”

Her father’s love and model of hard work continued to shine in her life well beyond this massive achievement.

While working as a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital, she would go on to attend Florida International University, receiving not only a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, but also a Master of Science in Nursing and an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Certification.

Entrepreneurial Pursuits

While it would seem that her resume and work ethic would have to slow down at some point, Sharief is clearly not someone who is ever looking to pause in her pursuit of success.

In keeping with her father’s entrepreneurial spirit, she founded the South Florida Pediatric Homecare, Inc., where she and her mother would team up and provide home healthcare to infants, children, and adults.

The company also strove to provide many necessary services to Broward County, including private duty skilled and unskilled nursing care, visits, wound care, IV therapy, chemotherapy visits, lab drawing from home and medication compliance monitoring. SFPH is a Medicare and Medicaid certified practice that seeks to provide care and comfort for patients both old and young that need consistent, daily medical support.

Ms. Sharief connected with the Broward community, which is a vast and diverse grouping of people that covers a large portion of South Florida.

A Community Effort

According to Ms. Sharief, helping the sick and healing just wasn’t enough.

While owning a business, she saw how important it was to be involved in local government, which is how she found herself sitting on the County Commission for Miramar.

“I never imagined myself in elected office. I was always a community activist assisting friends or neighbors with information and issues. Owning a business really opened my eyes to the effect that local government can have on its residents. I became more involved and entered the political field based on my desire to help people and advocate for those less fortunate.”

In 2010, Sharief served as the City Commission’s Vice Mayor until November when she was elected to the Broward County Commission District 8 seat where she currently serves the population of the cities of Hallandale Beach, Miramar, Pembroke Park, Pembroke Pines, and West Park.

While these communities are vastly diverse populations, many with competing interests, Sharief’s business acumen and compassion for people worked together to make her an attentive and judicial public servant.

As Commissioner, she was responsible for setting policy according to the Broward County Charter, promoting economic development, making infrastructure improvements and creating jobs by supporting small business development in the Broward County community. In addition, she was also responsible for supporting the county’s legislative agenda during the annual legislative session in the state capitol of Tallahassee.

Due to her personal experiences, Commissioner Sharief has used her position to advocate for solutions to homelessness and the prevention of foreclosures in Broward County. Her programs, including Commissioner on a Mission and Broward Means Business, utilize Sharief’s experience in the business world and offer free foreclosure prevention seminars, job fairs, and a variety of business workshops geared towards keeping Broward County’s small business owners up-to-date and ahead of key trends that can help their businesses to flourish.

Ms. Sharief was so well-loved by her constituents that she was elected Vice-Mayor of Broward County, and went on to serve two terms as Mayor of Broward County.

Sharief has completed her time as Mayor, and with her record, it seems she is destined to continue to serve in increasing capacities as she works to help others and create a better place for as many as she can. The political arena is awaiting Ms. Sharief’s next move.

Five Female Politicians to Watch in 2018

It has never been a more important time for Americans to pay attention to politics and become politically active within their community. With the ongoing national conversation regarding women’s health, economic issues, and more changes that will affect every American, learning about your representatives’ platforms and burgeoning careers will help you stay informed and prepared for each election.

There is an ongoing push to increase diversity in American politics, which is why we have compiled a list of five female politicians you should track as local and midterm elections loom on the horizon.

 

Kamala Harris, California State Senate

Kamala Harris is a newly-elected junior State Senator in California, who has already begun making waves with her Democratic platform and comments on the President’s actions while in office. A graduate of Howard University and UC Hastings, Harris served in the California state government as California’s Attorney General for eight years prior to her election as a State Senator.

As Attorney General, Harris worked to fight Housing Discrimination, California’s prison conditions, and sentencing reform. Noticing the need for increased support for children without a stable home life, she took matters into her own hands in 2015, creating the Bureau of Children’s Justice, which would focus on improving the foster care system, the juvenile justice system, school truancy, and childhood trauma.

Senator Harris has continued to be vocal about this nation’s tendency towards systemic discrimination, calling out the Department of Justice for discriminatory tactics. Harris’s career seems to be on an ever-climbing upswing, and it will be interesting to see where she goes next with the nation looking on.

Barbara Sharief, Broward County Commissioner

Barbara Sharief highlights why it is so important to pay attention to local politics—they are, after all, the most direct ways to remain involved in your community. Prior to serving as a Broward County Commissioner, Sharief was elected to the Miramar City Commission and quickly established her concern for the community by donating her annual salary to local charities.

She has proven herself so capable of serving the community, that she was appointed Mayor of Broward County twice, most recently in 2016. Sharief also has become a leading example of what a county commissioner can and should be when she created the Commissioner on a Mission, a program that assists the elderly, reaches out to family’s facing foreclosure, and fights to decrease unemployment rates throughout Broward County.

As Mayor, she worked tirelessly through Hurricane Irma to keep the community safe and updated on the storm’s status and impact.

Barbara Sharief is a member of various local organizations that seek to help improve the lives of minority women in Broward County, and proves day after day that everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed in America, and action on a local level is the best place to start.

Annette Taddeo, Florida State Senate

Another Floridian on the move is Miami’s Annette Taddeo, who was elected to represent Florida in 2017. A native of Colombia, Taddeo is the first Hispanic Democratic woman elected to the chamber.

Taddeo herself has noted that she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of public education, and that is why her platform will focus heavily on improving conditions in Florida’s public schools and increasing funding for public education.

As a Floridian, she is well-aware of the changing weather conditions and how the government provides support for its citizens in the wake of major storms. She feels this is the responsibility of all levels of government, not just the Senate, and will be vocal about environmental issues while she works hard in Tallahassee.

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations

The former Governor of South Carolina was appointed to President Trump’s cabinet, and she has become a vocal representative of the current Executive Branch.

While serving the state of South Carolina, Haley gained a vocal and devoted base of supporters, and it is with this support that many political pundits argue that she may run for President in 2020 if President Trump is for some reason unable or unwilling to run.

This past December, New York Magazine wrote a feature piece on Haley’s proven ability to maneuver the field of politics by speaking on the President’s various comments regarding the state of the nation as well as potential international threats; she has spun his words to appease the press while also impressing his supporters.

Ambassador Haley has become a national name in 2017, and she is continually creating her space on the political stage—a stage that is going to remain in the spotlight through the 2020 election.

Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Miami-Dade School Board Member

Miami-Dade County is known for having weekly School Board meetings that go well into the early hours of the morning. In this atmosphere of dedication, Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall has stood out as a member who is dedicated to fighting discrimination and improving the lives of children throughout Miami-Dade County.

As a child, Bendross-Mindingall lived in and attended publicly segregated housing projects and schools. In an effort to ensure that children never faced such discrimination ever again, she became the first chairperson of the Governor’s Commission on African American Affairs, and served as the State Representative for District 109 from 2000-2008.

Dr. Bendross-Mindingall is a politician to watch in 2018 because she has demonstrated throughout her career what it means to be committed to improving every life in her community. She is a local inspiration and proof that it doesn’t matter where you begin, you can always do something to help others.

 

The State of African-American Women in Politics

Women, especially women of color, have a history in the United States for being significantly underrepresented politically. In fact, despite women as a whole being given the right to vote in 1920, African American women along with all women of color struggled to exercise their rights as American citizens until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory acts that prevented people from voting. However, even now women of color face discrimination on two fronts: one for their race, and the other for being female.

Even with more progressive standards in place, women of color are still significantly underrepresented in our nation’s elected officials. As of 2015, twelve out of fifty states still had yet to elect a woman (one of color or otherwise) to serve as one of their congressional delegates. According to a recent report by Rutgers University, which takes into account all of the nation-wide elections that happen each November, the statistics are as follows:

  • There is currently 1 women of color serving in the US Senate.
  • Women of color make up 6.4% of the US House of Representatives with black women, specifically, accounting for approximately half of that percentage.
  • Women of color make up 2.9% of all currently held statewide elected offices in the US. Black women, in particular, hold 2 out of 312 positions.
  • Women of color make up 5.4% of all currently held state legislator offices in the US with black women once again accounting for roughly half of that percentage.
  • Of our nation’s 100 largest cities, only 6 have a mayor that is a woman of color.

Activists for the women of color community are, however, hopeful.

“Interpreted differently, these data exemplify the opportunity for Black women to identify, expand, and capitalize upon electoral opportunities.” – Huffington Post

Which is a good point. Although the percentage of women in political office has flat-lined over the last few decades, the percentage of women of color in political office has steadily increased, allowing for history to be made. As recently as 2015 Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-New Jersey) and Mia Love (R-Utah) have become the first African American women to ever represent their states in Congress. Love also made history as the first Republican African-American woman to be elected to Congress as well.

In addition, as recent the 2016 election, Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware) became the first African American women elected to represent the state of Delaware in Congress. This same year, Val Demings (D-Florida), Orlando’s first female African-American Police Chief, was also elected to represent her state in the US Congress.

“Black Americans are joining state legislatures in higher numbers than ever, and that’s entirely thanks to black women, who have increased their presence in those bodies by nearly 50 percent since 1994.” – Washington Post

The only place they have staggered, however, is in elected statewide offices.

Although they vary from state to state, statewide elected officials generally fall under one of these titles: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, some type of state constitutional officer, and house representatives. As of the last election season (November 2016), only 10 black women from 9 different states have ever served as a statewide elected official with none yet having served as Governor. This makes any win at the state or local level a huge milestone for the black American woman.

Whether it be as California’s Attorney General like Kamala Harris, or Broward County’s Mayor like Barbara Sharief, every step forward makes history and finds paths for the political advancement of black women in America.