For two years, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson represented Miami Dade communities that earned the dubious distinction of being considered "the most suffering congressional district in America" by the Gallup-Healthway's annual "Well Being Index".
That changed in 2012, when Florida legislators redrew her African-American majority district to include the Port of Miami, the Freedom Tower, Bayside Marketplace, American Airlines Arena, the FBI regional building, Watson Island, Jungle Island, Bayfront Park and the downtown financial district.
Wilson calls them the "economic engines" of her district and they not only help generate campaign contributions for her re-election bids, they help her link jobs to the underprivileged in the poorer regions and helped her district shed the label of the "most suffering district."
But the map that created the new configuration has been invalidated by the court, and a replacement proposal recommended by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis would reverse the progress Wilson says she has made trying to link the two communities and represent them as one.
"They have turned District 24 into the most suffering district again,'' said Wilson, who arrived in Tallahassee Tuesday to hear listen to the arguments on the map before the Florida Supreme Court. "It makes it impossible for me to champion these jobs."
She said she will join U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and file a lawsuit after the court approves a map, she said. Both of them attended the hearing on Tuesday before the court.
The map, drawn by a redistricting expert for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida, leaves most of the districts in North and Central Florida in the configuration approved by legislators but changes Miami Dade's districts, including Wilson's District 24, by moving black voters into Curbelo's District 26 and removing the areas Wilson considers her district's "economic engines."
"When you’re the congresswoman in a district a lot of things rely on that -- not only contributions to help you get elected but internships for the people you can set up so that they can get jobs here,'' she said. "I want to know why they would try to pack all the black people together? If you have no economic engines in your district all you can do is fight and fight and fight and you never win."
Wilson, who was in the state Senate when the previous district was drawn in 2002, said she considers this a throwback to the pre-Civil Rights era.
"It’s almost like, take the black people put them behind a fence of apartheid and let them manage because that where they belong,'' she said. "I lived through the Civil Rights Movement,'' she said. "I know what it is to be discriminated against and this reeks of it."
Photo: U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Frederica Wilson outside the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday