Shevrin Jones is under siege. In a room in Tallahassee teeming with cameras, activists and journalists, he exudes frustration and anger as he answers questions about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent ban of the Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum.
“Crumbling schools and dilapidated buildings are the issues being ignored because we have to deal with the promotion of Jim Crow 3.0,” Jones said during a press conference this past Jan. 26. “People don’t know and don’t care about what’s happening in Black communities, but desire to referee how our history is taught.”
Since being named a “Next Generation Dreamer” in 2018 by The Miami Times for embodying Martin Luther King’s legacy, Jones has become a rising star in Florida politics. From Broward public school teacher to state representative to being named one of the area’s most influential people under age 40, the 39-year-old has made a name for himself as a breaker of barriers. In 2020, he made history as the first Black LBGTQ+ state senator.
“I don’t care too much for the recognitions and positions,” said Jones. “I look more for changing and enhancing people’s lives. That’s my reward.”
Born in Miami Gardens, he is the son of a teacher and a preacher. He graduated from Florida A&M University with a bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2006. After that, he taught advanced placement chemistry in Broward County and then biology at Florida Atlantic University High School.
“When I was teaching, the state changed the assessment requirements for students to graduate, and many of my students were forced to take recovery courses,” he said. “So, I went to the principal and asked him who keeps changing the rules. He said politicians, and I replied: ‘Perfect, then I’m running for office.’”
In 2012 Jones ran for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives and won unopposed in the newly created 101st District. He was reelected until term limits compelled his departure in 2020.
That year he ran to represent Florida Senate District 35 in a closely watched election. Despite homophobic and racist attacks, he beat six other contenders by at least 27 points and raised more money than all of his opponents combined. He was elected in 2022 for the newly created District 34 after redistricting and now serves as vice chair of the appropriations committee on education.
“I’m teaching; teaching is who I am,” Jones said. “Being an educator and then being a politician complement each other more than one would think.”
Jones has pushed for legislation that promotes record expungement for some felons as well as measures to reduce penalties for marijuana users. He has also advocated for providing incarcerated women with basic health care products, and sterile needle and syringe exchange programs.
He also co-authored a bill to improve financial literacy among students and was a co-author of the so-called “Ava’s Law,” which requires pregnancy testing for female detainees in custody for 72 hours or more and mandates that authorities comply with certain conditions for pregnant inmates.
President Joe Biden recently appointed Jones to serve on the Board of Advisors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), making him one of the administrators of more than $5.8 billion in support of marginalized institutions.
“I will go as far as the people will take me,” Jones said.
Steban Rondon Miami Times Contributor | This profile is a collaboration between The Miami Times and the Lee Caplin School of Journalism & Media at Florida International University.