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Rhetta Peoples, Florida Courier
Published: 22 March 2023

Maxwell Alejandro Frost celebrated his 26th birthday in January with a new title – United States congressman.

A graduate of Osceola County School for the Arts and the University of Central Florida, Frost was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November, serving Florida’s 10th congressional district, which includes parts of Orange County and surrounding areas.

Frost, a Democrat, is the first Generation Z or Gen Z member to service in Congress. He’s also the first Afro-Cuban. Gen Z generally refers to those born between the late 1990s to early 2010s. To become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, candidates must be at least 25 years old.

“My mom, grandma, my aunt came here from Cuba during the 1960s, during the Freedom Flights. No money, no English, no connections, and now their grandson, my grandma’s grandson, is a member of the United States Congress. And, I think for my own family, it means the world,” Frost said in a recent interview with the Florida Courier.

Frost's contributions

Frost said he decided to get into political organizing when he saw images of the children who were victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

Frost, a gun reform and social justice activist, already has started to make waves in Congress.

Shortly after he was sworn in, he teamed up with Congressman Darren Soto, a Democrat who serves Florida’s 9th district, to get the Biden administration to create a special enrollment period to allow over 1 million Floridians to keep their Medicare coverage.

Frost also is on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Weather Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In February, Frost announced a $3.8 million grant to MetroPlan Orlando to support and invest in transportation safety initiatives to prevent deaths and serious injuries on Central Florida roadways.

When it comes to immigration, Frost and several of his colleagues sent a letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) calling on the agency to halt the adoption of a new rule that would impose a huge increase in visa fees for traveling artists, including touring musicians, looking to come to the U.S. to work in the arts and entertainment industry.

Gen Z deals with higher stress, due to the nation's problems

Frost is now calling on his colleagues in the Florida Democratic Congressional delegation to support new measures that would allow financial institutions to play a role in potentially stopping mass shootings before they happen.

When asked if he felt pressure from other legislators in Congress, Frost said, “In fact, I’ve got nothing but respect from a lot of them. You know, during my campaign I was endorsed by over a dozen members of Congress who saw our large field of candidates and wanted us to win. Frost added, “It really, you know, shows that our caucus of Democrats in Congress are excited about new, youthful, young voices and they want them to thrive.”

In a time when so many issues are at a boiling point, the Gen Z congressman has had enough.

Frost’s generation is feeling the effects of the nation’s problems, causing their stressors to be significantly different from other generations. According to the American Psychological Association, when compared to other generations, Gen Z has higher rates of stress from mass shootings, the rise in suicide rates, climate change and global warming, separation and deportation of immigrant and migrant families.

There’s also an increase of widespread sexual harassment and assault reports. Nonetheless, it appears Gen Z members like are politically unafraid to carve their own paths to acceptance and freedom in its totality. 

Tyre Nichols is a Black man who died in January after being beaten by Black police officers in Memphis, Tennessee. Central Florida community activist Justin Jae Fortune is optimistic about Frost’s leadership and reflected on his response to Nichols’ death.

“I appreciate him calling the murder of Tyre Nichols what it is. A lynching. The change required to build an equitable system that will require more than training and body cameras. It requires blunt honesty and accountability. If he stands on that, he’ll be one of the best representatives we’ve had. We’re the same age, and it makes me feel good to know he’s not afraid to speak truth to power,” said Fortune.

Making Congress accessible

Frost plans to build on the work of former Congresswoman Val Demings to help move his district forward. He won the seat previously held by Demings, a Democrat who lost her challenge against Senator Marco Rubio.

After his Nov. 8 win, Frost celebrated on Twitter: “WE WON!!!! History was made tonight. We made history for Floridians, for Gen Z, and for everyone who believes we deserve a better future. I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to represent my home in the United States Congress,” Frost tweeted.

In the recent interview, Frost said, “Congresswoman Demings did such amazing work and I’m building on her tradition of excellence, but just like anything, we want to figure out how do we do things better, right? How do we continue that tradition of excellence in new ways that are in touch with the way our economy is moving, the way our technology is moving, and our constituency that is increasingly demanding wanting more out of their legislators, which I think is important.''

He also wants to make Congress more accessible to the people.

“Folks shouldn’t see me on any sort of pedestal. I see myself as part of a greater movement and I think we’re kind of moving in that trend with a lot of our politics and I play a small role in that,” Frost noted.

Words have an impact

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to run for president in 2024, has sparked controversy over his message of banning an Advanced Placement African American history course in public schools and even colleges and universities.

At the governor’s second term swearing-in ceremony, DeSantis said, “We will reject this woke ideology. We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy. We will not allow reality, facts and truth to become optional. We will never surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.’’

Nationally, other politicians seem anxious to follow DeSantis’ lead. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), more than 30 state legislators have introduced bills that supports DeSantis’ anti-woke agenda.

Frost said, “It’s horrible. I like to talk very candidly about this because I feel like all too often, even Democrats, will chalk this up to culture wars. And that’s a huge part of this, but his rhetoric and this legislation has real impact.”

He added, “People will get hurt. People will die because of him fanning the flames of white supremacy, bigotry, homophobia, antisemitism in this state."

It’s not just a culture war. It’s not just something to roll your eyes at."

"It’s something to organize against.”

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