Black Archives Public Forum at Culmer Center (7/31/97) Tape #1
This is an issue about the Overtown area, try to save it so
that future generations will be able to remember what happened here
and hopefully they will be able to see how we redeveloped some of
the good things that were once a part of Overtown. Just to kind of
put it in perspective in 1968, my family left Overtown as part of
an Urban Renewal process and when we were moving out of the
Overtown area, Ed and I were just only a child there probably in
Senior High School. It was still that promise or that thought left
with us that they were moving everyone out of Overtown so they
could rebuild the city and make it better and everybody could move
back in again; and so, it was that feeling that I had as a child
and other people that I knew that, Yes, we are moving out but one
day there will be an Overtown that we can be proud of moving back
in and very soon. What I didn't realize then is that the only way
that rebuilding can take place, the only way that we can get a city
like that again is if the community or people in that community who
are there fight to get that community back. It kind of reminds me
of a story in the bible of the children of Israel. You know
everyone hears about the children of Israel wandering in the wilder
for 40 years but you don't realize the reason that they wandered in
the wilderness for 40 years is because when Moses took them across
and brought them to the land that God had promised them, they found
out that there were people already staying there and they didn't
want to fight those people and so to punish them because they would
not go in as God told them to do, and actually go in a build that
city, they had to wander in the wilderness 40 years until all the
original people that were a part of that group that did not do what
God told them to do had died off. And so maybe with Overtown, they
are waiting for a new group, for someone to come up and say...for
the young people to say, "We will rebuild, we will make something
out of this community." So part of the conversation that we are
going through tonight is to remember some of the things that we
have, remember what we had there, not to build everything back like
it was, not to make everything like it was because somethings about
segregation that we don't want to bring back again but there are
things that we can do in this community to make it a community that
we can be proud of.
Now just to say a little about how we got to this process, the
Black Archives has been ah.... Oh, I didn't give my name and
position, okay. My name is Derrick Davis, I am the Executive
Director of the Black Archives Systems Research Foundation of South
Florida. The Black Archives has been awarded a grant from Florida
International University to help them in a study that they are
doing on the effect of transportation systems on the Overtown area.
They want to look at historically what the community was like
before the transportation systems and some Urban Renewal came, what
it was like during that time period and what it is like now. To
help to look to see if the Department of Transportation and some
others can come in help try to mitigate or to do somethings to help
us in this process of rebuilding. But a lot of the information
they're gathering are things that we will need as a community to
study to see what we need to do to build our community back because
if we just depend on the Department of Transportation, if we just
depend on Dade County, if you just depend on FIU or any other study
that's done, nothing is going to happen and the study will just set
on the shelf. But if we look at this as an opportunity to study
ourselves and see how we can make ourselves better, we can make
very good use of the information that we are having here. I would
just like to recognize, from FIU that we have Valarie Paterson, Dr.
Valarie Paterson and Professor Waller from FIU, who are working on
that study. They are doing some very interesting things and some
of the factual gathering they're finding: They are finding about
how many businesses were here, how many people were in the
community, they are looking at some of the old archives, pulling up
some of the records on the Urban Renewal programs and some of the
other programs and I think once you see all of that data, it will
be data that we can use to help to build this community.
To let you know about some of the people on the team that will
be working in the community to help gather some information because
we will have public meetings but we also going to have some one-on-
one interviews with people in the community.
The way the process is going to work tonight, we are
videotaping this, we are having an audio cassette, the audio will
be transcribed, so it's just not going to be, you know, where you
had to be here. But all of this is going to be transcribed and
written out so that there will be a record that people and come and
study of what is going on tonight. So we ask, if there comes a
time when you're going to be asked to speak, that you come up to
the microphones and we'll make sure that we have a clear audiotape,
that you tell you name into the tape, so all of that will be in the
transcript so that we can have all of this information and if we
need to try to find you to get some more information from you about
what you said that we will have a way of getting that information.
Also, all district interviews that we will be doing, the one-on-one
interviews, we will do the same thing. They will be audiotaped,
they will be transcribed, so all of this information will be save
and will be recorded so that it will be really documented and
really become a part of the history to help to rebuild this city.
I am going to ask Stephanie Wanza who is our Archive's Program
Coordinator to introduce to you some of the workers who will be
going out and doing the interviews in the community.
Good evening, my name is Stephanie Wansa, I am the Program
Coordinator for the Black Archives and this evening we have some
assistants who will be interviewing with us. They are people who
were recommended from other people in Overtown Community and we are
happy to have them assist us in this process. We have Mr. Devon
Williams, Mr. Philip Kelly.
(??? Female): ?? to come up front.
(Ms, Wansa): Ms. Denise Taylor, Ms. Yvonne Daily and Ms.
Celeste Secour. They will be assisting us in the interviews. We
presently have a list of about 61 people that we will be selecting
to do interviews with and if everyone could just introduce
themselves and give a brief summary of who you are, what you do and
why you're interested.
(???Female): (State your point)
I'm Yvonne Daily, I'm Jamaican and I'm very interested in this
project because I've always wanted to learn some more about the
African Americans and how closely related they are to my people who
are more less born in the states and have the same background and
I think working with this project, It will give me the incite into
more of their feelings and I could perhaps be able to closely
relate to how they feel about whatever has happened in Overtown and
the feelings of Florida Memorial College.
My name is Devon Williams, I'm a student.
(???Male): Make sure we're getting it on audio.
(???Female): Go to the other Microphone.
(???Male): Would it be better if they stand over here?
(???Male): Yes, if they stand behind the table, these mikes
will pick up you. Stand in front of those mikes.
My name is Devon Williams and I am a Miami-Dade student and
also I'm an Overtown resident. I'm interested in this program
because I want to learn more about this community. In order for me
to make a change, I have to know the history, I feel, about, of the
community in order to put back that sense for pride for which it
once had and that's why I'm interested.
My name is Philip Kelly, I am a graduate of Miami Jackson.
I'm about to go to college and I'm in a program to learn about...
(???Female): I can't hear you.
....we're about what's happening in the Overtown community and
what's happening around, you know.
Hi, my name is Denise Taylor. I go to Miami Jackson. I work
with Overtown Family Risk Center. I was...participated with...
choose with Black I Pride and I just want to learn something and
see...experience life, that's it.
Good evening, my name is Electra Vasolastorerefour. I am a
former Overtown resident. I lived in Overtown from teenage until
adulthood and then I later moved out of the area. I'm interested
in civics, I'm interested in better improvement of the community
for the betterment of all mankind. I'm interested in diverse
ethnic groups. I'm especially interested in Afro-American culture
and I look forward to working with this project.
(Ms. Wansa): Okay, thank you (hand clapping). Okay, at this
time we are going to have the introduction of our panelist by Ms.,
Dr. Dorothy Fields.
(Jackie Bell): Sounds good, sounds good.
(Dr. Fields): Thank you Ms. Wanza (laughter). It's a
pleasure for me this evening to be able to introduce two colleagues
and I will just introduce them first and then let them go ahead and
Before this project started when the Overtown Community met at
the commission meeting more than a year ago, there were 11 groups
who came together and said that we need to have a station in
Overtown from the east-west corridor and we need to have
development around that station and the community groups for the
very first time that I remember submitted proposals and worked
together, we had meetings and we talked and we were prepared to do
whatever was needed in order to make this happen. The day that we
went to the commission meeting, I think that all who were there
really felt good because we had the unity.
Two of the speakers were most outstanding. Everybody got up
and made presentation. But the two speakers who impressed us the
most were the speakers who have been active in the community the
most and the longest. There presentations were so compelling,
basically because they have what I call institutional memories.
They can go back to very early days as activists. A lot of people
have lived in the community who were not necessarily a part of the
process but both of these panelists today have been very active in
the community for all the time that they have been here. Sometimes
people are here and they don't remember things but these panelist
remember and we've asked them to come tonight to share with us
individually and collectively their institutional memory as to the
historical impact of 1-95 and 836 on the community.
We've been saying to people as we started the process that
we're really looking for information from about 1945 to 1970, that
period of time gives a pretty good overview with the community
being at it's best in the 40's and 50's and then having declined
for various reasons in the 70's.
So I will just say a few things first about Urbie McKnight who
I met when I started the Archives in the early 70's, 1974 as a
matter of fact. He was working then with the Cultural Council that
he had founded. He was working then, as he is now, providing
opportunities for children in the community to have cultural
experiences. Urbie has served with the Urban League of Miami. He
has served on the Overtown Advisory Board and has been involved in
every phase of life of this community since the time that he moved
to Miami in the 60's. He is a graduate of Carolina...what is it?
(Mr. Urbie McKnight): Winston Salem.
(Dr. Fields): Winston Salem College, don't rely on your
memory. Winston Salem State University, Winston Salem, North
Carolina, Class of 1968. He has been employed in various places
but he has lived in this community since the 60's and has
contributed greatly to its development,
Jackie Bell has lived in Overtown all of her life. In the
early 70's or maybe late 60's, she started what was called the New
Washington Heights Program. Many people don't know that Washington
Heights was the name that was given to Overtown by the residences.
The name known...and it was an affectionate name to honor the
memory of Booker T. Washington. The...and although that name has
not stuck...because of Jackie Bell, we know about it, because she
named her organization the New Washington Heights Development
Corporation. It gives us a sense of continuity. It helps us to
remember the of past. Jackie Bell has been involved in every
activity in this community. She has served on the Overtown
Advisory Board, she has served as an omnibus men for this community
and continues to serve the community in various capacities. So I
am going to ask Ms. Bell if she will make her presentation first
going as far back as she wishes to give an overview of the Overtown
community, it's apex and it's decline.
Jackie Bell (hand claps).
(Jackie Bell): Thank you Dr. Fields and it certainly do sound
good. I know it must feel good to know that people say we come
from the worst place in the world, to be able to stand up and say
we not those people that you're talking about and that this
community is not the community that the Miami Herald talks about,
especially when you talk about crime. Ha, if you only knew how
many criminals live in Kendall, then you would know that we are not
those and for those who think and look like us and don't want to be
here with us, well have fun because tSis is the golden ghetto.
Dr. Fields stated a few moments ago that we named New
Washington Heights after the historical date, I mean historical
name of Overtown. I'll give you the date, the time, the year and
the person who named it. Dr. Reverend, Rector of the oldest
historical church, episcopal church in the southeast and his name
was Reverend Culmer. The church is St. Agnes Episcopal Church, the
date is the day I was born, November 11, 1937 at 10:00 a.m. I was
born on that day at that time, so it is very, very significant to
me and it should stay because with our history, seems as if every
10 years it changed according to someone's whim and we should not
do that. But, I go back to this community to my great grandfather.
He came to the State of Florida as an engineer for the railroad.
He was one of the engineers who laid out the tracks and my father
and my father's brother Otis and Ernest Bell followed my
grandfather's footstep, Ernest Bell, Sr.; they became engineers as
well. I was not born in Miami, I was born in Dublin, Georgia
because my father was laying out the airport in that area but we
came back to Miami. My uncle helped design the Florida Sunshine
Bridge in St. Petersburg so we have a little bit of history in the
state. But I know we are here to discuss what transportation have
done to this community and they did it because of the fact that we
were never considered as people...can do anything to Black people
and get away with it but they couldn't do it to Ernest Bell. Yes,
they came along and they offered us the half-a-cent, a square foot
but Ernest Bell did not take that because he had supplied a
lifetime earnings for his four children he had. He and Emma Bell
had four children, brother who was named Ernest, my sister Sarah,
my sister Willie Mae, may her soul rest in peace and me. They were
going to take that away so my father took them to court and went as
high as the Supreme Court, that is why we now have what is called
fair market value for your land. So we did have to move but we did
not move because somebody told us to move and I guess maybe my
activistness and my proudness of being Black comes from way back,
all the way back to the family of both parents, Emma and Ernest.
Landownership is a priority to me because it has been an ownership
and right to my family and this land is the most valuablist
(phonetic spelling) land of the whole southeast of the United
States and if you think not, look at what is happening. Overtown
have been...I don't want to use a word...a particular word because
when you use certain words...they go...have been brain drained more
so than the other word that starts with an "R", that's even worst
because that means if you brain drain a community you leave it to
The other act is as violent but it is upon one at a time. The
other is a group and that is what has happened through the years of
transportation here. We had a community that we did not have to go
outside to supply our needs, we had all kinds of businesses and as
I set here a picture just unrolls. I can picture my mother and
Mrs. Ingram, the Mayor of Opa Locka's mother, making all of our
clothes. I can set here and see Opal King with the beauty salon
washing and doing my hair and my mother's because my mother could
never hair and all of her girls had gigantic amount of hair as you
will see that now, okay. I see Dr. Henry saving my mother's life
in Nineteen Hundred and Forty-Eight, the first Black gynecologist
who was on the staff at Mt. Sinai Hospital. To talk about Overtown
and to talk about it's economics and it's people kind of bothers me
at times. It gives me chills because I can see my mother and Mrs.
Sawyer getting in the Cadillac going to New York to the racetrack
because that's all they had to do, okay, you know, I mean that's
all they had to do; and when I say that's all they had to do, they
had...they did more than that but I mean they didn't have to go out
to work, they were well kept family women (clear throat)...
(Dr. Fields): You want water?
(Mrs. Bell): No, I'm okay. When 1-95 came along and Urban
Renewal came along, they came, it came along, hum...to send us to,
us to, tell us that if we sell we could come back. It's, it's
worse than the "R" word and that is actually what happened to us.
(Thank you.) It's so strange that everybody can come to this
community and make out and then turn around and want to
disenfranchise us and if you look around us, we have been
disenfranchised enough and I hope Dr. Fields whom I love, whom I am
so proud of...I remember in '74 when she was doing the bi-
centennial and we had a superintendent...was Black, Dr. Johnny
Jones and after she finished that, she wanted to do an archive but
because she was employed by Dade County School, he didn't...wasn't
particular about her doing it and I'm sure she don't remember this
but she came into the office of a state legislator named Gwendolyn
Sawyer Cherry whom had been my next door neighbor and my junior
high school teacher and now I am working for her because we had won
an election. The first Black election from a women from Overtown,
Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry; And Dorothy said to Ms. Cherry, "What am
I going to do?" and, I with my little flip mouth said, "Oh, you're
not going to do anything but keep going." I'm sure you remember
that, you don't? And we went over to the school to talk to Dr.
Johnny Jones and you see she has the Black Archives. It wasn't
just us now, it was a lot of other folks but we were a part of it.
You remember all of that?
(Dr. Fields) I'm glad you reminded me.
(Ms. Bell): I'm going to let Mr. McKnight speak because I'm
getting a little weary.
(Dr. Fields): We can come back to you. Urbie?
(Urbie McKnight): Good evening, I'm Urbie McKnight. I live
here in the Overtown community on and off since 1966, permanently
since 1968. In '66 outside the Mary Elizabeth Hotel, Willean Acker
then known as Nicky Me-kin...now known Nicky Mackintosh, but then
was Willean Acker, Michael Sanders and John Flood and Adela
Washington, we were standing, talking about this community and how
bad things were and we said, "It's good to be here because this is
rock bottom, it has to go up from this point on," but that's
because we were naive. We did not know it could have gotten worse
and it did. Because at that time there were theaters and
restaurants that had...I know that there are restaurants here today
but let me say that there were restaurants then that had knives,
spoons and folks from the same set (laughter). That's not the case
today, see, but then that was the case. They actually had linen
tablecloths on the table at the Famous Chief, there is not a
tablecloth on the table of any restaurant in this community today
but we went from a sit down restaurant with linen napkins and linen
tablecloth to formica and cardboard boxes so that...because we were
naive we really thought that we would build from the linen napkins,
we had no idea that the one-ply paper napkin would be the standard,
not three-ply, one-ply, now we didn't know that that would be the
case. But 1-95, 1-395 and the other modes of transportation that
were put in place to bring Miami into the 21st century took us
away. Now that we are approaching the millennium and again we are
being reminded that it could happen again. We are being reminded
that it could happen again because of the east-west corridor that
would bring a train from FIU to the airport to the Orange Bowl, to
downtown, to the seaport and to the convention center on South
Beach. If we allow this to happen, it will.
I'm reminded growing up that if you don't know where you come
from, it really doesn't matter where you go because you have
nothing to compare it with. If you forget the mistakes of the past
you will be doomed to those mistakes again, if you forget. So we
must not forget what transportation for other people, mind you,
because it's the system that I just described is not for me, see,
its for other people. It is to get other people from point "A" to
point "B". If we are here in Overtown we are at point "A" and
point "B", it's all there. Not anymore so I need to get some place
now. If we allow this system to destroy what's left of this
community, it will. Only we can stop it. A lot of times we say,
one person doesn't make a difference. I don't believe that. I
believe the one who saying it can make the difference. I do
believe for that person who makes that statement, that is a true
statement for just for them, it's not true for anybody else, just
for them. I think I can do anything I set my mind to. However,
people who say one person can't make the difference, they tell you,
they believe that they can do anything so I sometime wonder, who
are speaking to? What side of their face are they talking to
because one person can make a difference and everyday we do as
individuals make the difference, we do. So we must continue to do
that. Collectively maybe we can make a larger difference, maybe
the difference will be more noticeable but I can't wait until
someone else decides to help. I will just have to do what I can
myself and at the end of the day I can look back at what I have
done and be very proud of that and be proud that I did that so
starting now and on, we must do everything we can to now allow what
is convenient for other people to be an inconvenience for us.
Because while 1-95 made the trip from North Dade to downtown, a 10
minute trip, it wiped us out. For me the trip to downtown is a two
minute trip without 1-95, I don't need it to get downtown. As a
matter of fact, I would have to go out of my way to take 1-95
downtown and that was the purpose of it so the people who lived in
Overtown didn't need that, however, because they were people of
color and because they were people who respect other people and
respect laws they thought that, okay, they say this must happen and
that I can sell my property or they will take it. Well they would
have, they used eminent domain to take it because our laws states
that you can do that for a public right-away. A public right-away
being highways, schools, library, data, etc., government entities.
I can't use that and get your land to build a...to ah...well I
don't know, Leona Hamsley did it on Star Island but she is the
exception and not the rule, see. But I just can't take your land
because I need that space for my rose garden. Leona Hamsley on the
other hand, she could. I'm saying that because she bought a lot,
she bought a house on Star Island and she didn't want any neighbors
and she bought the houses around her and told them now and that's
what eminent domain is. See the government bought this lot, well
they took this lot for 1-95, they killed it and then they bought
what was left real cheap and they allow it to be an overgrown
eyesore for nine years and then at 11:00 one Sunday night, a young
lady taking a shortcut from Town Parke Village to the store was
murdered on this very site where this building set. The next
morning when they discovered her body, the neighborhood was highly
upset. At the time the Overtown Advisory Board was in the process
of fighting with government to build a multipurpose service center
to bring back some of the services that were wiped out. They were
not necessarily government services that were wiped out because
they were day-care homes in this community that provide reasonable
and safe child care. I say reasonable because people didn't make
a lot of money and I say safe because the children were not
molested, so you couldn't have asked for anything better. We then
used the murder of this young lady to force the county to
reconsider the $10,000,000 set aside for the Overtown neighborhood
service center that would be 6 stories tall...it took five years to
make them spend the money and five years later this all $6,000,000
would buy. Well it was $10,000,000 but $4,000,000 evaporated and
then this was all $6,000,000 would buy. It was built in-house by
the county, there were no contract let to a developer, to a
construction crew to build this building. The county called in its
poorly trained carpenters and electricians, masonries and that' how
we got this built. That's why we don't have no two light switches
that matches in here, see. That's why we have three hundred and
something outlets and none of them match, that why we a little old
tiny meter that would be in a one-bedroom apartment, that's why we
have all this wasted space if you look out the door there and just
look at all the space that cannot be utilized, that's what happens
when other people plan for you. That's what happened, you get
another camel, a three-hump one (laughter) when other people plan.
Other people plan the explusory systems and because they did we
lost a viable community, a lot of people, a major high school, a
florist, newspapers and it...the list just continues. Everything
Ms. Bell said that the community was self-sustaining. It was like
no Black community in the south during the day of the days of
segregation, you either was self-sustaining or you went without
until you became self-sustaining. Well they were and segregation
was an ugly thing and I don't want it back but it did make us much
more aware of who we were than what we are now with integration
because of lot of us are just as lost as all door is open, see.
However, if we want to prevent this from happening again, then we
must tell our children. We must make certain that it becomes a
household discussion, it must be you know this and if you know this
you will always be on guard against it. I am the same age as the
Holocaust and TV, we are all the same year. The Jews make me know
so much about the Holocaust. I didn't have no interest in that at
all, you don't have to have an interest in it to know about it
because when the anniversary comes up, it's everywhere you go and
I'm not angry at them for doing that. No one told me and I do that
with the things I care about now but me the person, me the race,
does not, me the individual, oh yeah if you know 5 minutes you know
how many brothers I have and you know their names because they are
important to me. You know everything about my family because they
are important to me. I have friends I have know for 20 years, some
of them 32 years and then last week I meet someone and they say,
"Oh I know you, you know so-in-so, that's my brother," and I going,
"Gee, I know them 30 years, they never mentioned they had a
brother." I really do because if I knew for 30 years and didn't
know you had a brother, it's a lot of things about you I don't
know, you don't know yourself. So me, I could join forces with
your enemy and we could repeat every bad thing that ever happened
to you, we could repeat it with you because yo don't know. Well,
you can't do those things with me because I know and people don't
like you to know, they don't like you for knowing. If they spent
that time learning, they would know just as much, that's all they
have to do, they would know that if you go to the Omini, to the
movies, all the motives are X rated and um what's that other
rating, restricted, R rated except one, however, because the
children who patronize the Omini live in Overtown, 85 percent of
them, the theater owner does not care what the rating is. My 5
year older can just show up and buy a ticket and go in any movie,
can go in anyone, no one, the ticket teller, no one will question
them. I know this because the children say Mr. McKnight take us to
the movie and we want to see thus and so on, I look in the paper
and say, "Oh no this is restricted, you can't see it, I don't want
to see it." "Oh, so-in-so saw it last night." "At the Omini?"
"Yes." So I did take them and I stood back and said here's your
money they can't sell you a ticket. The child bought tickets, come
on, see. But that's because other people do that, they don't care
about your children, all they care about is the all mighty dollar
so let's pollute your child and make this dollar. If you send your
child there with the dollar you are worst than that person, yeah
you are because you paid for it and it was your child, you didn't
care. Well that's how you could assume we were with 1-95 but
people were not, there were people who fought them all the way to
the courts. There were people who...if you walked along the side
of the expressways in Overtown, particularly this one right here,
395, when you get to 13th Street and 1st Place there is an
apartment building at 1st Place and one at 1st Court and both of
them are cut in half because the owner fought them all the way so
the courts only allowed the system to purchase that which would be
actually be used and left the other part of the building standing.
There are two building within a one block area on 13th Street, 1st
Court and 1st Place that are cut off for the expressway to come
through. You know that these people felt...Helly Pace owned the
filling station by Booker T. School, he owned one of those
buildings that's cut off. I never knew who the owner of the other
one was but I did know Mr. Pace because he was active in this
community when he lived so because of his activism I had got a
chance to talk to him and I know that he went to court. I know
that Williams um... what the president of the board that'died last
(Mrs. Bell): Chatman.
(Mr. McKnight): Not him, of the Overtown Advisory Board, our
(Mrs Bell): Dean.
(Mr. McKnight): No, he came after Dean, or before, he came
before Dean, he used to come in here and play cards, an old man
lived right across the street, Mr. Powell's friend.
(Mrs. Bell): Okay, I know who you are talking about, but I
don't know his name.
(Mr. McKnight): I can't think of his name. I'm sorry that
did escape my mind, but his building is right over here on 16th
Street and then Florida Light and Power Company have a generator
station next door to his building on 2nd Avenue and 15th Street and
they did the same thing to this man but he went to court and the
court said the Florida Power and Light Company, you can only take
that part of the building that where you will need the land, you
cannot take his whole building so those are number three that's cut
in half to make it convenient for other people; and I say for other
people...the generator station, we have two of them in Overtown but
they are not generating power, that's being consumed, just here in
Overtown, see we are too small of a community for that many
generating stations. The power is actually .exported outside of
this community. We have a water treatment plant in this community,
its located at the Miami River and 4th Street, the water purifying
plant. It does provide water for this community and other areas
too. I'm bringing that up because when 1-95 came through a lot of
people needed to see a psychiatrist but that wasn't available so my
best friend May committed suicide and she threw herself into the
Miami River at the water treatment plant because they took her
grandmama building that she had expected to inherit. Her daughter
works for the City of Miami and was in a meeting at Bethel Church.
The young lady who....;hat were we doing? We were trying to get
summer jobs for children and she spoke from the city as to how
important these summer jobs were and how her teachers were her
savior in school and then she had to be taken out of the room, she
became overcome. Now this is the mother of this child, she is now
grown lady. But what happened...that's why I say they needed some
psychological counseling, maybe things would have been different.
Today we are dialoguing here about what could happen and what has
happened. That did not happen before so this is a way to vent,
this is a way to restore sanity or to at least accept the fact that
you can't do anything about, you can do something about, you won't
do anything about, you will do something. This is one way of doing
it. So the Black Archives making this and other forms available
will help us better understand what has happened and why it
happened and then what we need to do from this point on.
From this point on, in my opinion, we need to ask the
Department of Transportation to be just aggressive with assisting
us with development as they were with assisting other people with
getting to downtown, getting to other areas for an example: You
can get off 1-95 downtown Miami and come out by the Knight Center
around the DuPont Plaza. Isn't it amazing if you go back and check
the plans, the DuPont Plaza stood directly in the path of I-95?
Just go look at it, that's all you have to do, but somebody
downtown thought, "Oh no, you won't do this," and they agreed, "No
we can't do that," and we could move and they did, they actually
did. 1-95 starts at US 1 right outside, right after Rickenbacker
Causeway and it ends in Maine. See, so it's not just a little
local road at all. I'm from South Carolina, I drives it home. I
live 9 miles from it in Williamsburg County, South Carolina. When
I get off 1-95, I have 9 miles and I'm in my yard. So it's not
that they did this just here. This made it convenient for the
snowbird to tan in Miami Beach in February and made my grandmama
live outdoors, made my best friend commit suicide. Now this is
what 1-95...that's how important it is, that's what it does. It
remove businesses when Mr. Slater and Mrs. Smith, fought so hard
for summer jobs for Overtown youth, there had been a time in its
history when its businesses could provide job opportunities for its
youths. We don't have those businesses today at all. We have an
aggressive crime prevention program aimed at the few businesses
that are left in Overtown. So aggressive that it closed the bar
across the street. That man has been running bars in this
neighborhood since the 40's but they put him out of business last
week. Thank you City of Miami Police Department. Now kill off
another one of our businesses, and no one has said anything about
it, they just closed down, the Shutters has not opened in three
weeks. What happened they set up a road block right outside the
bar and then, if you do that, the customers don't come to the bar
because when you go to a bar, you go there to drink and if you are
checking for drinking and driving right outside the bar, and you do
that every weekend, and so the man went out of business. So that's
how government squeezes you out. No one said anything. Oh are I
know that have been people complaining that was a rough bar. They
should have done like me, stay far away from it. It's in the
neighborhood much longer than I am, I have never been to it. So it
didn't have to go, I never said it was rough, I didn't know
anything about cause I didn't go there but I know my friends can't
go there now and they liked it. It was a nice place for them, it
was their "Cheers". When they worked all day, when Barbara come
from the hospital, she could meet Jessie, whose job is closing
down...it's amazing McCorys hired a lot of Overtown residences and
then went out of business. I was in Woolworth last Sunday, last
Saturday morning for breakfast and I knew 8 of the sales girls that
came on early because they live here in Overtown and you know what
the discussion was, how disappointed they were that they learned
from a news broadcast Woolworth will be closing. They just started
working there in Project Independence, off welfare, out of a job
but the job closed down. See, no one is going to bring anything to
replace these jobs. These women will come back to the neighborhood
and they'll have nothing to do. Oh, they'll look for work right on
but with downtown loosing the businesses at the rate Overtown lost
them because of 1-95, there are no highway instructions, I know the
city has those 108 loan to that they're going to do the Marketplace
on Flagler Street where they will change the traffic and let it run
in both directions to try to bring people to downtown. My
philosophy on that is 95,000 people work downtown everyday and
don't spend a dime there, so it doesn't matter what you do. If
95,000 people isn't doing it, it won't make a difference, nothing
else you do will make a difference. So we need to make the
difference here. We have a lot of development going on in the
community but it's housing. They took away our businesses and they
not giving us any back. Pay attention to that. They took away the
beauty shops, the barber shops, the restaurants, the record stores,
the tailor shops and they're giving us $60,000, $80,000, $110,000
housing units in a neighborhood where the population has been
unemployed 20 years. That means they are changing the people in
that community. That's what that means. We have, on next Tuesday,
75 family's water being shut off because the landlord did not pay
the water bill. He owes $399,000 says the water company on
properties in Overtown and Liberty City. Not just one property and
they gave us a list of all his property. I know the man, I know
him well. He lives on Venetian Isle. I know where his house is on
Venetian Isle. I was shocked to see his house was not on the list,
he paid the water bill where he lives. He has Section 8's.
Section 8 means the tenant is paying $60.00 and the government is
paying $600.00 because the maximum is $660.00 and everybody gets
the maximum but he didn't pay anything to the water company. Well
I don't assume the government didn't pay him. I'm sure they did,
I'm sure they did. I know the water company shuts off my water if
I don't pay every two months. I'll never owe them $300,000 because
my water bills be $60.00 and if I don't have those $60.00 I don't'
have no water and that's everybody else in this neighborhood except
the big landlords. But all us little people here, Florida Power &
Light Company I have to pay them, if I don't pay them, they will
shut off my lights. If I don't get it turned back on in 5 days, I
have to double the deposit. That's what they're doing now in the
community unless you have a multi-unit apartment building, then you
can call them up and say I can't pay today, maybe tomorrow, see and
don't ever pay them. Well that's not so bad that Jose Darren owe
the water company that. What's bad, is he owe the City of Miami
(???): No wonder they're broke, they should allow me some
(McKnight): But they won't, and he didn't do anything with
the buildings. How do I know all of this because I was an Urban
League employee and the Urban League had a contract to do
management for this man and I was the staff person assigned since
it was in Overtown where I lived so I know that only a coat of
white paint when over the old green paint that was already on the
wall and then the city was told we renovated and we put $7,000 in
each unit, not by the Urban League, they don't do that, that's why
they got out of the management contract with this man. Cause T.
Willard Fair say he will not be a slum landlord. He prized himself
on not being that so when he saw where this was going he canceled
the contract and it just really went down hill then. The man was
trying to be above board as long as the Urban League was involved.
We paid the water bill, we paid the garbage people and so that mean
that they dumped the garbage. It's a lot of trash in this
community but it has nothing to do with me. If the dumpster is
overflowing because it's too small, the company would bring a
larger one, but the landlord ain't gone to pay anymore money so the
landlord and the Herald make you think it's me. No, it's not me.
Get a bigger dumpster, that's all you need do but if you get a
bigger one, you'll pay more money. So what we need from the
Department of Transportation is, come in, come back, you can't give
us the rights but you can bring us a Burger King franchise and
allow some young person who has the stamina and the temperament to
stand at the window and be hassled like you will be hassled and
give them an opportunity. I'm not looking for any opportunities,
I'm a diabetic, I'm trying to find a cure for diabetes. That's
where um a spend the rest of...I'm 50 next month, so the next 50
years, I'll be fighting for diabetes. All of my time going for
that, it claimed the life of my father and my mother and I'm now
diabetic so I will be fighting...I've got plenty time to fight for
that. I won't be at these forums, I'll be at the Diabetes
Association (laugher). It's time I do something for me so...but
those are things that can happen.
We had schools here, some like beauty school. We don't have
training school in Overtown, Miami Skill Center, they tell you
that's in Overtown but it's really across the railroad track and we
who live in Overtown know that if you have to cross the railroad,
you just left Overtown. So the Miami Skill Center is right on 14th
Street right at the railroad track as soon as you go across, but my
friends that didn't have tuition for Miami Dade and was told by Dr.
Castell Bryan to go to the Skill Center and take a remedial math
course until they get their tuition money in place. They told me
that when they went to the skill center, it was worse than high
school. It didn't have an atmosphere conducive to learn. So I
went to see Dr. Castell Bryan to say, but y'all have monies earmark
for children who live in Overtown, $500,000, as a matter fact, in
scholarship monies. Please look into that and make certain that
these children get it. I am sorry that Dr. Bryan is no longer
downtown, I am happy that she is the President to the north campus
but I needed her downtown because this where the children of
Overtown go so I needed a dean that I could call and say this child
came by my house and they don't have the money for this workbook,
please make certain they get it. One thing I can give her credit
for, when you call her, she does what you ask or tell you she
can't, you don't get disappointed. You know it's going to be done
or you need to keep looking. I usually say to people, this is what
I want, do I have it all or am I still looking. You didn't have to
say that to Dr. Bryan. You say this is the problem, she said I'll
handle it, she said call so-in-so, I can't deal with it.
(Dr. Fields): Urbie let me ask you, both you and Jackie Bell,
you both have mentioned resistance, you've both given some examples
and how people in the community resisted when the Transportation
Department came in and through eminent domain forced them from
their homes. Let's talk a little bit about political power.
During this period, you've said that there were no public forums,
although, I understand that on the record it shows that public
forums were suppose to be held. To both of you, each of you, what
about political power? Did the community ever rise up between 1945
and 1970 and say that we are not going to take this any more, Ms.
(Mrs. Bell): Their were forums held.
(Dr. Fields): In the early days?
(Mrs. Bell): But from what I understand from my folks, my
parents I should say and I think I made reference to that that they
hired people who looked like us to tell us how good it was for us
and how better it was going to be for us, if we accepted the
challenge, even some people got some paper, some, some commissary
notes. For instances, Gladys Taylor, I know the Sharps, the
Murtles and you should know them, I think even the Brannons but
there were a lot of people given promissory notes that...Opal King,
that if you sell to us when we rebuild, you will have first
priority to return.
(Dr. Fields): So this whole concept of rebuilding Overtown
was really the center?
(Mrs. Bell): Yes.
(Dr. Fields): I see, of the whole process.
(Mrs. Bell): Yes.
(Dr. Fields): The promise of rebuilding.
(Mrs. Bell): Yes. I will see if I can...I know it's been a
lone time and I know Mrs. Taylor have moved quite a bit. One Lady
I don't know if she is still living, I have to go try and find her
but I wish we could find from some of those families if they kept
those notes. I remember Gladys Taylor saying she had hers. I
think Mrs. King might have hers and I...
(Dr. Fields): We would appreciate it if you could help us
make that contact.
(Mrs. Bell): I will, I will, but yeah it was...I mean...it
was redesigned, there are or should be in housing and Urban
Development, in their archive some of the designs that they showed.
Yes, beautiful houses, nice water...ah lakes around the house and
closest to... You've seen them? You kept shaking your head...so,
you know, I mean closest to downtown were the beautiful apartments
so it really, really was a good sales job that they did on this
(Dr. Fields): So there were people in the community who you
are saying were paid to go along with the idea and to sell it to
(Mrs. Bell): Ask you mama, she'll give you the names, I'm not
going to give the name publicly, you ask your mama and put it in
(???): You're playing the dozens.
(Mrs. Bell): Oh, no I didn't mean it that way, no, no, no.
(Mr. McKnight): We did become politically aware after it
happened then they look back and everybody had 20-20 hindsight and
they didn't just set on that, they organized politically and on the
west side of Dunbar, it's not public housing, but the apartment
buildings that's on 20th to 22nd Street and 5th Avenue was built by
the World Church. Well the mortgage was done by them, they
didn't...someone else did the...but anyway that was a trade off to
some pittance to what they did but Reverend Johnson tells me he was
the person who signed the checks for that and he tells me that
that's how the dialogue that came about when they organized, that's
a result of dialogue. They thought, well something has to come
back, so I don't remember now from my knocking on those days but
it's about 40 to 60 units that was brought back and then right
across the street here on 17th Street, 3rd Avenue to 4th Avenue,
17th Street to 20th Street, R10, that project is called Town Parke
Garden, that was the second phase. These were going to be units
for home ownership so that all those people who would move out
could now buy and come back but these people moved out and moved to
better surroundings than what that was and then the day before time
to go the block for sale, the federal government said, can't sell
don't mean standards and so I don't know what happened because now
they are selling it.
(Mrs. Bell): That only that, we need to look and see who
those congress people who was a part of that and look at the
apartments that are now built that are actually built like motel
rooms which they are and then, you can...and then look at who
purchased them before, okay, and see, and they...I can't tell you
who was a congress person right now but I can tell you who stepped
in and became...I can tell you who was the senator.
(Dr. Fields): Who was that?
(Mrs. Bell): Claude Pepper.
(Mr. McKnight): He was also the congress person, he was the
congress person first.
(Mrs. Bell): No, he was the senator first and he got booted
out by Fairchild, Fairclarke, I'm sorry and he became the senator.
The next time around he became the congressman and if you trace
that, you will trace the Marty Fines family, the Jake Kislak
family, okay, and you'll trace the J. Janices and you'll trace who
own these apartments...who built these apartments. So you'll trace
who knew what was happening to us or what was happening to the
area, that will tell you who voted and who didn't vote and Urbie
said to me today about these apartments now in the Cuban community
getting the rehab loans and are not repaying, I said no they just
switched hands from the Jewish community to the Hispanic community
that everyone of these apartment buildings that were built, these
motel rooms that don't have no parking, and no zoning and all of
this, they were in ownership by the Jews. They got money for them
too, so Department of Transportation where is our money, okay. We
didn't get none then, we are not getting none now. EOPI, they
brought that in, so they said that would help us, God bless them.
Now we have model cities and the Ray Goods and those got all that,
now we got community...and they took that to model cities, now the
community development is here and the Hispanics are getting all of
that so maybe Department of Transportation, we don't have no belief
that they are and I don't have no belief in this study and I
certainly don't want this kept at FIU. I think they got enough
studies on us. I'm doing this because Dr. Fields is my friend, not
because of nobody else but because Dr. Fields is my friend and she
should be doing it but it should be taken to the Black Archive and
that is where it should be left. I'm am not...these are not the
King papers, who should have them and who shouldn't, I'm telling
you where they should go and I am tired now. If y'all gone ask
questions or anything (???)
(Dr. Fields): Thank you both to Jackie Bell and to Urbie
(Mr. McKnight): Before we close I really want to ask...I want
to say to this group like I say to everybody I talk to on the
street, we either going to take our neighborhood back from whoever
have it. No one has it, it's just an imagination that we think
they do but they don't so we're going to wake up and say this is
mine and you can't have it. You remember as a child, I brought the
ball so when we call the five somebody picking me or the ball goes
home (laughter). It's just that simple and we need to be that way
about where we live.
(Dr. Fields): Thank you to our panelist and the...
(Ms. Green): We are going to take this message to them, have
to get a mike...I have an answer, we are going to have to go to
them and tell the people in the community because they
refuse...these seats should be filled, they will not come here...we
are going to go to them.
(Mrs. Bell): Let me explain something to you Ms. Green. This
community have changed from and please if anybody in here...don't
misunderstand me, it has changed from American Blacks to Blacks
from other parts of the country or the world, okay. The language,
there is some language barriers and when you have an immigrant
group that joins now, I didn't say that it was 100%, I said that we
have a mixture and... Huh?
(Mr. McKnight): I said yeah, we have.
(Mrs. Bell): And when you have an immigrant group that comes
to a neighborhood they usually stick together and do not get
involved in that neighborhood's problems because they actually have
their own, we really haven't been very nice in welcoming and
bringing other folks in and it's because of a language barrier,
that's all it have to be, it can't be anything else. Because they
certainly have the same complexion, they might have come from a
different system and most immigrants have come from a what we call
in the business world, the barter system. You bring to the market
what you have to sell so you can get what you need. Being an
American Blacks, we are not and have not been a part of that system
so it means we have a problem of actually communicating so we might
need to welcome that immigrant group and kind...let them help us to
become a part of this that makes us stronger. They don't know the
history, all they know is what they have seen now and that is the
only thing that I like about the Jews, is that they never let you
forget the Holocaust and we should never, ever, ever, let nobody
forget that they brought us here in slavery.
(Mrs. Green): And we didn't get our 40 acres and a mule.
(Mr. McKnight): I don't know that, we are so crooked some of
them could have gotten it and lied. I don't know that.
(Mrs. Green): I know I didn't get mine.
(Dr. Fields): Well thank very much the panel...ah go ahead,
and if you need them you'd better come back.
(Dr. Fields): To the panel, we are now going to go to our
open forum. You can see from the...just what was said here for
these few minutes that it was important that we begin with people
who have really lived it for such a long time and been activists to
help us move to the next step and so we are now having our open
forum. We would ask you please to come the microphone if you want
to make a comment. We are talking about the historical impact of
transportation on Overtown between 1945 and 1970. We would very
much like to hear your comments and if you have questions for the
panel, we will entertain those now. Ms. Green you have said
several things as we have been going through the...with the
panelist. Would you tell us something about your life in Overtown,
Ms. Rosa Green. You need to go to the microphone.
(Ms. Rosa Green): Leave me second.
(Dr. Fields): You're never second Ms. Green (laughter).
(Ms. Green): I think, ah is the mike on?
(???Male): May I say something? The microphones are so that
we can record it on tape to the transcript, the microphones are not
speakers, somebody maybe thinking because we are using microphones
they should be louder...
(Dr. Fields): Amplified
(???Male): They are not amplifiers but it's being picked up
on our speaker on the tape so the tape will be transcribed. That's
why we are saying go to the microphone. It's not going to
make...you're not going to hear it louder but it is being recorded
on the tape and that's where we are making our transcript.
(Ms. Green): Well my name is Rosa Green and most of you know
me if you've been around to any of the sit-in, that's what I'm
going to call this. But, as I spoke to Mr. McKnight, who is very
knowledgeable in the political and the history of Overtown.
However, I go back way further than he does because I'm much older
than he is. I have a son just about...would have been his age had
he lived. But, um I came here some time in the 30's with my
parents, my mother and my step-father. They...we are originally
from Georgia, small town called Cochwood, Georgia and they use to
come here and work and it was something called the season and the
reason the called it season was because the snowbirds used to come
down, the very rich people, and they would come and they were able
to make a lot of money that you couldn't make in Georgia and other
parts of Florida. So they brought me here and I think I was about
10 years old and it was very hard to find housing at that time.
The most you could find was maybe a room, people use to rent rooms
to those people who that came here on what you called the season.
You would work and then you would go back to where you lived.
Well, fortunately, my mother finally was walking downtown one day
cause I came here during the time they had trolley cars, we use to
pay a nickel to go downtown...and she was walking downtown one day
and she saw this little house on 4th Avenue and 14th Street, the
area known as Good Bread Alley but they had "For Rent" on there and
I think the rent was something like $5.00 a week and we rented from
a rental agency called C.F. Kagel. I don't know if Mr. Kagel
himself is still alive but I did see that name on an office
somewhere on 7th Avenue, maybe the sons or maybe he is still alive
but I went to school, 5th grade at Dunbar Elementary. It didn't
look like it looks now, I think the face was a different way. I
went to Booker T. Washington for one year and somehow I didn't like
it. Well I wasn't use to that type of school so I finished my last
4 years in school in Chattanooga, Tennessee and that's where I
finished school but every year...every summer I would come back
here because this was my home and that's why a lot of people don't
know me and another reason they don't me, we were poor and we are
still are or I still am (laughter). But usually since we live in
capitalist society, if you don't have money, hardly anybody knew
you but the way you might know my parents or my mother is because
she use to have street service. She was one of those at that time,
you could stand on the street and you could have what you called
church service and you could put your little cup out there on top
of the amplifier and people would stand around and listen to you
sing and she ministered to the people and they could drop money in
the cup and believe me, nobody would snatch the cup and run. Many
nights we stood on, where am I...14th Street and 4th Avenue, across
the street from a restaurant called Nasty Man (laughter). And you
know I was almost grown before I realized why they called it Nasty
Man. I thought that the food was nasty and they use to have the
steam table and the plate glass window and you could look in the
window and see this good food and I kept trying to figure out why
does the food look so good if it's nasty. Well, finally when I
grew up, somebody told me the reason, that drunks would get drunk
and they would go in and order the food and then they would be so
high on whatever they were drinking, they would fall asleep in
their plates and so, you know the food was all over everywhere and
so the people just named it Nasty Man. But anyway, there was a
hotel. Now I don't know if Dr. Fields know about the Dorsey Hotel
that was on 2nd Avenue and when I first left home after I graduated
high school and I thought I was grown and I left home, that's where
I chose to live, in the Dorsey Hotel. So I stayed there and I
think it was like $14.00 a week, a month, I don't remember exactly
how we paid the rent but $14.00 in 40's was like almost $1,000
today, it was very hard to come by and I stayed there for about
three months and then finally I decided it was too expensive for me
and I went back home. There was Clyde Killings...somebody said we
had nightclubs, we had Phil Harris at Rockland Palace. I think I
won the first $15.00 on amateur hour there. They had bands, they
had the Mary Elizabeth, they had the Island Club, they had as Mrs.
Bell said, we didn't really have to leave our community to go for
entertainment and they had some nice restaurants and then they had
some like what we have today, "Hole in the Walls," that's what I
call them because you have to go in and you don't have nowhere to
sit. But at least I could walk from 4th Avenue and 14th Street to
2nd Avenue which our Broadway, little Broadway, walk but nobody
even bothering you. And we didn't have air condition in those
days, as a matter of fact, we had a ice man that use to bring ice.
We had oil stoves, fortunately we did have a inside toilet which I
wasn't accustom to coming from Georgia because we had what you
called outhouses and a lot of times when I go to the post office
down here, I refer to it smelling like a outhouse because I know
what they smell like especially in the night (laughter), you know.
Let me see what else I can say, and then when I came mostly
downtown, was specifically on or at least to most of the stores
were ran by the Jewish people and I can remember on the Jewish
holiday, they holy day, they use to close most all the stores
downtown would be closed because they was celebrating their
holiday. Also I remember going downtown and you could not sit to
the counters, you could not even order food from the counters where
they eat at, you just couldn't eat down there and if you had to the
restroom, there was one in the jailhouse, a 26-story building, that
was our jail then and you had to go down in the basement and use it
and if you didn't use it there, you just didn't go. Burdine's was
a store that Black people did not go in. They had Black and White
water fountains, where they had colored. When you got on the
trolley car, they had signs up "Colored Seat from Rear" and that's
what you did you respected those rule and we lived through that.
There were many times I went downtown and I thought, "Well, God, if
I could just get a sandwich or something to go, I would be happy,
but Black people weren't allowed. And then they had store down
there Byrons, Jackson, I think it Jackson Byrons or it ended up
being...well it was a Red Cross and if you went in there and you
bought something, a dress or if you wanted to buy a hat, Black
people who looked like me could not try it in the store, you had to
take it home, if it didn't fit then you could take it back. That
happened right here in this city, okay. And on Miami Beach, just
let me say that before I sit down, you could work over there but
that was about it and before you worked over there you had to go to
5th Street to the police department and get an identification card
so, you know, with your picture and everything. If you were caught
without, you were taken to jail until somebody could vouch for you.
So when you got hired on the Beach, the first thing your employer
would say to you, you go down to the police department and get a
identification card, that was Miami Beach. And there weren't...I
don't know any clubs over there that Black people use to go to.
Only the entertainers, the professionals like Sammy Davis, Jr. and
all the big ones, they would go over there and perform for the
White people but for us to see them, they had to come to the I
think that was the Sir John? Yeah, they had the Sir John Hotel
down here, Mary Elizabeth and then later the Sir John came and I
don't know why they tore it down but that was a pretty nice place,
down there, the Sir John. Then they would come back after they
would get through entertaining the White people on the Beach, they
would come back to Overtown and they would jam with the Black
people until morning. So if you had to go work, you set there
until day and you ran home and you got ready and went to work and
my husband and I, in those days we did it many times and went to
work and worked...you know cause you're young and you can do that
but now you can't. So that's what we lived through here in Miami.
So speaking of change and as Mr. McKnight said, I mean Overtown had
some economic development. We had about 3 or 4 theaters, I
remember the Ritz, The Modern, I don't remember the Lyrics and the
Capitol and the Harlem. There was once the Harlem Square, huh?
(Mr. McKnight): Five theaters
(Mrs. Green): I remember but I didn't go, I wasn't allowed to
go, my mother's religion didn't allow for you to go the movies so
I didn't go but knew they were there because I use pass there and
now I don't we have a one, do we have a one between here an Liberty
City, Black owned?
(Mrs. Green): No. Okay, so that's another thing that Mr.
McKnight spoke about, those movies that they get over there. If
the parents can't keep the children home but most of the time the
parents because they're young and they don't know, some of them
don't know anything about parenting, they take there kids in there.
Sometimes I want to go the movies and I'm thinking when can I go
when all the babies and the little children are not in there so you
can enjoy the movie. So, I don't know, I guess I've said
everything but one thing I can say, Miami has certainly changed but
not changed enough for the people who live in Overtown and as Mrs.
Bell said, we do have a lot of immigrants but you would be
surprised what we do have over there in the projects. We have some
girls, young parents over there that's very capable of doing a lot
things if given the opportunity. So as I said, I think what we are
going to have to do, we are going to have to just go them. Some of
us are going to have to just go over there and get that amplifier
like my mother use to have and a mike and just try to recruit them
because we need to make a difference in Overtown. Dr. Fields is
working very hard to try to restore the Lyric Theater but we need
more than the Lyric Theater, we need a city. We need things like
other people have in other cities. We need a...we need recreation,
we need something for old people...remember I'm old. I worked all
of my life and now that I'm retired, what do I do? I pay taxes,
50-60 years, I paid them. What do I have? We need things for
grandparents to be able or either parents to teach young parents
how to be parents because they young girls don't know anything
about parenting and so we raising up a generation that's...I don't'
know where we headed, ya know, because half of them can't read,
half of them have dropped out of school, most of the young boys are
selling drugs and killing each other. I mean you just don't really
read in the paper about how many kids are getting killed over here
and we got to stop it. It has gotten now that the funeral homes
are competing and the Whites want to take over the Black funeral
homes. Now they don't mind messing with the dead because that's
big business now. Every week 10, 7, 8, 9 people getting killed and
we got to stop the violence.
(Mrs. Bell): Ms. Green did you know that that store called
Burdines and Harleys and all those...
(Mrs. Green): Harleys, yes maam.
(Mrs. Bell): Did you know that the land that they were
builded on belonged to Blacks?
(Mrs. Green): Oh yes, I heard.
(Mrs. Bell): You could not go in there and try...
(Mrs. Green): I heard that Dana Dorsey owned quite a bit of
(Mrs. Bell): No, the Stirrups.
(Mrs. Green): Okay, yes I do know.
(Mrs. Bell): Down by ah, where the Four Ambassadors set, the
(Mrs. Green): That's Brickell, yeah. But you know let me
just say this while I'm at it. It's education and I would like to
say that to all these young people in here. Education is the name
of the game because Mr. McKnight is so knowledgeable and he knows
a lot of things that I don't know and I don't want to make excuses,
however, I was a...had six kids so I was home raising my kids and
there is so much that I didn't even know that we could make some
noise about up until right now, you know. I know that now you can
go to City Hall and you can complain, I know now that we can talk
to our senators and our congressmen and those other people, I know
that we can do that.
(Mrs. Bell): Now do we pass a resolution here tonight sending
it to Congresswomen Carrie Meeks to ask her to go to the Department
of Transportation and as soon as this study is completed that we
ask for our 40 acres and a mule (laughter).
(Dr. Fields): And a Lexis.
(Mrs. Green): First I want to know, are they doing another
study with the transportation?
(Mrs. Bell): This is what we are doing now, we are recording
the history and from that history we should be able to come back
with what is a new...it's a new...its an executive order. It is
not a law passed by Congress, it's an executive order out of the
President's office that says that the Department of Transportation,
if it destroys a community, it should replace it economically. So
now that this is what they are talking about, we...and since this
community have been one of the historical communities that have
been brain drained by the transportation, should be ask asked
Congressman Meeks and then ask the Chairman of the Transportation
Committee...I don't know who he is now that Lehman...no Lehman
wasn't never Chairman...but I don't know who the Chairman of
Transportation but I know Lehman was way up there. But I know Ms.
Wanza over there, sister use to work in Congress under...with
Congressman Pepper's office. You didn't think I knew who you was
(Mrs Bell): Not your...but your aunt
(Mrs. Green): But wait a minute did you...
(Mrs. Bell): Wait, wait, wait...did you...
(Ms. Wanza): Yeah she use to work for Congressman (???)
(Mrs. Bell): Can you ask her for us, who is the Chairman of
the Transportation Committee from the United States Congress?
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, I'll call her tonight.
(Mrs. Bell): Okay.
(Mrs. Green): But wait a minute Jackie...
(Mrs. Bell): Do y'all agree with that?
(Mrs. Green): But wait, wait, they are talking about running
the tunnel underground so that it doesn't disturb Overtown.
(Ms. Bell): We talking back in history...
(Mrs. Green): That's so they won't have to give us any
(Mr. McKnight): Oh, oh, its not coming near Overtown, it's
coming downtown from the Orange Bowl.
(Mrs. Green): The Orange Bowl?
(Mr. McKnight): Um hum.
(Mrs. Bell): But we are talking about the historical movement
(Mr. McKnight): At the meeting at the Mayor's conference
room, they told he that it has to be something with the
(Mrs. Bell): Alright, well the environment is dangerous...
(Mr. McKnight): It has to be an endangered specie.
(Mrs. Bell): Okay, we are an endangered specie.
(Mr. McKnight): Hold it, hold it, outside the door this
morning I saw a brown dusty, that is sparrow that lives...
BEGINNING OF TAPE TWO
(Mrs. Bell): We need to save the brown dusties (laughter)...
(Mrs. Green): Maybe we can talk about that, just let me get
(Mrs. Bell): But wait Ms. Green, Mr. McKnight by September
the 30th all bf this transportation development have to be
approved, Governor Lawton Chiles have been in town for two or three
visits to talk with one-on-one with the County Commission and the
City Commission and the Chairman of the Dade County Commission is
Senator Gwen Margolis and she and Chiles are like this, how I know,
I'm around them too but we, going, their going...112 is going to be
expanded right behind us here is going to be expanded along with
that tunnel and all of that so we fixing to be impact a lot more
than anybody really telling the truth. See, what happened was last
year and I'm tired.
(Mrs. Green): Let me just say this and I'm going to sit down,
Jackie, I want to close out. But the only this is I just hope they
don't plan to say, "We fooled them again" because according to
those plans that you say they had where it was going to benefit the
Overtown Community and then they didn't do any of that, the young
man say he saw the housing and all of that, I hope we can stand up
and say, no more of that stuff about, ha, ha, they signed and we
fooled them, okay?
(Mrs. Bell): We understand that but ah, ah...
(Dr. Fields): Thank you Ms. Green, I don't even know what I
was going to say...
(Mrs. Bell): I do think that we really do need to look at
what this new transportation is going to do because it is actually
going to take all of those buildings back there. Last year after
Chairman Tiel lost, it wasn't one month after that they had this
plan back on the agenda. I'm tired too.
My name is Dane Brady, Dr. Dane Brady. I live in Overton,
y'all live in Overtown and this distinction is for a purpose. When
they put the Metro-rail in this part of town and they put Arena
Towers, they didn't want that connection with Overtown so they
thought by dropping a letter maybe it would change. This is what
I was told. My grandmother lived over there in Town Parke
(Mrs. Bell): No, can I please straighten it for history?
(Dr. Brady): After I'm through because it's getting late, I
want to go Ms. Bell.
(Mrs. Bell): No, can I please straighten it for history, no
let me straighten you for history.
(Mrs. Bell): That's New Town In Town, darlin.
(Dr. Brady): Okay, New Town and In Town?
(Mrs. Bell): That's what it is.
(Mr. McKnight): No New Town In Town.
(Mrs. Bell): That's the name, that's the proper name.
(Mr. McKnight: That's right.
(Dr. Brady): New Town In Town?
(Mr. McKnight): That's correct.
(Mrs. Bell): That the name, that's the proper name but...
(Dr. Brady): This is the point that I would like to make, my
understanding is that these public hearings were to take place
prior to a decision being made.
(Mrs. Bell): Right.
(Dr. Brady): Okay sometime ago, maybe last year this was a
major issue and there were no hearing at all, am I correct?
(Mrs. Bell): No correct me.
(Dr. Brady): So I would like to commend you first of all for
us having these hearings. But second of all I would like to think
this is not going be an exercise of futility. I would to see some
dollars actually come into Overtown. I would like to see economic
development and what it is suppose to be, what it is in the other
neighborhoods of Miami actually occur in Overtown. I would
actually like to Kentucky Fried, you'd like to see Burger King, I'd
like to see something happen in the Overtown area, I'd like to see
new housing. We need to be brought into the 21st century here.
These apartment buildings across the street have been here forever,
for as long as I have known and I am not as old as Mrs. Green but
I remember them always being there. It is time for the residents
of Overtown to get up, do something about the situation that is
occurring here without it having to be based upon the death of one
of the members of our community, based upon the needs of our
community and again I commend you on your efforts and I hope that
you get the support that you need because you will get it from me
as a member of the Overtown Advisory Board and as a member of this
community and I hope you get it from others.
(Mr. McKnight): Ah, Ms. Brady, we do try. The person who
gets the most service, the family who gets the most service out of
this building is the reason the building is one story and the way
it is and not what we planned. That person circulated a petition
to stop the building, they went before the county commission and
they said we didn't need it.
(Dr. Brady): Is it the family that???? Didn't need it?
(Mr. McKnight): Yes, yes. At Gibson Park, we used a lot of
our money to convert Dixie Park into Gibson Park and we were to
have had an olympic size swimming pool. They dug up a Black man
named Monk Silvers. See Ms. Bell want call names but if you do
Urbie McKnight wrong, he will always stab you. So Monk Silvers
came to a public meeting in Overtown where the room was...there was
standing room only, there was more than 400 residence there to
support an olympic size pool and Monk Silvers steps up and say,
"For 32 years I'm working the City of Miami Parks Department,
colored people don't need no pool like that."
(Mrs. Bell): You're right.
(Mr. McKnight): Now that's what he said.
(Dr. Dane): And they listened to one man
(Mr. McKnight): They will always listen to that one, if that
one is going to save their money...
(Dr. Dane): Well you know what, there will always be one ???
at the door.
(Mr. McKnight): But in spite of Monk Silvers, in spite of
L.C, Huggins, we have this center and we have Dixie Park, now
Gibson Park, in spite of them. That's why I know one person can
make a difference. That's how I know, yes sir Mr. Anabanga.
(Immanuel Anabanga): Good evening. My name is Immanuel
Anabanga, I am originally a native from Nigeria. I have been here
for 20 years and I have been working in Overtown since 1982. I
work for Town Parke Village, Town Parke Plaza North and Town Parke
Plaza South. So these three co-ops in this community I think it
really appreciate what has been going on, all the leaders, what you
have been doing to send the message to DOT and to the leaders that
this community has to be economically developed. Everyday I see
all these young boys sit down, do nothing. Years and years and
years since 1982 and every time I just wonder, what is going to be
of these kids, is this how it is going to be forever and it bothers
me. I work here and really don't know what I can do. I am going
to have to become American too and I just wish somebody can ask me
or give me sometime that I can do to help these kids, we have tried
everything but it's not, the result is not just coming out to the
best of...of what we expect so anything that I can do as a person
please feel free to get in touch with me.
(Dr. Fields): Thank you, it is important for us to hear you
from Nigeria identify yourself and define yourself as an African-
(Mr. McKnight): But you know you really are, I'm the Black
(Dr. Fields): In the true sense. We'll have to work together
and develop the strategies together, we welcome you.
(Mrs. Bell): We need to get these preachers over here
involved, please, they need to give something back.
(Mr. McKnight): That might be what's wrong).
(Dr. Fields): Shaaaa. Charlie Johnson from Overtown.
(Charlie Brown): Yeah, my name is Charles Johnson. Charles F.
Johnson, Jr. for the record and I was born in the Christian
Hospital looking at how you feel this out. Christian Hospital was
a Black owned hospital in the 1940's in Overtown and I have been
struck by listening to the comments being made here. It has cause
me to go back in my mind and think of the experiences that I had
personally and where, what I'm looking at today and what I'm
hearing and it is very traumatic for me.
Let me explain a little bit about my background when we were
talking about immigrants. My parents were Charles and Sade
Johnson. On my father's side he came to Key West for Aluthria in
the Bahamas and then they went from Key West when he was about 7
years old they moved to Overtown and my Uncle Ben worked on the
railroad, he was a fireman.
My mother Sade Coleman, the Coleman family came from south
Georgia. So here we had this immigrant family that married, you
know a domestic family here and I didn't find out what kind of
problems, "cross-cultural marriage" can create until I got to be 50
years old but you have to deal with it.
I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and the High
School at that point in time was the major recognized school for
Blacks along with Northwestern, Carver and Maze on the south end.
At that point there were a total of 4 high schools in 1958 in Dade
County with the feeder pattern for Booker T. and Composen, Overtown
and so forth and so on, finished from Douglas High School.
The point I want to me make here in summary is that this was
a sound and vibrant community that had all of the assets that any
community had. It had a history, it had economic vibrance and
vitality that were serviced and supported by the transportation
network that was in place. Now, if you want to get into the
details because we are talking transportation, in other words, the
Florida East Coast Railroad the Champion use to come in at 4:44
at the terminal, you know bring the guess, the snowbirds and what
from the north and that came in right down there at the train
station right downtown. The job base and what not was
supported...there weren't people setting around at that point in
time because most of the Blacks worked over on Miami Beach and in
other areas right around here, the school system as we know it
Let me just say this, after I graduated, I left for about 20
years and traveled from places like Washington, D.C. for 5 years
and then I went to Vietnam. Then I was in Chicago for about 7
years and then I came back to Miami. To try to summarize, I was
trained by the military how to, you know, assess transportation.
I was in a reconnaissance unit so what we had to do was look at a
road net in an area and we understood how to bring fire on those
areas in order to disrupt the communications, the transportation
and what not of a community and I was decorated for planning and
organizing those kinds of attacks and did it on a regular basis.
Now, what I see here, when I came back after 20 years and I'm
looking at what had happened with 1-95 and the transportation
activity and relocations of Overtown, it's the same kind of
destruction of a community or a village that is going on except you
didn't use fire power, you just very, in a sophisticated manner
disassembled the civic support and then the economic pattern, and
then got everyone, you know separated but the same kind of
destruction by the federal government was perpetrated here that I
was accustom seeing in other areas.
What can be done about it? It was also distressing because
the...this occurred against people that we called the enemies of
the state, you know. In other words, we never perpetrated this
kind of destruction on people we call friends or people that we
looked at and called citizens or fellow citizens. We have even
done something stranger than that, you know we have used this as a
magnet to bring other people in and past off the assets and equity
of 60 years or more of tax revenues that have been put into a
community and we've taken that creamed it off and given it to
(Mrs. Bell): Where is Miami?
(Mr. Brown): When we talk about Overtown, the um...for me its
a very, um...it creates a very emotional problem because it causes
someone that was raised and trained from that high school over
there, you know, to do things always 100%, not the largest but the
best and went over and conducted those kinds of activities in
people that were deemed enemies of the state and then I have to
come back here and observe on a daily basis the same kind of
destruction that is perpetrated on my own hometown. I know what
I'm looking at and anyone that, anyone who has been familiar with
me and understands the training that I have had would recognized
what I'm talking about. We have already done studies and so FIU,
no you won't be repository of that information. Alright, it's no
sense in wasting time and in relation to the people that are I
guess lulled to sleep by the sugar with which...and it's been very
informative, you know the names that were not filled in here. When
you mention certain things, you go down to HUD and you look in the
office down there and somebody setting down there at HUD with the
same last name as the people that's suppose to be up here watching
what was going on. You know, they working for the same people
doing the dislocating. Dade County HUD is the one that continues
to dislocate people on a basis...let me see Overtown was about
45,000 to 50,000 people, it topped out in about the early 50's and
from that point on it began to relocate the people in this
community systematically throughout Dade County, alright. That's
because this is the heart of the community and I know that if ever
I want to cause anybody in Dade County to say hello at one time,
there is the key. You can go right in here and turn a little key
and it'll cause people to jump from the north county line all the
way down to the south county line. Our leaders claim that they
don't understand how to do that but, you know, if you understand
this community and you know what happened to it, you know where
In relation to what ought to be done, you do have a
congressional representative now that is, you know, looks like you
and, you know, I don't think you need to wait for a meeting, I
think you ought to, by telephone, you know, hey it takes 2 minutes
to make a phone call. You don't even have to pay long distance and
they will patch you into her office downtown. I think
after...tomorrow it Friday, by Friday night we ought to know how
many calls have been made. I guarantee you there will be at least
one, alright. Thank you very much. (Handclapping)
(???Male): I would like to thank everyone who came out
tonight, this is the first meeting we are going to have, there will
be 2 other public meetings, there will be next Thursday that will
be at the Caleb Center and we are going to have it in an area so
that people who were relocated from Overtown could have opportunity
also to give their comments and then we will have another meeting
Tuesday, the 12th at Booker T. Washington which you can come and
make further comments and if you think that you would like to make
some comments that you would like to have in one of the one-on-one
interviews, please make sure that we have your names so we can put
on a list of people that we are considering for one-on-one
interviews so that we can give this information because we feel
from the community standpoint it would be very important
I also would like to thank Gladys Kidd & Associates for
videotaping this program for us. I would like to thank Better Way,
for the welcome and Denise for the food they are serving for us and
I would like to thank the Culmer Neighborhood Center for providing
this facility for us. Is there anyone I forgot to thank? And Ms.
Bell and Urbie McKnight for helping us with this presentation. We
will have further presentations and thank you very much.