Interview with Edward McKenny, August 30, 1997

Material Information

Interview with Edward McKenny, August 30, 1997
Series Title:
Edward McKenny
Wanza, Stephanie ( Interviewer )
McKenny, Edward ( Interviewee )
Stephanie Wanza


Subjects / Keywords:
Overtown (Miami, Fla.)
African Americans ( fast )
Florida--Miami ( fast )
Florida History ( local )

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Overtown Collection' collection of interviews held by theSamuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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Overtown community. I believe somewhere on Northwest Sixteenth

Street. They were like childhood sweethearts. So they pretty much

grew up in the same neighborhood.

(Ms. Wanza): What sort of jobs did your parents have?

(Mr. McKenny): Well, my mother didn't work ah pretty much

because, you know, she married and ah she had a lot of kids, one

behind the other and ah, my father worked, he's, he's an

electrician by trade and ah once he got out of World War II he

continued his education and ah he went to school for electrician

and that's, that's what he retired doing so he is a certified

electrician but my mother, she didn't work primarily. Later, later

in life, after we became older and whatever, she did some domestic

-work but for the most part when we were growing up, she didn't


(Ms. Wanza): Where were your grandparents born?

(Mr. McKenny): Ah, okay two sets. My maternal grandparents

were born, again in North Florida, my grandmother was born in

Columbia County, Florida and my grandfather was born also in

Columbia County, Florida. That in North Florida again around ah

the Gainesville area. It's pretty, pretty ah close knit up in

there so both my grandmother and grandfather on my maternal side.

Now my paternal grandparents, my paternal grandmother was born in

South Carolina in ah Beaufort or Florence, South Carolina. I

believe it was in ah, I'm sorry in Florence, South Carolina, that

was my father, his mother who is now deceased. She was

born in South Carolina. Now his father, my grandfather was born in

Florida, again in Alachuwa County so that what's came in the

McKenny, the McKesson McKenny, the McKenny family, umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Did your grandparents ever live in Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): My grandmother did. Yeah my maternal

grandmother? Her name was Lilly Sharp and she ah, she lived in

Overtown from 1931, from the time that my family migrated from

North Florida up until her demise when she died in September of

1995, two years almost to this date.

(Ms. Wanza): What sort of jobs did your grandparents have?

(Mr. McKenny): My maternal grandfather was a laborer, just a

common laborer, he did construction and what have you and ah my

grandmother did domestic work pretty much. She was cook and ah,

You know, cook and housekeeper and that's the type of work that she

did and ah on my father's side, my paternal grandparents. His

mother died, I never knew her, my paternal grandmother, she died

when my father was very young and his father, he sort of what you

call a jack of all trades. He did railroad...he worked on the

railroad, Florida East Coast ah he did construction work on

highways in Florida. He was ah, he was just a...he wasn't a

professionally skilled person but he did all types of jobs and he

was always, always employed. He did work, he would travel with

families. He's been as far as like out in Montana and what have

you with families and ah he lived in Sebring, Florida. I don't

know if you are familiar with that. That's in central Florida in

Highlands County and ah like I said, he did a lot of work. I

remember he died in 1969, I was in high school and ah he was a

worldly traveler. He had been all over the United States working

with a lot of wealthy people and stuff because like he could cook,

he was a chef cook, he, he was skilled with his hands and whatever.

He was just a jack of trades type and again that was my, excuse me,

that was my paternal grandfather. His name was William McKenny.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe what it was like growing up in

your parents' household?

(Mr. McKenny): Well it was a lot to do and it was,

you know I came from a big family because there were 10 of us. I

have 4 brothers and I have 5 sisters and I guess in ranging order,

I'm number 6. So I had older brothers and I had older sisters and

I had younger sisters and one younger, one younger brother. Umm it

was fun, it was always a lot to do. You didn't have a lot of ah

privacy. You was never one-on-one relationship my parents, you

always had to share things...

(Ms. .Wanza): (Laughing)

(Mr. McKenny): always had to share things, hand-me-

downs and left overs and this and that and whatever. It was fun.

My biggest dream was when I get grown, I'm going to always have my

own room and my own bed (laughter) but ah there was never a dull

moment but, you know, as I got older because I had older brothers

and sisters, the house kind of thinned out, you know, and whatever

then I became the oldest child in he house at one point when I got

to be like a mid-teenager in my early teening years and things sort

of changed but ah we were a close knit family. My parents later

divorced. I spent a lot of time ah after my parents divorced with

ah my grandmother who I mentioned ah also lived in Overtown and ah

I was very close to her. She was ah I don't know, just always

there for me. She somewhat, somewhat, what you would call say

spoil...spoiled you and whatever and ah I could have my way pretty

much with her but it was, it was ah, she was a very positive person

in my life and she lived right around the corner from us when we

lived on Northwest Sixth Street and even when we moved on Northwest

Tenth Street, I was only about 5 blocks from her so it was always

just...I saw her almost on a daily basis and ah that was the center

of my life pretty much growing up, in particular when my parents

divorced because I guess my, my needs or whatever emotionally or

what have you, she was just there and she fulfilled them.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum, okay. The next set of questions are

regarding employment from 1945 and 1970. Now I know you weren't

born until '52...

(Mr. McKenny): (Laughter) Okay.

(Ms. Wanza): So umm, we can, I mean like somewhere like in

your teenage years or something if you had employment during that


(Mr. McKenny): Then you know everything in that time frame,

I'm going back from the time I was 14 which would have been about

1966, because I remember when I was 14 I got a working permit

because I've been working about that time, part time and ah I

worked ah every summer when I was out of high school, whatever, you

know whatever was available, in particular sometimes I worked on

what they call the dock which is now what the call the Port of

Miami. They would let us work there part time and whatever, you

know, because it was...we weren't in the union and whatever and

they let us work minimal hours and what have you. I did that. I

have also worked ah in a mannequin display type factory that was

located in what is now downtown Miami. I ah, I've cut yards, I've

worked in ah motels. I worked one summer just prior to finishing

high school I worked as ah, I was trained as an orderly, this right

after...just before I finished high school in 1970 in Jackson

Hospital and I worked there for one summer and ah up until that

time, like you said prior to 19...up until 1970 that was about

the...Ahh! I'm going to go back...I went, I spent two summers

consequently, I think when I was in 10th and llth grade which would

"have been about 1967 and '68 and then from '68 to '69. Those two

summers were spent in Washington, D.C. because I had an older

brother who was in the military, the Air Force at that particular

time, he and his family and they were stationed "in Virginia" which

is right across from Washington, D.C. My brother was working at

that time in the Pentagon and he got a summer job for me in the

Pentagon and I was just very impressed with that whole military

background and the whole, you know just seeing these guys in

uniforms and people saluting them, just coming from Miami, I had

just never seen so many professional Blacks all up under one

umbrella in my life and I was...

(Ms. Wanza): (Laughing)

(Mr. McKenny): ...amazed so that may (laughter), that may

have been a umm catalyst for me to want to go beyond just my own,

you know, how would I say, just go beyond my own...

(Ms. Wanza): Yeah.

(Mr. McKenny): ...backyard

(Ms. Wanza): Backyard, umm hum.

(Mr. McKenny): in terms of know, and they were just,

these people were like role models and what have you, but i did

that for one summer and the following summer, again because I so

impressed with the area and just to see so many, so many what I

would call upwardly mobile Black ah that I came again and ah I was

even considering ah finishing high school there but I really

couldn't, I had ah, somewhat of a problem adjusting to the weather.

You know having come from Florida all my life, that first winter,

in the middle of the winter, I told my brother to send me home

(laughter). I was in the 11th grade then and ah I just could not

adjust to the cold weather having come from Florida all my life, I,

I live snow but having to get out in it every morning and bundling

up in layers,.J was not use to that so it didn't, it didn't really

work with me and I came back to Miami and the following summer...

(Ms. Wanza): (Cough), excuse me.

(Mr. McKenny): ...I went to that area, Washington, D.C. area

and ah I wasn't able to get a government job but I sought

employment on my own and I worked in a country club. I think I was

more or less like a, pretty much like a gopher. You know you did

everything. I waited tables, I ah, I did...washed dishes, I did

maintenance work and what have you for that particular summer and

that was called the Washington Golf and Country Club but the plus

part about it, a lot of the dignitaries came there for lunch, for

dinner, you know, and I saw a lot of people that were in particular

during that time, I think it was during the ah Nixon

administration, I believe it was, I saw a lot of congressmen, a lot

of people that were in the presidential camp then...

(Ms. Wanza): All kinds of stuff going on...

(Mr. McKenny): ...all kind of stuff was going on, you know I

would just,

(Ms. Wanza): (Laughing)

(Mr. McKenny): ...just sit back and some of the more ah more

experienced staff people, they were pointing out people to me, oh

that congressman so-in-so, so-in-so, so-in-so because they came,

again it was a country club and it was beautiful. They played

golf, they just to unwind. They came in, they ah getting ready to

have their drinks and their social, social affairs, they had

dinner, they had lunch. They just, this just where they chilled

and unwound, know unofficially. You know this is where

a lot of decision are made that affect you and our lives what I call these little smoke rooms and what have you

and this is the kind of scenario and I was very impressed with

that. I didn't see very many, all of Washington ah...Yeah, well I

know that there were a lot of Blacks, not a lot of Blacks, a

lot...som...Blacks were being involved in the government in terms

of congress and whatever, it was still that segregated kind of

thing. Mostly all of the employees there were Black, you know, and

what have you the caddies, the waiters, the waitresses, the people

that worked the cabanas and whatever but you, you rarely saw Blacks

there mingling with these "White European ah politicians" and I

later found that, that was not by design and that was just by, you

know, no not by circumstance rather it was by design and that was

it, you know, but ah that's just the way it was but I was very

impressed with just ah, just to see so many ah prominent people and

this was the way they unwound and whatever.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so you worked in Miami, at the Port of

Miami and you did other jobs?

(Mr. McKenny): Yeah, like odd jobs. Umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): You worked at a store...other odd jobs and you

worked in D.C. for two years.

(Mr. McKenny): And also I mentioned at the summer at

Jack...JMH at Jackson Hospital where I was an orderly.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum. I was trained in that, left up until

that time, that was up until 1970 and then from there I finished

high school 1970. I had planned on attending college but for

financial reasons I did not go. I worked just to save up monies on

my own and ah as it would have it Vietnam was winding down at that

particular time, I was drafted for the Air Force, the Army and I

chose the Air Force instead and in 1972 I went in the Air Force and

4 years from '72 and '76, that's when I left Miami and I did basic

training in ah Texas which was in Lackland Air Force Base in San

Antonio, Texas. I was there for basic training. Beyond that, I was

stationed in Altus, Oklahoma and I was, I was stationed there for

22 months which I didn't like it, I did not like (laughter)

Oklahoma and Texas but I did the best I could to make adjustments.

I would come home as often as I could but I got a chance to see

that part of the country, the west, what I call the mid-west ah

Missouri, Kansas ah Texas...

(Ms. Wanza): Did you like Missouri?

(Mr. McKenny): Well I had a roommate that was from Missouri

and you know umm, when I, when I would go home with him and some

other guys like on weekends...

(Ms. Wanza): Was he from St. Louis?

(Mr. McKenny): He was from St. Louis.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so did you like St. Louis.

(Mr. McKenny): I like St. Louis.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, I was out there. (laughter) I stayed

there for...

(Mr. McKenny): Were you, okay. You worked in St....

(Ms. Wanza): Well not in St. Louis, in Springfield

(Mr. McKenny): Okay, I knew of Springfield Missouri but St.

Louis I love...I love East St. Louis, Illinois is even better.

(Ms. Wanza): Un hun (laughter).

(Mr. McKenny): You go there and umm...I have family, I had

family members that lived in Kansas City, Missouri which is

further, you know, much further than St. Louis and on occasions I

would visit my cousins that lived there but I like

Texas I liked...I did not like Oklahoma period. They had a lot of

rigid old laws on the books and you know whatever and I just was

coming from Florida that I was not accustom to and it was a place

that although I was stationed there I spent very little of my

leisure time on the base in the State of Oklahoma. We would always

leave whenever the opportunity presented itself. But back to your

other question, I, I liked ah St. Louis and that particular area.

(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, let's see what kind of hours did you work

on the jobs, mainly?

(Mr. McKenny): Well when I was working part time, you know,

I was mostly part time, full time. You know I would go to work in

the mornings and work the duration, the entire day and when I had

summer jobs, summer youth jobs, during the summers, it would mainly

-be like maybe you know the maximum hours that they would allow. It

may be would be about 6 hours a day, 5 to 6 hours and then again

when I worked at JMH as an orderly, I worked, well we were in was like on the job training so you know you would go

in and you would be like a full day, I think from like

7:30 to 3:00 or what have you.

(Ms. Wanza): The next question is, how did you find work?

(Mr. McKenny): Well basically ah when I was a teenager, I

would get like part time jobs just through word of mouth, somebody

else in the neighborhood would let me know that something was

available and ah, sometimes other jobs would be located in the

newspaper and I would follow up just from an advertisement in the

newspaper and ah, basically that was it, you know.

(Ms. Wanza): How did you get to work?

(Mr. McKenny): Basically by a bus, I did not own a car. I

would take a bus or what we called the Liberty City Jitneys? we

had the jitneys in those, at that particular time, catch the bus or

the jitney.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, let me see. Where did the other members

of your family work?

(Mr. McKenny): Umm you mean in my household when I was

growing up?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. McKenny): Well like I said, my mom for many years did

not work and subsequently when she did after my parents divorced

when she started working a bit, she did domestic work and umm she

-pretty much worked on Miami Beach at one point, sometimes ah Coral

Gables, well generally between Coral Gables or either Miami Beach

in those particular communities because she worked for like wealthy

families and you know sometimes you would work 2 or 3 days with one

family and they would recommend you to one of their friends or

whatever and she would catch what they called days work, she would

be able a couple of more days for someone else so it vacillated

between Coral Gables and Miami Beach.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. McKenny): She worked on like the ah Sunset Island, some

of where the real wealth people lived, where you had to have gate

access and this kind of a thing. They would even pick her up, you

know this kind of thing and what ever, you know they would come get

there "girl" and this kind of thing. She did that for a while.

(Ms. Wanza): So umm where did your brothers and sisters work

when they got older. I know you said one brother was in the


(Mr. McKenny): Yeah, one brother, when he finished high

school, he went to the Air Force, he attended Miami Northwestern.

He went to ah, he went to the Air Force immediately when he

finished high school, I think about may be, may be a year or so

after he finished high school, he went in the Air Force and he made

a career of it. So he's out now, he's retired after I think 20 or

22 years as a career Air Force person. Ah another brother, I have

another brother that lives...well I actually have two other

brothers older than I that live in Syracuse, New York, all of them

-attended Miami Northwestern and umm, the two of...these two they

live in Syracuse and one is a judge, he's ah municipal judge and

the other, he works as basic like an electrician. He pretty much

took up the same trade as my father did and they both live in

Syracuse, New.York. I have oldest sister lives here in

Miami. She works for a construction company, she's a bookkeeper

and ah I have another sister that lives in central Florida, in

Sebring, Florida where I told you my grandparents lived cause

actually she grew up with them, my, my paternal grandparents, she

lives there, she's a registered nurse by profession and I have 1,

2, 3 other sisters. One that lives now in Daytona, Florida, she

does secretarial work. I have another sister that lives...2 other

sisters that are here in Miami. One does secretarial, another one

does secretarial work and the other, she's a computer ah computer

programmer. She worked with University of Miami at the Jackson

Memorial Hospital complex but she works for the UM and she's like

a computer programmer or whatever...

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. McKenny): ...and I have one brother that is unemployed,

terminally unemployed. I think that's about (laughter), I think

I've covered everyone if I can, if I can think correctly.

(Ms. Wanza): Beginning in the late '50s many immigrants moved

to Miami from the Caribbean including Haiti, Cuba and other

countries. Do you believe that those residents competed with

Overtown, those immigrants competed with Overtown residents for


(Mr. McKenny): Of course.

(Ms. Wanza): Yes.

(Mr. McKenny): Of course, they came here, that was there game

plan, to you know seek employment and ah I don't think it was by

design per se-but the circumstances presented themselves. Yes they

competed because a lot of them came and they were seeking unskilled

labor and they were, you know because they were immigrants, a lot

of them didn't have status where they could compete for you know

"better paying jobs" so whatever was available which was usually

what most Blacks in Overtown was just getting, ah how would I say?

Ah manual labor type jobs or unskilled labor...they competed. In

particular ah doing domestic work, doing hotel work ah doing,

handling baggage and doing maintenance and stuff at the airport

which for many years Blacks were the...primarily the ones that this

ah unskilled type labor. They competed and as you can see now what

the result is. I need not say more but yes they competed the

competition was fierce.

(Ms. Wanza): Do you recall people moving into umm the

Overtown from out of town, within, you know from within the, U.S.

within the country?

(Mr. McKenny): You mean like people migrating from this, from

this, from other parts of the country?

(Ms. Wanza): Migrating from other parts of the country, umm


(Mr. McKenny): Sure, yes. Yes.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, where they were from?

(Mr. McKenny): Well we had neighbors's interesting

that you ask because we had...I had a next door that was ah a Cuban

immigrant. He was a Black Cuban and ah he had come over ah during

the migration when the big influx of Cubans were coming in during

the 1960 and ah but I also had neighbors ah from the United States

from everywhere, from all parts of the south, other parts of

Florida, Georgia, of course, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Alabama,

Louisiana, Tennessee, you know all parts of the south. Ah in

particular ah some Blacks were like from the west, Texas and

whatever but most of them, they came because at this particular

time there were a lot of jobs, semi-skilled job, ah unskilled labor

in Miami with the hotel industry and know a lot of

people came here from other parts of the country seeking jobs where

they came from maybe rural areas where there weren't a lot of jobs

and then the competition really began with the ah, how would I say

with the ah Caribbean influx.

(Ms. Wanza): Where did the umm people who came, who migrated

into Overtown live in Overtown? What area, did they live in a

particular area?

(Mr. McKenny): They lived, no they didn't, no they didn't,

there weren't, there weren't to my record, there weren't any

particular pockets of people in any particular neighborhood. I

think they live wherever they can afford, you know wherever the

rents were affordable, cheap people moved there and there wasn't

really ah racial kind of a thing and whatever. People just lived

wherever they could, you know whatever types of rent

that they could afford for the most part.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, the next set of questions are regarding

neighborhood life between 1945 and 1970. Could you describe your

place of residence?

(Mr. McKenny): Well I lived, I grew up in Overtown and I

always lived in ah apartment buildings, you know we had like ah

maybe two bedroom apartment and ah when we lived on Sixth Street,

we lived in a small apartment complex. It had about maybe 12

apartments total, 6 up and 6 down and because we needed bigger

space when we moved ah from there when I was about 10 years old, we

moved on Northwest 10th Street, we moved into a bigger, bigger

apartment and ah same design, you know standard ah concrete block

structure, it was a 3-story building ah pretty much, it was a, it

was just rental property, nothing fancy but you know, you made due

with what you, what you had for the most part. I, I enjoyed my

childhood. You know we didn't have grass in the yard in the yard

and that kind of a think. I had ah, ah asphalt, you know parking

lot, but you know we played sports out there, we played ah

childhood games and whatever, everything from ah springboard and

what have you hide and go seek and then later, like I said I

started playing like a little touch football, ah basketball with

ah, were we would put a tire, a regular car tire, we would stick it

up on the second floor up under the rail from the banister and

then, you know, we'd shoot hoops from the first floor to the second

floor and had...that would in turn become the ah actual hoop, it

would just be an old tire, we stuck it up under the banister.

That's how, you know, we played sports like that in particular and

tten we played sandlot, sandlot softball in a vacant lot with

covered with weeds, you know, after you trample on it enough the

weeds will get trampled and you play actually on the sands that was

back then. That was right in the back of my building and that was

like our little park. You know it was a vacant lot and we played

everything from sandlot softball, we kick ball, you know the boys

and the girls and would play against each other, what have you. So

I had fun growing up. We didn't have much but ah we made due and

ah I have no regrets.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, could you describe the street where you


(Mr. McKenny): I lived, when we lived, well when I lived on

Sixth Street, again we lived right near the Florida East Coast

Railroads, what was then the Florida East Coast Railroads and I was

fascinated because I could see the trains everyday and during that

particular time, Florida East Coast was ah passenger train and ah

a few blocks away I think it was it was across may be like, may be

like Third or Fourth Street was the actual terminal, station where

people would actually board the trains and also ah get off the

trains there and subsequently it was amazing because ah you could

stand out there and just watch the train coming in and out and a

lot of times celebrities. I remember when I was a kid, Elvis

Presley was very popular then and one weekend he was coming to town

and we saw all these White people running behind the


(Ms. Wanza): (Laughter)
(Mr. McKenny): ...and I can never forget this. They were

trying to ah I guess see him get a glimpse of him or what have you

when he came in that train and that was, I know that was back in

the '50s. I was a little kid, 5, 6 years old but I remember that

because everybody from Overtown was just watching but it was all

these White girls, particularly...

(Ms. Wanza): Was he getting off in Overtown or was he getting


(Mr. McKenny): Well the train station was there. They may

have even actually let him off at some other point but the, the...I

guess the tip was that he was on this train and was to get off at

the train station there...

(Ms. Wanza): Train, umm hum.

(Mr. McKenny): ...and these people were just running behind

the train and I guess they wanted to get a glimpse of him when he

got off. I did not go to the station. Like I said mostly he had

a large White following. I could see these White teenagers for the

most part and again, that was ah one of most rememberable occasions

of ah growing up in neighborhood, on Sixth Street and then when we

later moved on Northwest Tenth Street. Again it was near the

railroad tracks, right near the Florida East Coast Railroad. It

was not a...during that particular time, I don't recall them

having...I think that particular station had closed for ah picking

up passengers and what so mostly it would be freight

trains and what ever but I was always fascinated by the trains and

-what have you and ah, that particular neighbor was not too

dissimilar from the one on Sixth Street. It was a lot of

opposed to a lot of private homes, there were a lot of apartment

buildings, a lot of ah rental apartment buildings. Most of the ah

private homes, and what have you I ah...were I don't know were

mostly located a little bit further west maybe across Second or

Third Avenue but again during that particular time a lot of them

because of the Urban Renewal, a lot of people sold their

properties, a lot of houses were raised for the ah, for the ah

building of the ah expressway. I knew friends of mines whose

families were affected by that...well my family was not because we

did not own property and whatever but ah I do know friends of my

that were displaced because of ah Urban Renewal by 1-95 but I, I

vividly remember back in the '60s. I attended because I attended

Booker T. Washington when it was a junior and senior high, my, my

junior high years, 7th thorough 9th grade was spent there and we

actually had, when they were building 1-95, they had tore up a lot

of houses and a lot of streets and we use to actually walk across

the building of 1-95 during the '60s when they were actually

building 1-95, that was for us like an adventure, we use to come

across would all look like hills and we'd come across and

go to school and come back doing the same thing until they actually

built it and whatever and I, I vividly remember that. That was in

the '60s.

(Ms. Wanza): Who were your neighbors?

(Mr. McKenny): They were other Blacks and ah for the most

part and ah they were not too dissimilar in terms of economic

"status than my family, you know, most people were working class

Blacks. People with a lot of kids, they didn't have a lot of money

but most, most of them were working class people, you know they had

jobs. You would see people catching the bus every morning got to

work. Men would be out catching breaks to get on the dock or do

what ever they could do, it was not a neighborhood where you saw a

lot of ah vagrancy or where you saw a lot of homeless,

homelessness. I didn't, I did not grow up in that type of

neighborhood. I think we, you always had what they called a

neighborhood drunk, you know it's a wine-o or whatever but just to


(Ms. Wanza): People sitting out on the street in groups.

(Mr. McKenny): You know just to see groups of men up under a


(Ms. Wanza): ...tree sitting down all day long.

(Mr. McKenny): ...just to see young guys, young healthy guys

like that, I did not see that growing up, that was an exception

more so than the rule. That was very rare, that was very rare.

People pretty much prided themselves in working, doing something so

I did not, I did not see that growing up, that was, that was almost


(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Where did your neighbors work?

(Mr. McKenny): They did ah, it was a merit of work they did.

You had people did construction work, they did labor

works, some of them worked in the school system as, you know ah

janitors, maintenance people, a lot of them worked in the ah hotel

industry on Miami Beach. A lot of them worked downtown in the

office buildings doing maintenance and an janitorial type work, you

know what I call, common labor and semi-skilled jobs and as far as

for the womenin that, at that particular time, they mostly did

domestic work either in private homes or in institutions you know

like hospitals or maybe ah businesses or what have you. They

mostly did domestic work or cooks and a lot of them did ah...what

would I say ah child care, where you know, kept a lot of kids. You

had a lot of the older people then as opposed to ah people sending

kids to "day care center." I never went to day care. My

grandmother kept me for the most part and most of my sisters and

brothers but ah at such time when ah she, she did not keep us ah I

remember my...vivid...very vividly, my mother when my mother

started working we had a lady in our neighborhood we called Ms.

Sug. She was an elderly lady, she and her sister, Ms. Dolly, they

kept kids and she would have about maybe 6, 7 kids that she kept

cause I use to drop my brother and sister off on my way to school,

I would drop them off and then my, it was my job to pick them up

when I got home to sit with them after...until my mother got home

and I hated that but you know I did that for a couple of years up

until they got...but my mother didn't, she...none of us went to

"day care." I never went to day care or kindergarten.

(Ms. Wanza): What happened to those neighbors?

(Mr. McKenny): Well ah...a lot of people ah with the

transition of Overtown, a lot of people moved out because they were

displaced. A lot of people for what, upward mobility, they chose

to move later on and ah to go back to the same neighborhood now on

Northwest Sixth Street, that is the same neighborhood that "I--

mentioned to you prior...before that has become the area of the

Miami Arena. Where they park in the Miami Arena, the parking lot

and the where the Metrorail station is, that was my old


(Ms. Wanza): Oh, that was Mr. Sawyer's property.

(Mr. McKenny): That was, that was Mr. Sawyer's property. I

know, I know them personally, they lived in the neighborhood on

Seventh Street, Mr....Bill, Bill and Bernice Sawyer, that, they

lived in that particular neighborhood then. I knew them, I knew

their daughter Vernie and ah that's where the Miami Arena is now.

I lived right in that area and then further down going ah north,

almost 5 blocks away on Tenth Street, the building that I grew on

Tenth still exist. It's an apartment building, it's still rental

property. No major changes has taken place, they painted it and

it's now got a fence around it, a mental fence and whatever. It

still has the same asphalt parking lot and whatever, that's still

there. It's still rental property but the neighborhood changed

because all of the houses that were there, when they built the

Metrorail, the Metrorail almost comes right across my apartment

almost on the roof of that building so subsequently all of the

housing pretty much in that particular neighborhood was torn down,

just vacant lots now or what have you. Very few of the original,

very few of the original apartment buildings exist now and again

that was due to the, to the ah when they built the Metrorail.

(Ms. Wanza): When did, approximately when did your neighbors


(Mr. McKenny): That was during, that was during the '60s.

Again that was during the ah construction of the ah, pre-

construction and during the construction of the ah Instate 95 so

that was during the era maybe between I would say 1960...between

1965 and '68, somewhere up in that, about a 3-year time frame, the

whole neighborhood took a different flavor.

(Ms. Wanza): Where did they go?

(Mr. McKenny): Well, for the most part they moved north, they

moved in areas like ah what is presently called Liberty City,

Brownsville, some, some people ah moved south Richmond Heights. I

guess according to their needs. Ah but most of them moved north to

Liberty...again like I say to Liberty City, Brownsville,

Allapattah, Edison area, all these particular communities, some

went as far...Carol City was not very populated at that time

particular time. I don't remember too many people moving further

than say Opa Locka but Carol City was primarily ah, ah anglo

neighborhood during that time. It was not very many Blacks and

then I guess at some point some of them moved at that point.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, could you describe the main business areas

you went to in Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): I went downtown Miami for the most part, we

went there for just about everything but again, in ah, in Overtown

itself before 1-95 there were a lot of Black owned businesses and

I know when I would shop for clothing, shoes, to get a haircut, ah

we had Black dentists, we had Black doctors, medical doctors,

lawyers, all of them were located in Overtown prior to the'--

construction of 1-95 for the most part, so you know for those

medical services and professional services, you actually the ah

practitioners there. So we did...ah we took care of our needs

right within the community but then again if you wanted. I don't

know, they a lot of smaller ah clothing stores in Overtown but you

had a choice, you could buy them there or if you more of a variety,

you went across the tracks and walked downtown to Downtown Miami.

Soon as you were there right in the community, which was unique or

you went into Downtown Miami but I didn't know anything about

malls. You know I never, I knew, I knew nothing about going

to...Sears was like going somewhere...for me to go across the

tracks to go over to Sears that was like going somewhere for me for

say for like Dadeland Mall and all these malls, I don'-t think the

concept of malls was very popular when I was growing up. Un hun,

you shopped within the neighborhood.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Could you describe where your family

bought groceries?

(Mr. McKenny): Yes, they grandmother use to buy

groceries where she could get credit (laughter) for the most part

and she had credit with ah quite a few of the stores in ah

Overtown. I remember one was a store on Third Avenue called Sam's

Market, she had that, she had credit. You'd go and get what you

want and they would put in a little book and you'd pay them later

but ah there was a store called Red Top. I remember that on

Northwest Eighth Street and First Avenue. She didn't have credit

there but she, she would buy a lot of staple goods and then hered-

was another store across the tracks on Fifth Street that was called

Tip Top and it was either between sending me to Tip Top or Red Top

according to what she wanted and sometime on one...any given day I

may have to go to both because my grandmother was of a

would you say, a very conscientious shopper. If something was five

or two cents cheaper at that store, you went over there and got

that, then you got the other stuff at this one so you vacillated

between the two stores and that way it was and then she might want

her meats from another store, you know what I'm saying because I

don't like these people "beef," I don't like their chickens or

whatever so you go over there and get this. So on any given day a

meal might come out of three stores but that's how we basically

shop and then ah, they use to have vendors, fruit vendors that came

in the neighborhoods and you also had an old fashion milkman that

delivered milk and she had "credit" with these people you know like

dairy products, milk ice cream, butter and eggs, she would get that

from the milk truck. Fruits and vegetables, she had credit with

the guy that had fruit truck that came in the neighborhood a couple

of times a week and you know she would get all the fruits and

vegetables from him and like I said the milk and dairy products

from the milkman and the staple items and the meats either from the

meat store and from Red Top or Tip Top for the most part to my

recollection. The same thing with my mother.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, could you describe where your family went

to the barber shop or beauty shop?

(Mr. McKenny): What was that?

(Ms. Wanza): Barber shop and beauty shop.

(Mr. McKenny): I went to barber shops in Overtown. I went to

Black barbers and ah they had also in addition to barber shops,

they had barber college called Miami Barber College and this is

where during that time they trained Black barbers because that was

before integration and you could get cheaper barber, you know

because they were apprentices, we would get haircuts for fifty

cents, seventy-five cents, so you know I, I was in there as much as

I could and then as I got older and started earning my own money

then I started going to private barbers and whatever because I was

paying for it myself but when they was paying for it, you better

to, to Barber College and get a number, it was that kind of a thing

but ah it was always Black barber shops with in our, -with in my


(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to the


(Mr. McKenny): Same...right in the neighborhoods. There were

ah neighborhood drugstores. Stones Drugstore, I remember. There

was ah Harlem Drug on Fourteenth Street, there were ah People

Drugstore on Eighth Street. Then you know sometimes ah for other

items they didn't carry, you would go downtown to Walgreens., There

were several Walgreens in Downtown Miami at that time.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to the


(Mr. McKenny): In Overtown. They had little mom and pop

store type dry cleaners.

(Ms. Wanza): Dry cleaners, umm hum.

(Mr. McKenny): My grandmother, you know she would again, she

was spendthrift...

(Ms. Wanza): Thrifty.

(Mr. McKenny): ...ah very conscientious spendthrift,

spendthrifty so a lot of her better clothes she would have me to

take downtown to what was called the Miami Laundry because had, she

was a member of her church, her robes all of her choir robes, she

swore that they did better work and that it was cheaper but she

didn't like spots in her stuff and wrinkles and whatever so all her

choir robes and all of her church, what I call church outfits, she

put them downtown in the...what I call the White folks cleaners but

the other stuff she would just send it anywhere, you know she was

very particular about that. I laugh about it now.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to


(Mr. McKenny): I went to ah, I went to my grandmother's

church which at one time was located in Overtown. It was called

Spiritual Guidance Temple of Truth and it was ah really ah, what I

call it? It was a nondenominational church and I enjoyed going up

there in that particular church and later years after ah 1-95

because they were located on Seventeenth Street and Northwest Third

Avenue, the church relocated to Broward County in Pompano and how

we got there, they had buses, church buses and they would pick us

up at a certain location and you were bused up there and we went to

Sunday school up there but when I got a little older, I chose ndt--

to go that route because it would almost take up your whole Sunday,

you to go up there and be transported to Pompano, go to service,

come back, your whole day was gone so I choose to just go to church

in Overtown so I started attending Mt. Caramel Missionary Baptist

Church which is now located in Liberty City on Seventy-Nine Street,

it was located on Fourteenth Terrace then and I went there for

several years, the Mt. Caramel Missionary Baptist Church.

(Ms. Wanza): okay, could you describe where you went for

entertainment such as theaters, bars, restaurants or sporting


(Mr. McKenny): During the, during the era when I was growing


(Ms. Wanza): Yes.

(Mr. McKenny): Okay. We went to ah the theaters, we went to

the theaters that way in Overtown. Again, this was before

integration and ah they had theaters in Overtown, you had...I

remember going to the Modern Theater, the Capitol, the Ritz. Every

Saturday, that was pretty much my little routine, myself and a

bunch of other guys. We would all like, cause it was only like a

dime, nine cents less than a quarter and then you had what they

called the kiddy show and they gave you little coupons in schools

on Friday and I think you paid, like I said a nickel or a dime for

the kiddy show, you know, if you wanted to stay beyond that, if

your parents allowed you for the regular theater...see for me

Saturday going to the movie was all day. I would go for the kiddy

show which began about may be 10:00 in the morning which ended7-:-

about maybe noon or say 12:30 or 1:00 but if I decided to stay for

the regular show, they' come out, they'd empty the theater,

then you would had to pay it again, another, another fare to go in,

another admission fare to go in and I would stay...that was my

whole day. I would stay...we called it going to the show and I

would stay in the show all day. I would grandma told me

to come home before it got dark, you know once it start getting

dusk dark and what have you, to be home, be home before it get


(Ms. Wanza): So did your family, your mom and your dad did

they also go to the movies?

(Mr. McKenny): My mother use to, my mother...I

don't remember my father like I said, ah they divorced-and I don't

remember going to the...entertainment places with him but my mother

use to take us to the movies, that was a treat because she use to

like to go the movies. She use to take us as a group and what have

you and then when I got older, like I say, I use to go by myself

but my mama use to take us to the movie. We use to go to

ah...sometimes she use to take us to ah...(finger pop) what was

another, another thing we use to go to? They use to have plays and

stuff and what have you and ah some of the, some of the various

little halls and stuff and whatever, I use to go to, I remember

what I call the ah Long, Long Shoremen's Hall. They use to have

gospel, gospel music and whatever there. We use to go there. Ah

at one particular time when the muslims, the muslims were becoming

very popular they would come by and actually recruit people tod-

attend their services and my mother just, I guess to just be

exposed to ah knowledge, she would take us to the Muslim Temple

something up on Second Avenue. So again, we, everything,

everything that I did growing up was pretty much done within the

community and that was just, just the way it was for me.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, umm I will continue the interview on Side

#2. I will be ending Side #1. I'm interviewing Mr. Edward

McKenny. This is August 29, 1997.

TAPE #1 -SIDE #2

(Ms. Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza. I'm interviewing Mr.

Edward McKenny. This is Side #2 of Tape #1 and we left off on the

set of questions, umm regarding neighborhood life.

Okay, the next question is: When someone in your family got

sick where did they go to the doctor's office?

(Mr. McKenny): Okay umm, I recall when I was a child, I was

a patient at what was then call Variety Children's Hospital which

is now Children's Hospital but it was called Variety, that's where

my mom took me and ah some others of my brothers and sisters, she

took them to Dazell Simpson, who is a pediatrician. That was their

doctor and all other times, just going through emergency at Jackson

Emergency Hospital. That was about it.

(Ms. Wanza): Dazell Simpson was my doctor too. She my


(Mr. McKenny): Okay. She was located, you know she was

located in Overtown during that, that time...

(Ms. Wanza): ...and then she moved over-to...

(Mr. McKenny): ...and doctor, her husband also, Dr. George

Simpson...umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, that's auntie.

(Mr. McKenny): Are they?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. McKenny): Okay.

(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, ah, let's see. How long did you continue

to patronize the businesses in Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): Some of them, you...well for the most part,

even beyond their moving because when the Drs. Simpson, when Drs.

Simpsons moved to where they are presently located, if they are

still there, Tri Arts, we still went there, my mother, for my

younger brothers and sisters, they still went there.- I recall

having recall going there with her for them for their pediatrician

visits. Ah the barbers and what have barber remained in

Overtown. I use to go to Mop City which you may be familiar with.

They were on Second Avenue and then when they moved to where they

are presently located in Liberty City, I use to catch the jitney

and come over there so pretty much I followed wherever they went,

you know, for the most part, for the most part, umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): When did you begin to shop or go to entertainment

outside of Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): Okay, I've always ah not so much for the

entertainment but for shopping, we all, we always had a choice of

shopping in the community, right in the neighborhood or if we

wanted to go across the tracks and go downtown,and the only reason--:

for the most part that I went downtown was because you had more

variety, not that the quality was better but you just had more of

a variety of stores and also my grandmother had a few charge cards

at a few stores like Richards and she, you know, when I got older

she would let me charge things at those particular stores but

again, it was just a matter because you had more of a choice not so

much as the quality, quality was any better.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, during the period from 1945 to 1970 what

were the main things that made Overtown a community?

(Mr. McKenny): Well, my, my most vivid memories was that it

was an intact, self-sustaining community. Pretty much ah

everything that you needed, your ah basic needs for your household,

they were available to you in the community and ah your spiritual

needs were met there, you know, all of your churches, your

community schools, everything was in tact and I like the fact that

ah Black professional ministers, ah teachers, social workers,

etc., these people not only lived in the community, they worked in

the community and lived in the community and you actually saw these

people. I can recall when I was in elementary school. Teachers

would send me, they would send me to their house to get their lunch

out the refrigerator. I mean it was just that kind of

neighborhood. You didn't have, you had very little vandalism and

whatever. People ah, professional, professionals, like I said,

your teachers and things, they lived right in the community for the

most part, they attended church there so your parents interacted

with them. It was like when you got into trouble. .It was truly"a--

community and for that I value that. You don't see that too much

now since integration.

(Ms. Wanza): How has Overtown changed since 1970?

(Mr. McKenny): For me it's, it's, it's a different community

because it was a viable working class community in my childhood,

growing up but from what I see now, I have ah worked in Overtown

because with my profession we have an office in Overtown and I

worked there for several years, in the 1980s and I and up

until 1994. We visited Overtown working as an agency there. It's

not a working class community for the most part, I mean there are

some working people but basically now, it's see a lot of

homelessness. You see a lot of ah single parent, female household

headed families and ah you don't see a lot of working men. You see

a lot vagrancy, a lot of, it's, it's...for me what's so unique

about it now, its ah transitory type neighborhood, very transient.

Umm, umm, not transitory, I'm sorry, very transient. You see

people come in, they don't have any rules, they come in and they

leave, you know and what have you and ah you don't have a lot of

ah, what I say, mom and pop stores that are Black owned. You know

most of the people that have businesses there, they don't live in

the community. They don't have any vested interest in the

community so like I said it's very transient and it's very for me,

it's very depressing because I, I grew up in the same community

physically but it's just a whole different, whole different

scenario now and negative in, in a sense, very negative.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm how and when did that sense of community-


(Mr. McKenny): Pardon?

(Ms. Wanza): How and when did that sense of community change?

(Mr. McKenny): For me, I, I think it took place over, over a

period of time because of deny and neglect by the city government,

the county government, the powers that be, I think Overtown just

became a festering sore and then ah with the riots and what have

you, I think a lot of federal focus came upon the community and ah

a lot of bandage approaches came into play. You know they were

like coming with programs that really had no ah, to me had no real

substance to it and no vested interest because they didn't even try

to, you know, for me bring jobs to the communities, build homes in

the communities, affordable homes, you didn't see these kind of

things. They built a lot of public housing, you know. They built

some subsidized housing. Ah they patched up old schools but there

was nothing in the neighborhood that would really want people to

invest in their own community so it, to me it just took over a very

transient kind of flavor. People stayed there until they could do

better and they moved on and what you got left now, for me, for the

most part is just people that ah due to circumstances this is where

they are because they can't do any better for the most part. It's

nothing where people...I don't say it's too much where people want

to be there, you know because there is nothing in the neighborhood.

It's very blighted.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. The next set of questions will be

regarding 1-95. When and how did you first hear about the building'

of I-95?

(Mr. McKenny): I learned about it I guess because I grew up

in Overtown and we knew that this expressway was going to come

through. I never thought that it would be such a ah massive ah

undertaking personally. I didn't think that it was going to really

uproot an entire community but if you know, in reflection now,

take...looking back at other cities that have had "Urban Renewal"

take place, I now consider that to be urban removal because what it

does is just remove people out of a neighborhood which for the most

part never come back and the people that are remaining are the

people that just are stuck there; but again I learned about it, I

guess I was in my early teens when I was in junior high school is

when this ah whole piece about the expressway coming through but I

never thought that it would be such a massive undertaking. I just

though it was something that was going to built over our

neighborhood, when you look up at it, you'd see cars go thorough

and it was going to work it's way around it. I didn't know it was

just going to dig through the neighborhood and remove people so

that's why I call that urban removal, umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): And how did you hear about it?

(Mr. McKenny): Well I was a kid then so I use to hear my mom

and adult people talking about it because, you know, from, from

that. I never read it because at that, that time I wasn't avid

newspaper reader or whatever and ah, you know, you would hear

teachers talking about it in school because a lot of them affected

and you heard adult people, you know, talking about it but I didn'tn-

never know that it would take on the ramifications that it did?

(Ms. Wanza): Okay and where were you living at that time? On

Tenth Street or Sixth...

(Mr. McKenny): Yes, yes.

(Ms. Wanza): On Tenth Street.

(Mr. McKenny): Yes.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay and you ah rented the place or rather your

parents rented the place, rented?

(Mr. McKenny): Yes, it was a rental, rental apartment.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. What kind of a reaction was there to the

news that an expressway would come through Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): A lot of people were ah...I don't know, I

guess there were mixed emotions. I don't think a lot of people

knew ah the extent that it would affect on Overtown. People that

owned property were either for it or against it. A lot of people,

you know they had property that had been passed on to them and it

had sentimental value as opposed to a lot of monetary value. They

chose to must remain there. Other people had to move because of

"eminent domain" and ah they were displaced and ah other people

like in my neighborhood, it didn't directly affect physically my

neighborhood because it was west, it was blocks west of where I

lived but in the area where it was built and I had a lot of friends

that lived, what I called across Third and Fourth Avenue, all of

these people had to pretty much move out but it didn't affect my

neighborhood because I lived near the railroad tracks, umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Did you discuss it with any of your neighbors or-

with your friends, I-95?

(Mr. McKenny): I don't, I don't really say discuss it because

when this was taking place I was in my early teens. I'm going to

be honest with you, it wasn't a priority with me. I could

personally care less because I didn't understand the ramifications

of it then but now reflecting back I guess it did have an affect

because a lot of my friends moved, a lot of businesses we

frequented, they relocated due to the ah, due the building of the

expressway and what have you and the displacement of their

businesses and homes, so yes, it affected me but I didn't...being

young, I guess being in another whole other mind sit, I didn't

really think about it on a day-to-day basis. I saw it happening

but again it was just like a big project that was taking place and

whatever, that didn't really click with me at that time for lack of

a better term.

(Ms. Wanza): Do you recall anyone attending any meetings

where it was discussed or sign a petition or discussing it with

any public officials?

(Mr. McKenny): No. I don't recall. It may have taken place

but I don't recall.

(Ms. Wanza): What was it like when the expressway was being


(Mr. McKenny): Well, it, it displaced people and for me going

to school everyday, we had a...just about every week you had to

take a different route, I use to could be able to walk, Booker T.

Washington was like on Sixth Avenue and Twelfth Street, and Twelfth-

Street was a main artery and you could walk from where I lived and

go straight down Twelfth Street all the way from Third Avenue

straight up to Sixth Avenue to Booker T. but when the expressway

was being built, you had these canals where they were digging. You

know anywhere you dig in Florida, you are going to hit water so

look like everyday we had to take a different path of which way we

go to school, we weren't bused, we had to walk to school, so you

know, my mama would always tell me, y'all be careful don't go round

them construction sites and stuff and whatever because they

wouldn't have no signs up and you literally had to say we can't go

round this way, you know and the fun part about though, some of

this stuff, we use to jump in the little holes and all of this kind

of a thing, you know how boys are. We use to do this kind of a

thing, it's kind of like adventurous, it's lot...was like a little

safari kind of thing but everyday you had to take a different route

going and coming to school because of the building of the actual


(Ms. Wanza): What did the community get from public officials

in return for 1-95 going through Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): The public?

(Ms. Wanza): Well, what was the Overtown community able to

get from public officials?

(Mr. McKenny): A lot of promises, broken.

(Ms. Wanza): Broken promises.

(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): How did 1-95 affect the community?

(Mr. McKenny): How did 1-95 affect the community?

(Mr. McKenny): I, I think that ah what people saw as being

progress didn't really benefit the residents of Overtown,

financially in any means for the most part. Again, like I said,

some people sold their properties by choice but they only got the

value of the actual ah, ah, pretty much just the value of the

actual ah house as opposed to value of the property. I think it

was that the property was more value than the houses that they sat

on and what have you and for the most part, I think they were

ripped off because I think ah, you know in hind site, that the

powers that be, they knew that this was ah premium property, you

know, near...anytime you got property located near a major downtown

area and then you got property that located near the bay, that's,

that's prime property and these people didn't know the value of

their property so I think that they got ripped financially and then

the other ones because of eminent domain, they didn't have a choice

so I think it was a loss, that's my personal opinion.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. The next set of questions will be

regarding umm one 395 and 836. When and how did you first hear

about the building of 395 and 836?

(Mr. McKenny): Okay, ah...

(Ms. Wanza): That's the expressway going to...

(Mr. McKenny): ...going to Miami Beach.

(Ms. Wanza): ...Miami Beach.

(Mr. McKenny): Okay that pretty much ah connects with 1-95

and ah, and a lot ah, a lot of people that-were affect by the"

building of 1-95 which is pretty much more going north and south

but like to my record...recollection, the 395 goes east and west to

Miami Beach, a lot of people that lived in the parameter of my

neighborhood, they were affected by that because it starts in that

area so again they were displaced and the 836, I don't, I don't

recall too much personally about the 836 because that extends west

of 1-95, you know the connection for that so I didn't know too many

people that lived that part of ah, across that part of ah 1-95. I

didn't know any people personally that lived over there so I don't

know but I do know about the people that lived with the ah, ah 395

piece, that connecting piece, they were affected just like we were,

just a lot of people were displaced.

(Ms. Wanza): Where were you living at the time?

(Mr. McKenny): Tenth Street.

(Ms. Wanza): Tenth Street?

(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, umm what was the community able to get

from public officials in return for ah these expressways running


(Mr. McKenny): To my knowledge, not much, guess again, I can

say I guess just broken promises.

(Ms. Wanza): What was it like when the expressway was being


(Mr. McKenny): Pretty much most of ah my answers to that,

those questions would pretty much ah...

(Ms. Wanza): Is the same. "

(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum would be pretty much ah echo my, my

sentiments from earlier questions, pretty much echo that.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, alright, umm and a meeting wasn'

weren't knowledgeable about any meetings or anything like that?

(Mr. McKenny): No, I was not.

(Ms. Wanza): Alright, the next set of questions are regarding

public housing. When and how did you first hear about the building

of public housing?

(Mr. McKenny): Well, they didn't have a lot of...when I was

growing up there was not a lot of public housing, I think the

public housing in Overtown came after 1-95 which it did. There was


no public housing in Overtown.

(Ms. Wanza): So basically it was in the, in the '70s?

(Mr. McKenny): I would say it was in the 1970s and beyond so

when I was growing up there was no public housing, to my knowledge

there was no public housing.

(Ms. Wanza): How did public housing affected Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): I, I don't know I think for some people ah it

allowed them ah rea...more reasonable rents, ah subsidized rents

and what have you. Some people, you know, were able to move into

larger, you know, larger residences because it gave them a little

more space but then again, you know, for me, the only piece about

that, you don't have anything vested into it. It's still paying

rent, you don't have no don't even have any penance of

ever owning this so for me it's just another form of rents, you

know on the most part.

(Ms. Wanza): What was the community able to get from public

officials in return for public housing going through Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): Again, personally I wouldn't know, from what

I could see, not much.

(Ms. Wanza): Not much, okay.

(Mr. McKenny): Not much.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. The next set of questions are regarding

the building of Metrorail. When and how did you first hear about

the building of Metrorail?

(Mr. McKenny): Okay, when the Metrorail was being built, I

didn't, I didn't, I no longer lived in Overtown. That was ah, if

I'm not...if I recall, that was in the 1980s and ah at that

particular time I was living in ah my own private own

private residence which is located in, I don't know, should you say

West Little River and ah ironically, the ah Metrorail, I lived at,

at that time on Northwest Eighty-Second Street and Thirty-Fifth

Avenue. The Metrorail bordered Seventy-Ninth Street so I could

actually see the construction from that, from my backyard but it

did not affect my neighborhood at all, other than it kind of like

ran on the parameter of it.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): In your, within your neighborhood, do you know

what kind of reaction there was to the news that Metrorail would be

coming along?

(Mr. McKenny): It was ah...I no longer live there. My mom'

lives in that neighborhood, in fact, she lives in my house now but

ah there were mixed reactions because I think a lot of people

thought it was going to bring down their property values. Ah

basically I thought they felt that ah in addition to bringing down

their property values that you would bring in a transient kind of

population, you know catching these rails, a lot of vagrants, a lot

homeless, a lot of whatever kind of people and I did see that in

particular with ah, I was concurrent with that...

(Ms. Wanza): (coughing, sneezing)

(Mr. McKenny): ...bless you.

(Ms. Wanza): Excuse me (throat clearing).

(Mr. McKenny): ...almost concurrent with the building of the

Metrorail they, they brought in the flea markets because Northside

Shopping Center for whatever reason after the riots in the '80s...

(Ms. Wanza): (Laughter) Just stopped?

(Mr. McKenny): It kind of like...that shopping center took

over a different flavor as opposed to having, you know, major

stores in it like Sears and J. Byron's, it, which it did...they

relocated and then it took a flea market kind of flavor...

(Ms. Wanza): Jorge and Jerry's and all that kind of thing,

umm hum.

(Mr. McKenny): took a flea market kind of flavor and ah

with that, you also had a ah, what do you call it ah, what do they

call this ah, ah labor pool. Where men would, for people and

primarily men would line up at night to try to be in this labor

pool in the morning, very early in the morning and mostly these"

were like homeless people and that took on a different flavor

because a lot of these people that were ah trying to get jobs

through the labor pool, they in turn start sleeping on the streets,

right around the parameters of the neighborhood so I think that

brought some ah element of ah fear in a lot of the neighbors who

wouldn't even want to walk because people use to walk and jog and

that kind of thing in the night and these people were panhandlers

and you know it just frightened lot of people every time you go to

a grocery store or the filling station somebody come up for you and

they want change or they wanted a cigarette or they wanted this or

they wanted that, you what have you, let me pump your gas so it

took on a different flavor and ah, I won't say a lot of people but

that particular community then was very visibly integrated because

it was originally a "White" neighborhood. I would say about 90%

of them moved out and mostly now is ah, in that particular

neighborhood is a mixture of ah Caribbean Blacks, African-American

Blacks ah and ah Hispanic people from wherever for the most part.

(Ms. Wanza): So you owned your home at time when you heard

about Metrorail.

(Mr. McKenny): Yes, umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what was the community able to get from

public officials in return for Metrorail going through the


(Mr. McKenny): I ah...there, there were some meetings. I

recall having attended a couple meetings when they were ah pretty

much ah having hearings about that and they didn't really promise"

anything it was just that they were showing the positive of having

this Metrorail going through and I, you know, for my own reasons,

I said well there goes the community, this kind of thing but then

from a more...from another picture, I thought that mass transit was

very much need and if that was the mode that they had to go and if

that was the ah what "route" that they had to go, I said, well

some...there are people who will benefit from this, you know

whatever, so I wasn't, I wasn't really totally turned off about it

(Ms. Wanza): How did metrorail affect the community as a

whole. I mean in turns of your community and if you heard anything

about Overtown. I know you weren't living there at that time.

(Mr. McKenny): I think Metrorail was a farce in terms of

what, what people anticipated it would be. I call it a trip to

nowhere because for me, for most common people that need public

transportation, it doesn't connect them or get them where they need

to be, you know, it only kind of like gives them to a start, they

still got to catch another bus, maybe two, they've got to catch the

Tri-rail, they got to get some other mode of transportation. It's

trip to nowhere, it's, it's cute (laughter), you know, and stuff

and whatever, Oh, Miami is really there for me ah it doesn't

connect, to me, points where people need to be like out beyond the

airport, where all the industrial parks are, it doesn't connect

people "across the bay to Miami Beach, it doesn't go into "airport"

where people can go there for travel. Where I been to other

cities, you take Atlanta, you taking Washington, D.C. you get...

(Ms. Wanza): Washington, D.C. you can go anywhere you need to'


(Mr. McKenny): go anywhere you need to be. You go to

Atlanta and catch MATA and you go into Atlanta...

(Ms. Wanza): ...and get there within 30 minutes, I don't care

you go, umm hum.

(Mr. McKenny): ...and MATA is the same thing from the airport

you go right into the heart of the city all in towards inter-city

Atlanta, same thing Washington, D.C., it's the same thing. Miami,

it's a trip to nowhere. You know, so I don't think that ah unless

they do some more linking with it but you know it's going to take

years if they ever do it. Now on the other hand for people that

live in the suburbs that don't that choose not to drive their cars,

you know, they park their luxury cars at these terminals and what

have you and then they get into it and they get off in downtown so

they save parking, they save travel time and what have you. I

think it was built for me with being more something ]i for people

in the suburbs to get them backwards and forth, to downtown and

back and points in between as opposed to "working class" people who

really need public transportation. When you can park your

Mercedes, your luxury car and what have you and then you catch

public transportation by choice, that's difference in someone that

have, doesn't have private transportation and doing this because of

need, so...I was very disappointed.

(Ms. Wanza): Alright the last set of questions are regarding

the future of Overtown. What do you think are the important

misconceptions about Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): Well you know from ah my own respective, I

think Overtown will never be the community that it once was and

people think that based on just ah the residence that are there

now, it's a whole different mentality. I don't think that ah the

powers that be, you know, "government" that they ever intend for it

to be that. I see Overtown as being ah, ah building a bunch of

condo or businesses and what have you that the average "person"

working person cannot afford. I see them expanding ah the Arena

and all these kind of shops and stuff and what have you because

it's prime land, right located near downtown and the bay. You know

they built Bayside and you know whatever and I think, for me,

eventually they are going to displace most of the residents of

Overtown for the most part and they are going to make that ah, they

are going to make that just like ah private ownership, you know

probably build, like I say, condos and ah townhouses and things

that a lot of people cannot afford and the people that are there,

they are going to be displaced to move them further north or

whatever. Umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): So what are the most important misconceptions

about Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): I don't think Overtown, itself is a lot of

misconceptions ah it, it just is a blighted community and I think

that the apathy that the ah powers that be took with it ah, right

now you are just seeing the results of it. You got a lot of, a lot

of, just a lot of nothing that's going on over there, you know a

lot of, a lot of really a...not just say poor but a lot of hopeless"

people, you know, just being poor is one thing but when you

hopeless, it's like a penney with a hole in it you know and ah I

don't think the community will ever the viability it once had,


(Ms. Wanza): What do you think public officials need to know

most about Overtown?

(Mr. McKenny): I think they know as much as they

to know. I think that ah they need to stop making promises, broken

promises to the residents and if they are going to do some things

just go on and do it, you know rather than talking about, making

campaign speeches and what have you during election time and what

have you, broken promises. If you are going do something fine but

other than that, I don't have too much confidence- in public

officials, I guess as you obviously, obviously can, can, can sense.

I don't have too much ah...but personally I don't have that much ah

confidence in public officials.

(Ms. Wanza): What should be done to improve the Overtown area

now such as transportation projects, attractions, job creation or

beautification programs?

(Mr. McKenny): Beautification to me is, is, is not a high

priority because you can have beautiful community but if you don't

have working class people that someone invest into it, that's just

a facade, so I don't, I don't have too much of a priority with the

beautification piece. The biggest thing is the people need jobs

and then if they get jobs, they can choose to either move out of

that community or invest into it themselves through ownership anid-

what have you but if they don't have jobs and skills, they just

trapped and I think that what, to me, is the biggest problem, the

lack of jobs and the lack of skills.

(Ms. Wanza): What should be the relationship between Overtown

and Downtown Miami?

(Mr. McKenny): I think that the people there, the working

people, you know, they, they pay taxes like everything so I figure

they should have a voice, you know as city governments as they are

managed through the City of Miami and ah possibility I believe in

our reach. If a lot of the people don't come to "town hall meeting

or city counsel meetings" bring it to the community or least you

can ah take a grass roots approach and people can connect, you know

from a grassroots approach to be a voice in their own community but

when people have been promised so much and have received so little,

I don't think they have much confidence in that city government or

the powers that being or "working for them" so you create a lot of

apathy, that's my personal opinion.

(Ms. Wanza): So what, what should be the relationship

Overtown and downtown?

(Mr. McKenny): Okay, based on that scenario, it should be one

of a win, win situation, you know well like you need us because you

are politicians and we need you because you are the ones that are

brokers of services through us through the whole game of politics

so it should be a win, win situation but it's usually not. They

come in and they sell dreams and they get your votes and then you

got broken promises, it speaks, it sort of speaks for itself. '--

(Ms. Wanza): When you have visitors from out of town, where

do you take them to show them culture and history of Dade County's

African-American community?

(Mr. McKenny): Hump!, well for the most part what I do, I ah,

I don't believe in ah taking people into places where they are not

comfortable and most of my friends I ah, try to find out what

there, what there particular likes are. Most people come here to

see the beaches. I personally, because I grew in Miami, I could

care less about the beach to me is no big deal, you know

having...being a homeboy grew up through here, most people be it my

family members that grow here or grow up here or other Blacks that

I know they like to go to the beach. I take them to the beach,

either on Miami Beach, I may go to...I like to go over to

Hallandale Beach, points further north, oh Key Biscayne,

Rickenbacker Causeway, ah Crandon Park, I either, Virginia Beach,

the old Virginia Beach, they like the beach. I like to go down on

the Keys for the most part. For me, most inter-cities they all the

same so you know if you seen one, you've seen them all. They do,

most people say that Miami's inter-city is cleaner as opposed to

cities like New York, Philly, Chicago...

(Ms. Wanza): Chicago (laughter).

(Mr. McKenny): ...where you got just broken bottles, glass,

they do keep the ghettos here pretty clean, you know for the most

part. You see the people sweeping the streets with the vehicles,

5:00 o'clock in the morning and stuff and whatever. It's a cute

little ghetto, you know, and stuff and people like that, (imitating-

female voice) this don't really look like a ghetto, it's so

clean, you don't see piles of garbage stacked up." you know but

far as for entertainment, I pretty much, pretty much play it by

ear. There is not a whole lot as you know, places that are a sit

down kind of establishments in the Black community and I don't, I

don't by any means ah how do I say, ah try to disguise that. I

just let people know there are very few places, I say that, you

know, most of the businesses that we frequent that sit down do


(Ms. Wanza): ...exist anymore...

(Mr. McKenny): not exist anymore and we just go, where

you can go.

(Ms. Wanza): We mostly go further north because that's where

a lot entertainment is going on.

(Mr. McKenny): Right and what have you, but ah like I say,

most, for the most part, most of them, they like to go to Bayside,

they like to go the malls, they like to go the beaches for the most

part I think and Miami has a lot of beautiful parks you know when

you like you have family reunions, you know like Oleta State Park,

that's nice, you got ah again Crandon Park with the beach and

stuff, you know you got a lot of nice parks and stuff here but as

far as for ah Black spots of entertainment...

(Ms. Wanza): ...and culture...

(Mr. McKenny): ...and cultural it's very limited, you know

it's very limited and I let people know it's just very limited.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum, okay. Could you describe in your own'

words what kind of community you would like Overtown to be in the


(Mr. McKenny): Well not be idealistic but real...being

realistic. I think that Overtown could be a viable community if,

in fact, again ah people had jobs, people had skills and people

want to "invest" in your community but when you don't have people

invested, for me, in their own community it doesn't grow. When

you've got people that ah, even with the terms of goods and

services that have no connection, no linkage to the community, they

make their money there and they move and they leave on, they take

their money with them and the community stagnates and see that's

what happening for me in Overtown so unless you've got some

invested interest you know as far it's residents and also for

people that do business, I don't see the community changing much.

It would just maybe change physically, like you say for

beautification and this kind of a thing, you know a whitewash

approach but superficial but for, for, a realistic thing you have

to got to have more of an investment in the community, you know,

and I think in turn that would attract people to move back, I would

move back to Overtown for whatever because I think it's a nice area

and if you had things that were amenable to me but when you got to

go out of your community for everything, really, why be there? You

want to have some things that are amenable to you right in walking

distance or a short driving distance. There is not even a grocery

store that nobody can really walk to. There is not much right

there in... -

(Ms. Wanza): They have one down there but, I mean if you

live, like way, way...

(Mr. McKenny): Yeah, they got one, I know about that...I know

about the store that's Overtown but for the most part, you know a

lot of people they just get rides and they go out of the community

and they go to Winn Dixie where it's cheaper or whatever and what

have you, you know that kind of ah mentality, umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, umm hum, yeah I understand. Okay well

that umm ends our interview, thank you so much and umm is there

anything else you would like to add?

(Mr. McKenny): No but I just hope that ah at least my ah

responses will in turn at least be addressed, would even be

considered and ah if nothing else it would be ah, ah, how would I

say, raise somebody else's conscientiousness about Miami and

Overtown and thank you for having me as your guess.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, this is Stephanie Wanza, I'm ending the

interview with Mr. Edward McKenny. This is Side #2 of Tape #1.