Interview with Hammond Noriega, August 7, 1997

Material Information

Interview with Hammond Noriega, August 7, 1997
Noriega, Hammond ( Interviewee )
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Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans -- Florida
Overtown Oral History Collection ( local )
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This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Overtown Collection' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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AUGUST 7, 1997

This is Stephanie Wanza and I will be interviewing Mr. Hammond

Noriega. Today's date is August 7, 1997. We are here at the

Culmer Center.

(Ms. Stephanie Wanza): How are you doing today Mr. Noriega?

(Mr. Hammond Noriega): Pretty much as usual.

(Ms. Wanza): Alright. First I want to ask you a few

questions about your family life. Where were your parents born?

(Mr. Noriega): Trinidad, Caribbean.

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

(Mr. Noriega): No.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe what it was like living, well

living and growing up in your parent's household?

(Mr. Noriega): It was the best experience I had. I wouldn't

trade it. I'm from a family of eleven, I have six brothers and

four sisters and we pretty much are interrelated to each other but

a community, which I had a large family so I had an exhilarated


(Ms. Wanza): Alright, I'm going to ask you about your

employment from 1945 to 1970 and I want to go ahead and revise

those years and ask you about your employment from, what was it


(Mr. Noriega): For the city?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes, yes, when you lived in Overtown.

(Mr. Noriega): Okay, I lived in Overtown between 1980 and


(Ms. Wanza): Okay, could you describe the jobs that you had?

(Mr. Noriega): I had one job at that time, I was working with

Metro-Dade Transit which is now Metro-Dade County. It was MDT at

that time Metro-Dade Transit and I was with the Policy Planning

Department where they would try and do interviews or plans for

train stations in the area. Come into a Metro-rail station area,

design and one of the stations happened to be Overtown, it was at

that time I left. The work was interesting. Overtown when it was

in it's stage and I left just when the federal

government had given a $6,000,000 grant to Dade County which was

handed over to the city to relocate people from Overtown for the

Overtown station construction.

(Ms. Wanza): What kind of hours did you work?

(Mr. Noriega): Basic 8 to 5.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. When and why did you leave that job?

(Mr. Noriega): I got an offer I couldn't refuse.

(Ms. Wanza): How did you find that job?

(Mr. Noriega): A friend of my informed me about it, it was a

job back in Trinidad incidentally and I left and went there.

(Ms. Wanza): Where did the other members of your family work?

(Mr. Noriega): My immediate family was here with me at the

time and I had worked my way from my parental family and I took

them with me.

(Ms. Wanza): The next set of questions I going to ask you are

regarding neighborhood life between 1945 and 1970 but again, I'm

going to revise the years between 1980 and 1984 when you actually

lived in Overtown. Could you describe your place of residence?

(Mr. Noriega): In Overtown?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes.

(Mr. Noriega): 405 Northwest Sixth Street. It was a row of

new town houses in Overtown at the time.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Who lived in your household?

(Mr. Noriega): My wife and two children.

(Ms. Wanza): And yourself?

(Mr. Noriega): Yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe the street where you lived?

(Mr. Noriega): Very quiet. It was a quiet street, we were

the only houses on that block at that time between Fourth and Fifth

Avenue, actually between Fourth and Seventh Avenue, it was the only

row of houses there then, across the street was vacant property.

(Ms. Wanza): Who were your neighbors at that time?

(Mr. Noriega): For want of names, I remember a guy called

Phil Davis, Gloria Thomas, one of the lady's name was Delores, I

don't remember her last name and another guy who was actually from

Jamaica too, he worked for the airlines, I don't remember his name.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Where did they work?

(Mr. Noriega): One worked for the airlines, Phil Davis was a

lawyer and there was an air hostess, there was a teacher, all 13

people were employed. There were 13 town house and they worked

between the state, airlines, private industry and different things

like that.

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

they remain in the neighborhood?


(Mr. Noriega): About 4 of them are still there.

(Ms. Wanza): When did the others leave?

(Mr. Noriega): I have no idea. I was away between 1984...

towards the end of '84 and '88 and when I came back here there were

6 of them there out of area.

(Ms. Wanza): And you don't know where they went, no?

(Mr. Noriega): No.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe the main business areas you

went to in Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): The main businesses I went to?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes.

(Mr. Noriega): Not many, I just went to the barber shop and

you stop and the mom and pop stores. The supermarket which is now

Crown was closed at the time, it was not functioning at the time so

there were not many businesses except you know for soft drink but

the barber shops were still as they are now.

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


(Mr. Noriega): From the Winn Dixie at Twentieth Street and

Seventh Avenue.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, where your family went to the barber shop

or the beauty shop? I know you just said you went to the barber


(Mr. Noriega): Between Tenth and Eleventh Street and Third


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



(Mr. Noriega): Downtown.

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


(Mr. Noriega): Not in Overtown at the time.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe the churches your family


(Mr. Noriega): Not in Overtown either. I'm a catholic, I

never know it...didn't recognize catholic church in Overtown.

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

entertainment such as theaters, bars, restaurants or sporting


(Mr. Noriega): Entertainment at that age was mainly in the

Omni. Sporting, I was in Gibson Park very often.

(Ms. Wanza): When someone in your family got sick where did

they go to the doctor's office?

(Mr. Noriega): Jackson.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. How long did you continue to patronize

the businesses in Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): As long as I was here, where ever I went to I

continued to do that.

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

entertainment outside of Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): When I left Overtown towards the end of '84

and that was it.

(Ms. Wanza): During the period that you lived in Overtown,


what were the main things that made Overtown a community or didn't

make it a community?

(Mr. Noriega): The activity of the children.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. Noriega): There were some food areas that you could have

gotten something to eat.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. How has that sense of community changed

since you left?

(Mr. Noriega): To me the community hasn't changed that much.

(Ms. Wanza) : We are going to begin on the next set of

questions which will be regarding 1-95. I just stated that we

would be asking questions about 1-95 but we now will be asking

questions regarding Metro-rail. When and How did you first hear

about the building of Metro-rail?

(Mr. Noriega): In 1979.

(Ms. Wanza): Where were you living at that time?

(Mr. Noriega): Some place Dade.

(Ms. Wanza): Did you rent or own the place that you lived in

at that time.

(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, I owned it.

(Ms. Wanza): What kind of reaction was there to the news that

Metro-rail would come through Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): Overtown, there wasn't much excitement

for that matter, I'm not sure they wanted to put a station in

Overtown and Lovey as an activist in Overtown had to actually

appeal for the Overtown station, the decision is going from Culmer


to downtown. Initially, there was no Overtown station.

(Ms. Wanza): So would you describe what was said about the

Metro-rail at the time?

(Mr. Noriega): It won't work.

(Ms. Wanza): What affect do you think Metro-rail would have

on Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): It has a good affect on Overtown but I don't

think it has the anticipated use in Overtown because where the

Metro-rail goes to is not of much interest to the people in


(Ms. Wanza): Did you discuss Metro-rail coming through

Overtown with your neighbors?

(Mr. Noriega): No.

(Ms. Wanza): Did you attend a meeting where it was discussed,

sign a petition or discuss the issue with public officials?

(Mr. Noriega): No, when I lived in Overtown, it was already

pretty much decided.

(Ms. Wanza): What was the most important impact of Metro-rail

on you?

(Mr. Noriega): Honestly, provided a job.

(Ms. Wanza): What was it like when Metro-rail was being


(Mr. Noriega): For Overtown residents, I don't think it

mattered much, there was excitement downtown, there was excitement

that it would be done. I cannot say was very skeptical.

People were wondering would this ever work, that was the whole


feeling about Metro-rail when it was being done.

(Ms. Wanza): What was the community able to get from public

officials in return for the Metro-rail going through Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): Empty promises.

(Ms. Wanza): How did the Metro-rail effect the community?

(Mr. Noriega): I'm not sure what effect it had on the

community because it's hardly used by Overtown residents. Had it

not been for the arena, I don't think it would have gotten much


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

regarding the future of Overtown. What are the most important

misconceptions about Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): That it's high crime, that people are

belligerent, and dishonest and they don't care about anything

that's the most misconception that they have.

(Ms. Wanza): What do you think public officials most need to

know about Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): That Overtown have people just as anywhere

else and that the people are honest upright citizens and if they're

given the opportunity to do things, they would do just as good or

better than most there areas.

(Ms. Wanza): What should be done to improve the Overtown area

now, such as transportation projects, tourist attractions, job

creation or beautification programs?

(Mr. Noriega): Become an infrastructure within the community.

The transportation needs to crisscross some more instead of just


along one avenue and there needs to be some type of feeder system

to the rail station.

(Ms. Wanza): What should be the relationship between Overtown

and downtown Miami?

(Mr. Noriega): An extension of downtown because in essence,

Overtown is an extension of downtown. If there were some distinct

demarkation lines as existed in the past, you know, you don't cross

the rail line, you don't cross Fifth Avenue, that concept is still

there. It's a mental block between Overtown and downtown.

(Ms. Wanza): When you have visitors from out of town where do

you take them to show them the culture and history of Dade County's

African-American Black community.

(Mr. Noriega): Well now that I'm involved in Overtown for the

past 8 years, this is where I spend most of my type of cultural

activities, particularly in the day. I'm a multi-cultural person so

my taste for cultural activities at night doesn't happen in

Overtown except I'm invited to a particular event but if I have to

go dancing or the movies, it doesn't happen in Overtown except I'm

personally invited; But for sporting and youth activities, I

literally spend a lot of my time in Overtown.

(Ms. Wanza): So when visitors come do you usually take them

to Overtown?

(Mr. Noriega): Yeah, I bring them here because during the

visit, I have to be in Overtown at some point, during any visit

that will go 2 or 3 days.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe in your own words, what kind


of community you would like Overtown to be in the future?

(Mr. Noriega): It needs to be more coordinated effort so the

people could have more interaction, could be a more self-sufficient

community, more jobs are provided. Mainly though they need some

internal cultural art center, they need some areas where people can

gather without the feeling of being harassed and most of all I

would like to see it in the hands of community where people can

express themselves openly with each other and the people who live

outside of Overtown to see them as they really are.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, I wanted to...since I know you are an

expert on relocations, I wanted you to give your opinion of

relocation and public housing and how it fits into transportation

and how it fits into Urban Renewal and what can be done as far as

relocation programs in order to improve transportation and Urban

Renewal in Overtown.

(Mr. Noriega): In Overtown?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes.

(Mr. Noriega): They need not do anything else with regard to

relocation in Overtown.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, you were saying nothing needs to be done

right now as far as relocation?

(Mr. Noriega): Yeah, with regard if Overtown is to continue

being a thriving community and some of the people who live here can

watch their children growing and enjoy Overtown no relocation

project should take place in Overtown anymore. It will only

continue to further destroy Overtown or Overtown will be lost


entirely as a community.

(Ms. Wanza): Well how about public housing?

(Mr. Noriega): Public housing? It needs to be upgraded and

make it more livable. Instead of the one room box apartments that

they are accustom to having the 40's and the 50's, they need to

expand them to 2 and 3 family units and more comfortable rent


(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Well, thank you Mr. Noriega and this is

the end of my interview with Mr. Hammond Noriega. This is

Stephanie Wanza. I'm ending the interview on Side #1, Tape 1.

Today is August 7, 1997.