Washington Center Forum, August 12, 1997

Material Information

Washington Center Forum, August 12, 1997
Alternate title:
Black Archives public forum at Book T. Washington, August 12, 1997
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Overtown Oral History Collection ( local )

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:


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August 12, 1997

(Mr. Derrick Davis): My name is Derrick Davis and I'm the

Executive Director of the Black Archives Foundation and for a

moment I am going to explain a little bit about what's happening

here tonight.

The first thing I'm going to explain is about some of the

sound equipment you see in here. The equipment you see is for

recording. If you notice we have a recorder there and a gentleman

with a headset on listening to it to make sure that it's being

recorded on tape, everything that we are saying and that's what our

speaker system is set up for is to record the voices of the

speakers. We ask if you have at any point where you need to

something, please come up to the speakers and make your statement

so we can make sure we have it on tape and let me explain why we do

it this way. For conversation to become history it has to go.

through a process and part of that process is, you tape the

conversation, you take that conversation that has been taped and

you transcribe it. You get someone to type everything up that was

said and once it has been transcribed then you review the process.

You review everything that is written up to have make sure

that everything that is in it is accurate and once you have of that

and you're going through that entire process of recording it,

transcribing it, reviewing it to make sure it accurate the what

was spoken actually becomes a part of history. That's why you'll

see a lot of historians, you can't just go like it says, "oh it was

in the newspaper so it was true." All us know, just because


something appeared in the newspaper does not mean its true and

sometime when you're talking and you might say know you just might make a mistake and if you were given

a chance, an opportunity to read over what you had said, you would

say, "oh, no that's not correct, this is correct" or the

person...even when a person that transcribes it, a person might

transcribe it and they might have a name spelled wrong and when you

review it, you can correct that spelling so there are things you

can check in the history process so that's why we are making an

audio tape and having the sound equipment, to pick up what is being

said so that we can process all of this information and make it

become a part of history.

Now the reason that we are working on this project is to help

FIU in doing a study that they are doing on the historic impacts of

transportation on the Overtown community. They're studying in the

area, they are looking at a lot of the facts but when they were

doing their study, one of things they wanted to do is not just go

so much by the facts and figures, about how many buildings there

were or how many people there but actually talking to people about

what made Overtown a community. What are some of the things that

the people did in that community and what are some of the things

they lost when the community was...transportation system was forced

right into the heart of that community and other projects that

caused people to move out. Because a lot of times-when you are

talking to people from Overtown, they might not say, Oh I moved

because of 1-95. They may tell you oh I moved as part of Urban

Renewal Project or I moved for something else not knowing that all

of those were tied together in gathering land for the 1-95

transportation system. So we're helping FIU to gather the

information where the focus of attention is transportation but the

focus is even narrow in that we want to look at what made this a

community, what was lost in that community and what are some of the

things that have happened as result of that so we are even bringing

it into the present. We want to information about how it was, what

happened during that process of making the construction of the

systems and now what effect does that have on the community today.

So it may look at us strange and I know some times it may get.hard

to hear but remember the mikes are not set up to amplify the sound,

they are set up so that we can record that sound and turn what is

being said tonight into history.

It's a very busy night. I know Dr. Fields maybe able to get

back with us, she is made a part of a committee that is trying to

save the City of Miami, the whole City of Miami structure and she

is one of the three chairmen of that committee so she had to go to

that meeting tonight so she wont' be with us. We do have a speaker

from the community because we found that if we bring someone from

the community to talk about it, it'll start jogging your memory

about things, it'll start getting you to remember some of things in

seeing the type of information that we are trying to collect. So

we have a member from the community to come and talk. We have also

invited some other members from the community and if they get here,

we'll give them a chance...these are community leaders and

religious leaders that we've invited and maybe give them a chance.

I know a lot of people are having trouble finding Booker T.

Washington even some of the's not as easy to find as it

was in the old days and so some of those people may be coming

alone. I just want to understand a bit of the process we're going

through, why we're doing it but we really want to get comments from

as many people as we can tonight and to hear about. Even hearing

about...when we say what made a community, I know there are some

Booker T. Washington Alumni here. We want to know what made Booker

T. so great? I mean this is your chance to make it...I mean it

will become a part of the history so that future generations, not

just FIU during this project for the Department of Transportation

for future generations need to know, what about the school was

great? What made you feel so, you know, that you still want to be

involved with the school and still want to preserve its history.

So can even help in gathering that information. All that is a part

of what we are trying to gather for this project. So I would like

to now turn it over so we can have someone I know has been the

community a very long time, working and striving to do things...I

know one time I mentioned to him...I know he doesn't remember this

but one of my first jobs in Community Service was with Bernie Dyer

when we were doing the Liberty City...

(Mr. Dyer): Community Council.

(Mr. Davis): Community Council (laughter). I worked with him

for a while doing some things in communication for the part he was

doing there so he's been involved in the community a long time.

He's now a resident of the Overtown area, he was always very

actively involved in community issues and the political issues and

we're going to give him a chance to talk about some of the things

he knows about what made this a community and some of the political

activities that were going on the area. So now I would like to

introduce to some and just bring to others that already know him

Bernie Dyer (hand clapping).

(Mr. Bernie Dyer): I'm not a native Miamian. I ah...I'm from

Harlem originally and what happened, we were doing some things in

the War on Poverty Program that the director here heard about. One

of them was to develop a different sought of thrust, not to just do

social work but also to begin to look at problems and find ways of

trying to attempt to solve these problems. So it was kind of a

real life experience to work in the poverty program during that

period because you had people like Adam Clayton Power, a guy by the

name of Livington Wingate, Dr. Kenneth Clark who started out with

the Dolls and proved that segregation had an ill effect in terms of

the schools and a number of other people. So what happened, at any

rate, the director of the poverty program from here, Richard

Whetherly came up and he asked me would I be interested in coming

to Miami and I certainly was because Miami was like the playground.

Everybody loved Miami and I thought it would be an excellent chance

to come down and do some serious work and at the same time be in a

nice setting. So I came down and I started as an area coordinator

for the EOPI which meant that nine of the centers were my

responsibilities to coordinate the services that were delivered and

to work with the staff in terms of trying to improve the service

delivery system. What happened quite honestly, the director of the

program, Richard Whetherly was too far left for lack of better

term. He was a very courageous guy and he felt that it wasn't just

about service but it also was about organizing people around issues

that impact on their life. He began to talk about doing things

like rent strikes, organize tenants, beginning to talk about

welfare rights and so the board of the EOPI felt that wasn't

something that they wanted to get into, they were very conservative

and they didn't like the idea. so Richard Whetherly left and I

knew I'd be soon to follow so I was able to get a grant from the

National Council of Church and establish something called the

Liberty City Community Council.

But I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself because what I

remember about Overtown really was my first time coming into the

Miami community. I had seen Ebony Magazine stories concerning Nat

King Cole or Eartha Kit, all of the big stars, Dina Washington and

they were hanging out at the plush Sir John Hotel, right around the

pool and they were having a good time. I said., "Boy, if I ever get

to Miami, I'm going to the Sir John Hotel." And so, when I get to

Miami, the first place I...well at the airport was a Black cab

driver and I said, "Please take me to the Sir John Hotel." He

said, "The Sir John?" I said, "Yeah, I want to go to the Sir

John." He said, "Are you sure?" I said, "I certainly do want to

go to the Sir John." So he brought me over to the Sir John and I

said, "Why are you taking me to the back entrance?" He said, "No

this is the front entrance." What had happened, the John Sir John

was victim of Urban Renewal and it had decayed and it wasn't what

I thought it was. When I walked in I was surprised, I couldn't

believe that what was Ebony was no longer real. There were people

there who were not stars by any means and the first thing that

happened when I went up to the room and clicked the light on, that

was the first time I've ever saw a palomino bug. it flipped me

out, I couldn't believe it, I said, "Whaaat!" I had never seen a

cockroach this big (laughter). So know I couldn't believe

that things, that all of these...ah beauty that was once at the Sir

John was just something on the pages of old magazines and no longer

existed and as I became more and more involved with the Overtown

community, I found that people were actually walking around in a

sense of shock because families had been uprooted. People talked

about Good Bread Alley. I've never experienced Good Bread Alley.

They talked about the...I forgot there was a club down the street

from the Sir John. I think it was the Night Beat was it?

(Mr. Davis): No, the Night Beat was the Sir John's.

(Mr. Dyer): Yeah, but there was another club that was down

the street and it was going and, of course, the whole...

(Mr. Davis): Some people are saying the King of Hearts, make

sure we get it on recording, the Rockland Place, Lord Calvert, the

Mary Elizabeth.

(Mr. Dyer): The thing that amazed me though was the attitude

on the part of a lot people that this was progress; that, you know,

Overtown being devastated was a sign of progress and really what it

did in a much, much deeper sense, it destroyed what we had.

Segregation was...I'm not for segregation but there were some

benefits when we...we were much more together when we were on our

side of the tracks, we had our own business base. We were able to

do a lot of things, we weren't depend as we are now on other folks

and what I mean by that, for example, when you have a business base

and you can control some of your economy, it means that you are

able to do a lot of things and you don't have to worry about

stepping on anyone's toes. If you want to say something, you

called it the way you see it and, of course, when you have people

like...I wasn't in that time but D.A...I think it was Dorsey?

(Mr. Davis): Yes, D.A. Dorsey.

(Mr. Dyer): ...and some other folk who were business people

that lent some strength to the community. We had... you had

doctors, you had dentists, you had manufacturing in Overtown. It

was a different community and surely the Urban Renewal meant our

removal from that area. It's really been a tragedy. When you

drive through Overtown and you look at it now, it's hard to think

that ever was once a thriving community. I mean it really, really

is a shame. You know, then you add on the impact of the Cuban

refugee influx, I.mean 100 year 186,000 folks coming into

this community and...which I'm not against them coming in, don't

get me wrong, some of my best friends are Cubans (laughter) but I'm

saying that, you know, when you look at all that's happened in our

community, particularly the Black community and you start walking

around those streets and at night you go down in Overtown and you

see people laying around on the ground and you see the homeless

folk that are there and you see the real frustrations that all come

back from that Urban Renewal project and I think that it's not's not only hard on us but it will be hard on generations

to come because you can't tear fabric of a can't

tear it apart like that and not have it come back at you for years

and years and years. I hear people talking about doing something

in Overtown, put in housing and dqogg a number of other things but

I don't believe that it will ever be what it once was. I think

we'll never see that again and it's really a shame.

(Mr. Davis): When you said that you came to this area, did

you mention the date, what date are you saying?

(Mr. Dyer): I think it was in the Spring of '63. I think

that's when I came here, in '63. This was a different community

then, I mean it really was. We didn't have that drug problem that

we have now. It was...the people were a lot more together, yeah,

yeah. I guess when you get to a certain age and you look back and

everything is covered with kind of a mystical gloss to it but it

was nice back then, really, it really was. What we call progress

sometimes, I don't believe that it's really progress, I mean

whatever happened to all of the people that were moved out of the

Overtown community? Where did they end up? What has been the

impact on them and their families? Even to today you go in

Overtown and you see I said before the homelessness,

that's really what's devastating and at night in certain parts of

Overtown, there are more people sleeping on the sidewalks than

sleeping in the apartments and under the expressway, all of those

things and nobody seems to be able to really come up with a way to

deal with that effectively. Certainly when you look at the stores,

the grocery stores in our...that neighborhood the

ownership pattern has completely changed. I mean, I use to do a

newspaper that went from Florida City to Fort Lauderdale, 267

stops, I put it out myself. The Black store owners are not an

endangered...they're an extinct species. I mean you go in

Overtown, I don't think there the whole of Overtown...let

me see, maybe about 5 to 7 Black owned grocery stores and that,

that really has impact, that really has an impact and I don't know

what the answer is. Because what happens if kids don't see someone

like them operating a business, they never believe that should

have...get into that kind of thing and what happens the drug pusher

becomes a role model and so you know you go into a whole other kind

of lifestyle but Miami has changed tremendously since I've been

here, not all for the good.

(Mr. Davis): Now you mentioned that when you had the paper

before that you were able to circulate it through the Black

businesses, how has that, because I know that you are still working

on some publications now, how has that changed now, how do you make

it circulate now?

(Mr. Dyer): Well if you do an issue, for example, we did an

issue about a group called NANNA which is an association of Black

owned grocery stores and some of the Arab grocery store people just

wouldn't take the paper, just told us, don't put the paper in

there. So you know, it makes it a little bit more difficult in

trying to, if you're going to do a paper, I believe you have a

little bit of bite in it. You can't just do a smooth, nice, the

world is always rosy kind of thing because it's not in a fact, you

got to, you got to call it like it is and the reality is that the

people that you go in to put the paper on their counter, if they

don't like the story, they just don't take the paper and that has

an affect on you too.

(Mr. Davis): Now how about some of the transportation

systems, do you remember anything about when they were doing the

construction of 1-95 or 1-395, 836?

(Mr. Dyer): You know what was funny, when I came to Miami, I

think I was about 30 years and I didn't know how to drive because

I was use to jumping on the subway or the bus, you know, so the

sprawl of Miami is what kind of surprised me and the fact is that

you can't get to Opa Locka and Coconut Grove just on a bus. I mean

you can on the bus but that's like a full day's journey. The rapid

transit, well the transportation system then was not as good as it

is now. We didn't have the metro line so it took you 2 or 3 buses

to get to anywhere and it was a lot more...or either the jitney

service, that was the way you moved around.

(Mr. Davis): Do you find that the present mass transit system

is it functional for the residents of Overtown?

(Mr. Dyer): I think that there is a lot of...that the transit

system needs some improvement but what bothers me even more is that

the economic development opportunities on the rapid transit system

are not being utilized by our community. For example, when you

have a rapid transit station and you talk about putting up an

office building at that station then it would seem to me that the

CDC's would play a role in that because that's one way of them

getting out of having to go to the government all the time to ask

for money because if they, in fact, owned the office towers or

whatever is put there, they would have a cash flow and that's

something that needs to be explored more in depth.

(Mr. Davis): Talking about that commercial...

(Mr. Dyer): Yeah, commercial... commercial participation and

the commercial development around the rapid transit stations and

then too, in my own opinion I don't believe that it's good just to

put affordable housing in our community. I think that if we're

talking about doing something in Overtown like the Folk Like

Village that you're going to have to have a very careful balance

because if you bring in only affordable housing or too much

affordable housing, you bring in problems, I mean that's just

straight up and it'll be difficult to develop tourist attractions

in Overtown or anywhere else if you just put in affordable housing.

If you notice on Miami Beach, South Beach, they don't talk about

affordable housing, they talk about putting up some housing for

people that are coming down as tourist and if we're going to do

anything, I believe, in the Overtown community, we're going to have

to start looking at developing tourist type housing as well as and

not just dump all the affordable housing in that area, yeah.

Interestingly enough I found that there are investors from Japan

and the far east that are coming in and buying property all over

Overtown and just holding onto it and another thing is that they

will buy a building and just let the building go down. I mean just

let it go to the place where people move out, it's simpler than

having to pay the people to relocate and what you do then is just

tear the building down and you hold the land. A lot of Overtown is

already zoned for 40-story office towers so the land is worth more

than the people that reside on the land. The rent roles are

nothing when you look at that and you know, I think that the CDC's,

the Community Development Corporations...everybody talks about a

plan for Overtown. How many people in here have ever seen the

plan? I figured that, I haven't either. I mean they talk about

this plan but where is the plan and who actually is doing the plan

or putting the plan together? I think that's a part of what needs

to be looked at. We should get out of being the victims all the

time, you know we are an intelligent people, we are very

intelligent people. I don't know what has happened to us but we

are an intelligent people and to let other persons come in and move

us around like pawns on a checkerboard table is a shame, I mean it

really is. You know, I'm all for social service but I also think

we've got to began to get involved with planning not for only

ourselves but for the future and certainly in the Overtown

community it would appear to me that the process would be opened up

much more that Community Development Corporations would involve the

public in the planning process. I'm going to tell you the most

successful project that I have ever been involved in in my life is

the Martin Luther King Boulevard project, oh you're going to see

some negative stuff come out shortly about. The reason it's

successful, to me, is because we hired the best minds irregardless

of race. We went to the University of Miami, Berkeley University,

Howard, Harvard and we got the best minds and we put together a

plan. That plan is housing, economic development, all of those

things and the same thing could happen here, I mean the University

of Miami has some tremendously talented people on its staff and

faculty and they should be tapped into to help the community

develop a plan, a comprehensive plan that addresses some of the

problems that's there. Now I know I'm going way off but you


(Mr. Davis): It's still a part of what we see because

remember when talking about the transportation system it's talking

about what the community needs developed. So what are some of

those positive...if there was a comprehensive plan, what are some

of the elements...are the parts that you see should be a part of

that comprehensive plan?

(Mr. Dyer): First we should decide on what kind of housing we

want on the land and we should carefully balance it. We should

began to realize that Overtown sits at the foot of 1-95. Anybody

on the north...on the east coast is within a car ride to Overtown

and we ought to begin to look at that as a positive and begin to

develop, housing...not housing but begin to develop...yeah, a type

of housing for tourist and attractions for tourist in the Overtown

community which means you have to look at some of the social

problems and deal with those. I mean those of the kinds of things

that we need to look at. The Folk Like Village when I...I don't

know how many people attended these sessions on the Folk Like

Village but I was amazed and very impressed with the idea of

putting together a tourist attraction in the Overtown area but my

concern is, whose going to own the land? You know, if the community

and groups from our community are going to own the land then I'm

all for it but if it's just going to be just another thing, you

know, where somebody else owns the land then I've got problems with

that. Now CDC's again can play a major role because they can act

as land banks in other words they go out and buy the property and

hold it and we develop around it. For example, the Lyric

Theater...I think next door to the Lyric Theater it's zoned for a that correct?

(Mr. Davis): Yes.

(Mr. Dyer): ...40-story tower and which tells you something.

When you stop and look at it, you know, why...whose going to

develop that tower and why was it zoned that way? Those are the

kind of issues I think we ought to begin to deal with.

(Mr. Davis): Now you mentioned some social issues, what are

some of the social issues that you think should be a part of that

plan? Or something...are we talking about just getting from

welfare to work or are we talking about crime or are we talking

about safety, what are some of the social issues that you see that

the community needs?

(Mr. Dyer): Well I think the social issues come out of the

fact that the families in our community have been devastated and

what has happened is that a lot kids are getting into crime because

they...there's no guidance really for them and part of it and it's

an accepted way. You know it's not an easy thing that can be

answered just 1, 2, 3. You know a lot of it deals with drugs, a

lot of deals with different...a change in values. Kids will say

things and do things now that, boy, we wouldn't dare do in front of

our parents and some of the things that, you know, sometimes people

talk about the need for freedom of expression, I mean for someone

to get up and do certain kinds of things even in some of these

parades like the MLK parade. I have a problem with people getting

up, young sisters getting up there, doing the kind of things that

they do. I mean, you know, that's just me, maybe I'm old fashion

but, you know, the value system that we have needs to be looked at

because that does have an impact on us. The churches should play

a role, more of a role I'm sure in trying to correct that but it's

not an easy things to come up with an answers.

(Mr. Davis): Let me just pick your mind in one more area.

How do you think that the transportation systems, remember in

saying that, I'm talking about the Florida Department of

Transportation, I'm talking about the metro transportation and

others who work with the bus system, the metro-rail, how do you

think the transportation systems can help to make Overtown a better


(Mr. Dyer): I know one thing, the buses need to run a little

bit more frequently (laughter), I know that for sure. I think they

should encourage private entrepreneurs to also participate.

Sometimes the guys that run the jitney are more efficient and more

effective than the bus system that we rely on so we should be

looking at that as a way of trying to involve them in the process,

get the private guys also to work in this system. And then I, I

don't know but they say in some countries in europe that you don't

pay fare, you just get on a bus and you go wherever you got to go

and get off and you go to next one, maybe that's a way of looking

at you know possibility, to get more people circulating. We need

to, I think we need to develop some sought of entertainment zone in

Overtown too. I think that's going to be important because right

now it just practically a bedroom community and there is nothing

much going on in Overtown and that's all part of the transportation

system, helping the transportation system to become more effective.

I particularly like that Ninth Street Mall and you know a group

tried to make that a regular weekend event on Saturdays but they

didn't have too much success but that's the kind of thing that

helps to draw people back into the community.

(Mr. Davis): I think you're talking about the Overtown

Neighborhood Partnership, when they were having that Ninth Street

Mall Marketplace.

(Mr. Dyer): Right, right, yeah, yeah. Although I worked with

a...I'm doing some consultant work with a flea market in Opa Locka,

I think that sought of development around that rapid transit

station would bring people, I bring on a regular consistent basis

and what it does, it allows people to go into business at very easy


---- -- -- .. .. .

entry level. So a person could come out there and vend goods and

learn to get basic skills and then they get excited, they get

turned on and they want to go into business and that's something we

haven't seen in a long time. So that the...around the rapid

transit station...maybe that's a place to begin to develop some

sought of a...for lack of a better term, business incubation

center, yeah, yeah.

(Mr. Davis): Anyone can think of any questions that I may

have forgotten while we were talking to Bernie or we can open it up

to have some other members. You know we have a lot of the Booker

T. Washington Alumni here and that another very important part of

our community. Do we have anyone who would like to speak a little

bit about Booker T. Washington and what it meant to the community?

Hand in the back would you come towards the microphone please?

(Ms. Norvell A.S. Holyfield): My name is Norvell Holyfield,

my father was interviewed today by Electra Ford. Maybe I should'

speak later because I have more to say on what the gentleman was

talking about.

(Mr. Davis): No you can speak now.

(Ms. Holyfield): Okay. I was born at Christian Hospital,

January 9, 1950.

(Mr. Davis): Will you tell us where Christian Hospital was


(Ms. Holyfield): My mom and dad tell me it was in Overtown,

it was a Black hospital. They say a very nice hospital. I also am

the person that I'm doing some transcribing of tapes. I've been

listening to these tapes and they, they, they go right to my heart.

I consider myself a product of Overtown's good times and I say that

in two ways; I'm a product of Overtown when it saw good times and

my parents were part of the good time crowd. My mom was from

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and she was a part of the crew that knew

the railroad crew. There were the pullmen, the red caps and...but

if you were one of these goodlooking girls and you had the right

smile and you knew these pullmen, you could get a train ticket.

They had a train called the Champion that would come from, she

said, Pittsburgh I believe to Washington or some...and she would


(Audience): New York.

Ms. Holyfield): New York, that's right, okay. So she knew a

gentleman and she could get a train ticket and float on down to

Miami and she met my father. My mother at that time was 27 and had

never had any children and she had been married twice and, matter

of fact was married then. My Mae lived across the street from the

Sir John Hotel and Nightclub and my mom said they called her Sixth

Street Mae and she all day long played Bolito, smoked cigarettes

and ah...I forget the third thing, there were three things she did

all day...Okay. So anyway my mom met my dad and here I am so...and

he was married and ah she would run up and down the track between

Pittsburgh and Miami and have a good time. She told me all about

it. I talked to her on the phone last night and I typed up a few

things that she told to share with you all that... I'll be

interviewed tomorrow.

(Mr. Davis): Okay.

(Ms. Holyfield): But anyway, she told me about the Big Bands

would be here, Harry Belafonte would be singing something, the

Banana Boat and Lionel Hampton would be Flying Home and they would

be running up and down the Avenue between the Rockland Place and my

dad said they would have amateur night, I think he said on Thursday

nights, whatever night it was...he said Thursday nights was the

maids' nights off on the beach so when the maids' night off it was

a good time night (laughter). Everybody got to Rockland, that was

important. So I said to my mom well what nights did you go out,

Saturday? Every night in Miami was a night to go out she said,

because Miami was a party town so you just partied and you went on

to work and you suffered through it and when you...she said she

would get the jitney back to Overtown and meet up with her

girlfriend Louise at the Harlem Square and they would party on down

the block and you go home and rest up and hit the club later on.

Well my Uncle Jimmy was a bartender at the Harlem and she said the

Fourteenth Street Bar and ah the Rockland. So he was a party man,

he was a ladies' man. So that also is why I say I'm a product of

Overtown's good times.

Ah, my dad worked in the cleaning business, dry cleaning. He

was interviewed about that and he talked about how they would ship

clothes in the trunk fulls, the June Taylor Dancers and he would

dry clean those clothes specially. They had different people at

cleaners that would search him out and sought of bid for him to

work for them because he was that good, he was a spotter. Ms. Ford

took all of that down in an interview today.

When I was a little girl and I could remember coming to visit

my Aunt Mae across the street from the Sir John, I could get up out

the bed at night while everybody was sleep and I could look out the

window right in the front door of the Sir John and I could remember

a big pink building with a top hat painted on it and ah, ah cane,

a walking cane and some gloves and I was a little girl and was

looking and I could see the satan evening gowns and the limousines

and lights and the doors opened and closed all night and every body

had partied all day and they were sleep so I could get up out the

bed. So I said to myself, "when I get to b alb1' g q jrX I fgota qo

to the Sir John Nightclub, that it, I going when I get to big girl

and I'm going in there because it. I got to do this." So my mom

packed me up and drug me off to Pittsburgh and, well I had

some...well I lived in Greenville, South Carolina for awhile and

when I graduated from high school in 1968 and we came to Miami and

the first thing I wanted to know, I was 18...where is the Sir John

Nightclub, (laughter) I need to get over there and it wasn't, it

wasn't what it use to be. Matter people were moving around and

things were displaced and my cousin Girtha, my Aunt Mae's Aunt Mae had passed on and my Aunt Mae was a

character, like I said, my mom said they called her Sixth Street

Mae. She'd have a few drinks and had left the far on the trolley

track on Sixth Street and her husband said well Mae go out there

and move the car because the trolley is coming and she said, "well

tell the conductor to move it himself, I'm laying down (laugher).

So anybody that was of that era probably knew my Aunt Mae.

I went to Overtown this morning to 6:30 I got up,

well I got over there about 7:30 just to look around because the

streets people had mentioned in different interview and I was

typing the interviews. Second Avenue and Tenth Street, Second

Avenue and Eight, doctor's offices and so I just wanted to ride

around even though I've been there many times before but now I've

pictures of businesses in my mind and I'm riding and I'm looking

and I'm saying this was here and that was there and this is a

vacant lot and this parking lot, and this is grass and, and the

places in my mind that my father said, "oh we partied up and down

this street and there was sidewalk cafe and we use to take you

there as a little girl." Now the billing of the day, what I saw

today and I've seen since I've been here were people that...on the

corner of Eleventh and Second Avenue set on milk crates and that

same crew is there everyday. The people that walk up to your car

and, do you have a quarter, do you have nickel, do you have a dime?

The people me it reminded me of, as I looked at it, an

old movie use to be called Snake Pit. That's what it reminded me

of. That these people were like in an institution that just didn't

have any doors or any walls to it, that's a sickness,

it's, it's...this is my home because I...when my mother and my

father told me about houses that lived in, they partied in on this

block, that block and the hospital that I was born in, so I looked

and said this is like my home and there is a sickness in my home.

This is a sickness and it's just wide open for so many blocks and

things go on right in these blocks and people just accept it as

normality and you just stay away from it if you don't want to be a

part of it. So now I'm typing things that say well we've got some

plans and maybe we can do some things here, and I'm saying well if

you don't clean up this sickness, how are you going to put this

here? What are we going to do because just as I was there and I

was talking to my friend that runs the liquor store there, a man

comes in and says, "well I was just up the street, I got some

quarters, do you want the quarters? You know they got a new thing

going now with the parking meter, they got a charge plate to go in

it. You see I usually jam it with paper and I can get the change

out but they got a new thing going now, but I'm gone figure it out

cause they not gone beat me like this." So I say to myself, he's

talking to me because this is normal and acceptable to tell me this

and number two this is a trade. This is what you do as a living.

You have been turned into something that you have to find a way to

survive. So these people are surviving off of jamming parking

meters, collecting cans or break my car window or if I go to park

you want to charge me to park and tell me you'll watch my car. And

I'm saying so if you bring in tourist or this village so this means

this is a new way of...just as you're saying I want to, I want to

do something good and lift this up then I'm going to sit and think

there's a new income for me. How I can I live off of this new

thing that you brought here, how am I going to make a living too?

So I said well, just like if I said I want to remodel my home, well

am I going to scrape up the old the tile and dig up the glue that

held it there or am I just going to take some new tile and put it

on top of there and let it lump and bump all up. So I'm saying I

would like to see these things happen but it also bothers me as to

also along with these things happening maybe there needs to be a

social program to sweep through because as I rode home and a truck

passed me that said, "Pain and Rehabilitation Center of Miami"

which I know referred to actual physical pain but then it struck in

my mind alone with new businesses there needs to be a pain and

rehabilitation going on in Overtown to try and do something about

this social problem because it's created out of...there's a pain

there. We have been robbed, we have been raped, we have been

victimized. They...when my cousin said to me, "the man, Mr.

Frank's son had the process server come out and give me an eviction

notice on December 25, 1968 and the house that we had lived in

since 1925, Christmas Eve at 6:30 because he knew people were

working." And she went on to say, Willy and Dottie Pearl and

everybody that lived in this, these groups of homes, we had to go.

The city inspector came out and he told the rent man, they've got

to move. Well that meant you had a plan, you sent city

inspect...but nobody talked about ah, ah programs then of well

repair it, well were are you going to send these people but they

just said, okay, send the city inspector have him put a stamp on

them, you tell them to get out, have the process server come and

then they're gone. But that means you had a plan, that means we

were under siege. There was a war going on, we were being attached

and we didn't even know. We didn't even know we were in a battle


and these people had a war going on downtown on paper. And I'm

looking at it right now saying to myself, I've been a legal

secretary for 26 years. Now I know how they lawyers function. I

had a temporary job last week and heard a lawyer on the on the

phone saying, "call so in so because Senator Sinewnew he just had

a bill past to have guns, antique gun...they'll able to export them



That bill got passed because they sneaked it in under a bill

through Minnesota about 12:30 at night so just call and see."

(Audience): Sure did.

(Ms. Holyfield): And as soon as I heard that and I'm working

on this and I'm saying, "How many things have they sneaked past

us?" (Laughter) What are they sneaking past us now and God thank

them for this, this, this, what they are giving us right now,

money to do this research but on the other hand I know you now as

my enemy and I know you don't give me anything and what are you

sneaking on me now because now I know how you operate, I know how

you function. So now in an era when I was submissive because that

was the call of the day to be submissive and as I've heard so many

people say on that tape and it goes right to my heart, "well we

couldn't...if we didn't give them the property they were going to

take it anyway so we had nothing else to do but leave." But now I

don't feel like I have to say, that's all we have to do. I feel

like, so just to say his name because it's a big name but the H.T.

Smiths, the Carrie Meeks and these are the people now that know how

those people function that now just like they do us, we need to be

putting a plan together to say like your saying if a piece of land

is next to the Lyric ah, ah zoned for 40-story building well

I...hey!, I know what you're telling me, my man. You're telling me

you gone move downtown right on through here. You've got some big

time plans coming and you ain't got no 40-story building for me.

It's all about you, it's not about me and upgrading my

neighborhood. You, once again, when I look today at that metro-

rail running through Overtown and I looked at it and it looked just

like a scar in surgery, that you took and opened up a wound and you

just patch up a sore and that means every time you run through a

piece of cement through here and another beam, a business, a

community, people that functioned on their own, people that had a

business, people that knew who they were, people that were

community, that...that didn't have to ask you for anything, it was

a thriving heartbeat, it was warm blood that flowed. Every time

you come through here with another piece of this surgery that you

do, you cut off the blood flow and you stop the heart beat and you

can tell me you're doing it because you want this and you want to

do that but I know now because you've done it again, again...I, you

did it...I look at what you did to the Indian. You set him on a

reservation and he's still sitting there so you can't tell me

you're going to look out for me. I've got to look out for myself.

I'm looking at the millennium is coming soon. You've taken a

welfare reform bill, I've got a friend in Overtown with AIDS and

three kids to feed, she said Ms. Norvell, "I, I went down there to

Project Independence, they say I've got to go look for sixteen

jobs," she said, "but you know I've got that thing" she said, "and

I don't have a car and I don't have money to catch a bus, but I go

out in this hot sun and I have to look for those sixteen jobs and

sometimes I get sick." I said, and when you looked for them what

happened?" I took them the paper and they gave me sixteen more to

go look for. So I'm on unemployment and I only have to look for

one or two and I'm healthy and I have car. So now I'm tieing in

the welfare reform, the building that I see in Overtown with the

ah..plywood, that means you don't mean to repair them, the vacant

lots, what you've done in the past, the welfare reform where you're

pushing these people, further and further and you don't care what

happens to them. You're hoping they just fall out and die

somewhere, crawl under a bridge, I don't care because then it's not

my problem. I can see and it wouldn't surprise me in the year

20...ah, ah 2020 Overtown would be all boarded up, buildings with

grass just growing up and this use to be where the Black folks

lived until they can totally regroup it to do a business for

themselves. We are totally, we are totally being eliminated. So,

I'm, I'm, I'm glad to be a part of this so far as I would say an

employee transcribing but it just touched my heart to what has

happened to me as a part of Overtown's history and my parents, what

has happened to me as a woman, what has happened to me as a Black

woman that through jobs, through contacts, through being treated as

a person for many, many years I have been submissive because, well

that the easy way to do it. Well I can get through, I can get by,

just give me my paycheck and let me go head on and I got a roof

over my head. But it's come a day for me where I'm saying, hey,

I'm tired of being pushed, I'm tired of submissive, I'm tired of

well the easy way out is to be quiet. I have anger now and I see

what they've done and I know they wont' stop there. So I don't

have the solution but I just wanted to share that. Thank you (hand


(Mr. Davis): She's an excellent transcriber too. I've read

some of her copy, she's fast and excellent.

(Rico Robinson): I would like to introduce myself, I'm Mr.

Robinson, I'm the Administrative for the night school programs here

at Booker T. Washington and recently I was elected to the Overtown

Advisory Committee Board in which I am one of the new members. But

let me say something. Ah, I grew up in an area in Chicago, I've

been in Miami 11 years and I was in street gangs from the time I

was 8 years old up until I was 16, okay and when I was 16, I was 16

going on 35 and what I'm saying to you, we have a social problem.

A man will not steal a loaf bread unless he is hungry. He's not

going to take it out and sell it somebody else and make a profit.

That person will steal a loaf of bread because they are hungry.

The socialization and because of the area that we live in causes

many people to do things they would not do under normal

circumstances because even though I'm from Chicago, I grew up an

area like Overtown, where there are good decent people, honest

willing to work and want to do the right thing but the opportunity

is not afforded for them to do that. Okay, when I was 8 or 9 years


old, my mind became trained to understand the civil rights moment

and what was going on because when I was 8 or 9 years old that's

when Rosa Parks set in the front of the bus and through my years in

college and seminary, and everything else, I've always been a

person that really cares about the little person because I come

from the ranks of little people myself. Okay, and those little

people really are not little people. They have just never been

given a chance to do better. The social problem the crime, the

alcohol, the drug addiction, the stealing or what ever it cause,

when people are poor, they will always do things that they normally

would not do. I think in Proverbs T says't'hit pQgerty Is a

destruction of the poor, okay, because when a person is poor, they

have no other alternative, especially when a person is hungry,

okay, and there are people that are walking around hungry. There

are people walking around that don't have a place to live, okay and

I'm concerned very much with because on my lunch break I drive

around this area all the time, okay and see what's going on the

demographics and what's going on. No one can help us but ourselves

and time is not to get angry, the time is to get smart and the time

to get smart is to turn around what's going on and re-educate and

retrain a lot of people so they can think differently. If you

think right, you act right, if you act right, you live right and if

you live right you do what is right. And my being at this school

and I've been here only six months but this community I know

because I grew up from a community like this in Chicago. My

commitment is that whatever I can help people to do to make

themselves better, I will. Because I wasn't always an educated

person, I was in street gangs, I was a thug, I was hoodlum, I was

an outcast even by my family, okay, and so I'm a product of a

community like this and what I'm saying is, if you believe in your

heart and you're willing to fight for what's right and do what is

right, then truly we can overcome. All we got to do is not only

believe in ourselves but to be able to trust in God and really

believe that he'll walk us through all of this because he will.

I've been to Vietnam. I got shot down in a helicopter and walked

away, okay. I've seen half the people that I grew up with die

before they were 21 years old, the other half alcohol, drugs and in

prison and yeah, I was able to escape it and also I'm being

considered to be in the medical program for physician's assistants

and I'm 50 years old and I'm trying to go back to school with three

degrees to become a physician assistant so I can reach out and help

somebody so if I can do it, it's never too late to try and

accomplish anything that you...that you really want to do and this

is why I haven't applied to become a principal or anybody else

because I'm not leaving Booker T. Washington until it becomes the

school that I know it can be and if I have to go down doing it then

I'm going to do it but I am so glad that you are here in our

building and you are more than welcome anytime that you want to

have a meeting here just call me and it can happen. Okay, no is

not a word in my vocabulary and I'm very glad to be here with you.

Thank you (hand clapping).

(Mr. Davis): And I would like to say thank you for having us

here Mr. Robinson. Thank you.

(Mrs. Wilhemena Franks Jennings): Mr. Davis, my name is Mrs.

Wilhemena Franks Jennings. First I want to tell you that I agree

with almost everything that has been said today but I'd like to add

just a little of my experience here and when I say a little, I'm

talking about 80 years of littleness because I was born in the

Overtown area in 1917. I grew up in the Overtown area and all that

you heard the first gentlemen talk about the good times that were

Overtown, I witnessed most of that. It was a viable community,

people owned stores. People...when I say people I'm talking about

the community, the people that lived in the community, the Black

people owned stores, theaters, hotels and just about everything we

needed, we had it in the Overtown. Now when the um...95 came

through a lot of us had to leave, well by that time I had already

moved but my property was still there because my parents left it to

me and my mother begged us not to sell and now I'm wondering if

what she said was right because the only thing we do now is pay

taxes on it and each year it's higher and higher. I...when we were

over there we would go the Harlem Square with Cab Galloway, Eartha

Kit and all of the people from the North that would come and they

would go to the hotels like the Mary Elizabeth, the Dorsey Hotel

because when they played over the Beach then they would come over

in our area and play for us. So I saw the good times over there.

Now the young lady that spoke, she was eloquent (hand clapping)

because something she said reminded of after a riot. You know we

always ask the young people, you know if you go and vote these

things wouldn't happen to you and a guy said to me, he said, "I

voted tonight." I said, "what you mean you voted?" He said, "when

I got out there and helped throw some rocks, that' the way I vote."

So we really need to push our young people to see that its another

way to do it. Now, the 1-95 really hurt us. When I say us, I'm

talking about my sister and I because we had five houses over there

and as you know, when 1-95 came over, the community went down as

you heard them say how people were smoking pot and they wouldn't

pay the rent because they had to buy the pot and we had to just get

out...get rid of our houses but we have kept the land but I don't

see very much we can do with it because as you heard them say

tonight that these rich people are buying the land and holding it

and all we can do now is pay taxes on it because the City of Miami

cannot go south anymore it has to go north and where is north?

North is Overtown, they'll gobble up that part and use it for their

40 story high buildings so I wanted to ask that gentlemen before he

left, he had some good ideas that I heard him mention and I would

like to know some of things know I could even look

forward that maybe I can't do it but have some hope in it. But I'm

going to ask my niece to tell some of the things she witnessed in

Overtown because we're still trying to hold that piece of...few

grains of sand we have over there but it looks hopeless to us now.

(Mr. Davis): Please don't lose hope now.

(Mrs. Crystale Roach): I'm Crystale Roach, I'm also a product

of Overtown and a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School.

You've heard quite a bit about the Overtown area and how it use to

be, let me just talk a little bit about our high school and you

wanted to know what made it so great. I can remember...also

remember our principal saying, "Not the largest but the best" and

we felt that way. First of all we were segregated, all of our

teachers were Black and as I child I could remember our teachers

saying, "if you don't want an education then you're going to go

over to the Beach and work in somebody's house." So we had some

goals. We...they helped us set goals. Not only that, I remember

that no matter what I did by the time I got home if someone in the

school had not told my mom, told my dad and I knew I couldn't get

away with it, if they didn't hear it that day they would hear it in

church, they'll hear it in the store so we were a community. Our

teachers were concerned about us. They were concerned because they

knew what we had to face. We as children had goals, we knew that

we needed not only to go to school and get a high school education

because they always told us, "you have to better than the rest of

the people, you have to run faster than the rest of the people,"

and I can remember my teachers, I just thought teachers were the

greatest. Well, not only because my mom was a teacher and at that

time most of my relatives were, female relatives were but I just

held teachers in such high esteem. They were the high people in

the community, they did so much for us and Booker T. Washington was

a place where the whole community rallied around the school. I was

in the band and when the band marched, the entire community came

out. I could remember everybody standing on the street and

everyone would call the names of their children or their relatives

who were in the band and they would run from one street to the

other. We, we lived on Ninth Street and the band would pass Ninth

Street and Third Avenue. Well, by the time we got around...we went

around by the Sir John Hotel, came up Second Avenue, my relatives

were on Second Avenue and they were still calling and waving to us.

The entire community rallied around the school. The teachers and

the school were concerned about us and I not only speak as the

product of Booker T. Washington but I speak as the principal of an

elementary school. I thought teaching was so important that that's

the way I went through my education and I can compare the

difference in teachers today and teachers at that time. I was

fortunate in that I was able to teach in a school that was in I

guess you would call it the better part of the town. I say that

not because I felt that way but that's what the teachers felt

because in their view when teachers came to me to interview for a

job they would say something like, "I've done my duty by working in

Overtown." You see Dade County Public Schools and I can speak now

because I retired last year (laughter, hand clapping). Dade County

has a way of assigning teachers when they come...when they are

coming into the schools originally, you know we had a racial quota

we had to meet and you could only have a certain percentage of your

faculty Black and they told us that was because faculty ratio had

to be the same as our community in Dade County. Well you know the

Blacks are a very small minute part of Miami or Dade County so that

meant in any school that you're going to in Dade County, you're

going to find that the Black teachers are a very small, minute part

of that faculty. And so when you get to let's say 34 percent Black

teachers, your computer locks up and you can not may the

best Black applicant with the best qualification with what you know

your children need as role models but you can't hire that person

because you're computer locks because you've got too many Blacks

already. You see, so I knew that when I would interview for

teaching and I would say to the teachers, you know I want to know

something about your background, they would say, "well I worked at

Booker T. Washington or I worked at Douglas Elementary and those

children are like animals." They don't realize that saying to me,

you know, you're talking about my people, you know and they would

say, I worked at Phyllis Wheatley. They only have to spend three

years in a school and then they can ask for a hardship transfer or

they can spend a year or two in a school where you've been assigned

and then you try to get to a school that is in the outskirts. I

say that to say that the teachers you have in these

the Booker T. Washingtons, the Douglas Elementary, in the Phyllis

Wheatley, these teachers are just like serving their time until

they can get out of there. So they are serving time, how can they

feel, now I don't mean all of them but many of them do have

feelings for the children but they are just there temporarily until

they can get out. Booker T. Washington at that time was not like

that. Our teachers were part of the community. They set goals and

they were role models for us and so, therefore, they helped us to

see what they had achieved, we could do also. I don't think that

you will find many teachers who will start at your Douglases and

your Phyllis Wheatleys, you wont' find them there for 10, 20 years.

You won't find them there really because they are just there

because that's where they were sentenced to be because they came

into the school system.

So you wanted to know something about why Booker T. was such

a fine school. It was because it was, it was just a part of the

whole thread of educating young people and giving them goals and

even making...the graduates were all a part. I can remember we

would have assembly programs and we had a principal who was just,

I guess in this day and time you would think in this day and time

you would think he was kind of strange but he yelled at us and he

preached at us and he told us all kinds of terrible things about

our parents, you know, if you don't like it you tell your mamma and

I'll tell...(laughter) that kind of thing but we knew that he cared

about us. He cared about us and we respected him for that. We

respected our teachers. You don't get that kind of respect from

young people now. You don't get the kind of support from parents

now. So I think the whole, the whole society is different but if

we can began to look at some of the good things that we had maybe

we can begin to build on that. We lost quite a bit with the 1-95.

We lost because there were families that were split and there were

children who saw parents all upset and not knowing which way to go,

they didn't have time to worry about what kids were doing because

they were too busy trying to find some place for themselves, the

whole thread of the community was pulled apart so I think that's

where we begin to lose our young people. No longer were

teachers...I remember when we had the integration of faculties. I

happened to be a teacher at that time and they went around to

schools and they selected the best Black teachers to integrate the

schools, luckily, well I don't know if I was lucky or not, I was

selected to go to integrate a school but I remember when I got

there, it wasn't like I was a part of the faculty, I was

there...the principal introduced me by saying, "This a the person

that was sent to me," and I'm sure with that kind of experience the

people who came to our children came with a lot of reluctance, with

a social shock they called it, a cultural shock, I think that's

what they called and they, those teachers were so shocked by being

in a situation with children with whom they had not ever had the

experience of teaching, those children learned very little. I

remember the think that helped me survive in my situation was that

in the Black schools, they brought all the new programs and they

tried all the programs on the little Black kids to see whether or

not they were going to be successful and luckily I happened to have

been a teacher at that time so when I got to those other...the

other school I had already used the program so I was kind of like

a resource person and know they had to come to me to

help them with some of the problems they found with programs. So

I'm saying we didn't get the best teachers back. We gave our best

teachers, we didn't get that back. Our kids still don't get the

best teachers, don't get the concerned administrators because you

see as an administrator, you know, we don't have a say as to the

where you go, they send you. You can serve your time there as a

principal, you can serve your time for a couple of years then you

can ask to go to the Miami Coral Parks and the, the fine Highland

Oak Schools and those kind of things so the principals that you get

in these schools...if you notice, you'll see principals, they'll be

at this school for two years and they'll be at Dorsey or Phyllis

Wheatley for a couple of years or they'll be at Douglas for a

couple of years because they too are serving their time. So when

you're talking about what have we lost? We have lost people who

even care about educating our children and if you don't educate

your children...that's your future. If you don't have a commitment

to them then you are not going to get these intelligent people that

he says, why, the intelligent people and what has happened to us?

We have not been challenged enough to use the intelligence that we

have. So I...when we are talking about doing some changes, you

have to change the whole fabric, the whole educational structure,

I don't know what will happen to youngsters. I would dare to think

that you took a school and you put... I won't say all Black

teachers but if you had the kind of children that represented the

neighborhood that your school is in, if you have a school like

Booker T. Washington that's in an Overtown area, that's in a

predominately Black neighborhood, why would your school staff be

predominately non-Black? How are you going to give these children

a chance to say, I too can be like this teacher or I too can be

like this principal? You know, I don't know what else to say in

terms of what made Booker T. Washington so great but it was just

because being instilled the idea that we could do it and many of us

who graduated did it. I guess that's why we feel so strongly as

alumni because we did it because we were told we could do it and we

knew we could do it because we had that kind of feeling. I don't

know how many kids we can say now that we are reaching, we're

losing a lot of them. We're losing them and unfortunately as an

administrator, I don't...I can't say that I made that big of a

difference but I hope that there is somewhere, someone will find

the answers to what can we do to help educate our children again so

that they know they too can do it and that's all (hand clapping).

(Mr. Davis): Thank you for sharing that. As our next speaker

comes up because I know the Booker T. Washington Alumni are here

and they have to meet after this so we don't want to take all of

their time, we are going to give them some time for there meeting

so let me just say this is our last public meeting but the one on

one interviews are still going on so if, you know, you have not

been one of the people that we have on our schedules of one on one

interviews, please get in contact with us so that we can schedule

an appointment with you. We have some of our researchers here,

some of them are standing in the back, I see Yvonne and Devon and

Eric? Alex. Who did I miss? Ms. Ford, I keep...Ms. Ford, they

are going out in the community, they are having one on one

interviews, they are doing the same... and it's the same process

well not with the camera but they are doing it with the audio

cassette. It's going to be taken on audio cassette, it's going to

be transcribed, you see our transcriber and you see how eloquent

she's become from reading some of the things that have been said

and you'll get a chance to review it and make sure that it's

accurate information that we are collecting and you can...the Black

Archives will get this information and hold it so that future

generations...FIU is going to use it in their study but we're

keeping the masters. We're going to have the masters so that we

can use it for projects that we're doing to get people to

understand some of the things you're saying about the social

changes and the things we need in the community and the Black

Archives will keep fighting to try to make sure that your ideas get

implemented the rebuilding of this community.

(Mr. Davis): We have another speaker.

(Mrs. Jacqueline Murphy Wells): Good afternoon. Okay, my

name is Jacqueline Murphy Wells. My mother attended Booker T.

Washington during the year '42, Ruby Everett. I came from Goulds.

Andrew1 brought me to the Overtown area and when I came I saw a

lot of things that I feel and felt, that I would feel right now

that are just not right. You mention about the transportation.

The transportation in Overtown area because at one time I didn't

have a car so I had to depend on the transportation system. Buses

run horrible. Okay, the jitney service, it's okay but its horrible

also because of how the seating area is, there is no air and that's

one thing that needs to be corrected. Talking about the homeless

people, I live on Thirteenth and Second Avenue. Once upon a time

when I first came, up under that bridge there were a slew of

people. Finally, the city came in and they got these people

1 Hurricane Andrew

places. Now there are people back out laying on the streets, okay

and I still think that's bad. We all sit here and we want to solve

different things but there are answers to these solutions. Many of

us and I don't know any of you and I'm sure some of you have lived,

you've walked these streets of Overtown, there are buildings that

are boarded up. I know for a fact that as Black people there is

plenty of money into the community that we as a community can and

if we can do these things of giving these people some places to

stay. At one time that person is laying down on the ground, they

were somebody, they just didn't get there like that. Okay, we talk

about demise of saying the community of building certain things,

why not Florida Memorial, why not FMU, there are minds that are

there that can create...master a plan, okay and lady, I

just overhead her saying that the fear of the Overtown area...Okay,

there is fear everywhere, not just in the Overtown area, what the

people here, which I don't know who is actually here that lives in

the Overtown area, saying that we can take our city back. Okay, we

don't have to have in every little area in Miami, you've got

corners where there are drugs that are being sold. Okay, the White

man, he brought that in, okay, broke up the families, they brought

the apartments in, the put the rents low, that meant that the

husband can't be there, okay, because of the different things that

you have to go through with the welfare reform like this young lady

was saying about the people that are going on welfare, they're on

welfare, they're getting ready to stop all of this. Some people

they actually needs some type of service. But we're not as a

community, the Black community we're not rallying around them

because we say so what? Education as this lady was saying, that

they pulled the Black people out of certain schools and they put

for so many years and I would...use to go to the schools, I would

never give the time and I would walk in and see a lot of things

that a lot of people, they would close their eyes to and it's just

not right and it's people right here, where the people from the

area? They too can make decisions. You talk about housing,

personally my kids say "mamma I like it here." That's one reason

why I didn't relocate back down south because they like here. I

said well if I could find a house, stability, this is what's needed

here in the Overtown area, not the apartment, some of the

apartments that I have gone into, it is deplorable. But we as

people, it's like some of the teenagers that...they are...they are

babies having babies, they do not know how to go in and clean up a

house, they don't know how to wash but it takes people like us, as

we call that village and so many times the village that we be into,

we break away from it. I heard a saying one time and it was a

minster, and he had different color marbles, he said all the

marbles stuck together when they would roll down, the only marbles

that scattered down were the Black marbles. They scattered

(laughter) and this is life, this is how people, we think...we

snub, the other person, we snub people because they are not the way

that we think that they are suppose to be, they don't look the

right way, they don't speak the right way so we don't want to talk

to them. Or they don't smell right and in order for takes

being organized, you want to plan something, you've got to get

people into, this is what...we've got a mind. I teach at a

school...I teach at a school a school for cosmetology. I've got

students there that I know that their level, their reading level is

low but they've got some type of talent so you've got to key in on

what is going to make them a good product of the community that

they can hold down a job. Everyone is not college material and as

they say, the average person, they don't make a lot of decisions or

they, I should say they do make a lot of decision but as a

community, like I say, where are the Overtown people? Maybe it

wasn't meant for the Overtown people but in order for them to voice

their opinion, they've got to be here. No, some of them are going

to come here, they might be a little rowdy in some respect but

given a chance, then we'll never know.

(Mr. Davis): We welcome them. and we welcome the members of

the Overtown community, you get rowdy, our transcriber can

straighten that out (laughter), she'd put that on tape too.

(Mr. Hernando Brown): Good evening, my name is Hernando Brown

and I'm a part of the Booker T. Washington Alumni Association. Our

problem...not just Booker T., our problem...Blacks, we refuse to

organize and go vote. I have been trying for a year and about five

months now to organize a group to go vote, I've mailed out cards

from last August, twice a month from August to November, twice a

month. Twenty ministers I sent cards to including my own, not a

one showed to a meeting. Nothing is going to be done standing here

talking. We must get somebody were decisions are being made. This

school would not have been scheduled for conversion in '98 if we

didn't get someone where the decisions were being made. We fought

from 1976 until now first for the school then to get it to become

a Senior High School and not until Bob McKinney got to be a part of

the ABC committee was the decision made for this conversion. If we

don't vote we are going to be in the outhouse. I saw in the paper

last week, the Cubans and the Jews are getting ready to get

together in a coalition, we cannot get together, this is our

problem. And I thank you for this opportunity and anyone who is

interested I can be contacted.

(Mrs. Wells): May I just briefly say something about the


(Mr. Davis): Um hum.

(Mrs. Wells): There are so many Black men who have lost their

right to vote, lost their rights so I mean...some how I know that

there is an organization briefly that was trying to get the rights

of the Blacks in the area to vote so this is what we need to do, we

need to find out along with the ministers, get these ministers on

task in getting people out to vote like you say, I mean, you, you

did your part...

(Mr. Brown) But...

(Mrs. Wells): ..but so we need something else in order to get

these people back.

(Mr. Brown): But it's more than that.

(Mrs. Wells): I understand the problem.

(Mr. Brown): But the biggest problem is placing people in

positions where the decisions are being made and until we get that,

we can stand up and talk and talk and it's just like you blow

cigarette smoke.

(Mrs. Wells): Well we've got to do some action. I was

elected on the Overtown Advisory Board okay. In order like we've

got to do things, we can talk about them but then we've got to make

some steps but if we don't make some steps...

(Mr. Brown): I have made steps. I have called meetings at

the Caleb Center, how long Charlie?

(Mr. Charlie Johnson): About a year.

(Mr. Brown): Mailed out cards to individuals to come, Keith

Black and few others that's all that ever showed up.

(Mrs. Wells): Is it a despair that we've gotten to a point

that we don't care anymore?

(Audience): No.

(Mrs. Wells): I just say to a certain point, some people that

they don't care because they don't come out. There, there is an

answer. I wonder what it is, I hope that it's not.

(Mr. Davis): Let's hear from a young...

(Mr. Devon Williams): My name is Devon Williams. I'm an

Overtown resident. As far as the voting goes as a young man and

what I see, my peers are not here but I'm going to try and speak

for them but you can go out and ask them later. One as far as

politics go for most, I find like a lot of people from other

communities whether foreign or, you know, elsewhere in the United

States, they tend to have a perfect understanding of what

government is, how it is set up, how the laws work. I mean from a

very young age, you know, especially young White males, they

already know, they know who their leader should be and this is a

generational thing. I think at some point we lost that and another

thing, as far as seating people in these places where decisions are

made that look like us, I think we need to see these people because

we're not seeing them for one. For instance, go out there and ask

how many people know, I believe Minster Richard Dunn, well are the

people, well maybe you'll hear Carrie Meeks name thrown around but

we really do not know and partially that could be because these

people do not come and check with us and see what are needs are.

So it's not just enough. We need to know how the laws work, what

they can get for us and who to put in, not just Black faces of

people who look like us. Anyone who can represent and give us what

we need and maybe that's why, that's what it is, it's not enough to

say vote, vote, vote and go out and set up workshops, these people

that we're voting for we have to know about them, we have to know

what this system is about in order to vote because it's a scary

system and the most we know about it is jail, welfare, you know the

negative stuff that, you know, these little key words, subheadings

that represent us, so you know I think that's, that's an idea you

should do, probably go out and get some of these candidates to go

into the young communities and get with them fellowship with them,

find out who they are show them that they are down, that they are

down to earth and maybe explain this system to them, I mean the

entire system and maybe we can get out and do some damage.

(Female???): Are you a student?

(Mr. Williams): Yes.

(Female???): Here?

(Mr. Williams): No at Miami-Dade Community College. If I

may, may I comment on something else?

(Mr. Davis): Yes, um hum.

(Mr. Williams): The former teacher mentioned something about

Booker T. She said it's not the Booker T. she once knew. Today in

an interview I found out while I was interviewing on an interview

I found out before, you know I didn't really know the magnitude of

why people, when they talk about Booker T. Washington why they talk

about the high school until he told me how they use to march and

the pride...he talked about...the picture that he gave me...when

you know when you have a high school that is strongly bonded, it

reaches out to the community and then at some point he went off and

he said that suddenly it was converted you know changed to a junior

high and he said that did a lot of damage because all these


(Female???) Surely did.

(Mr. Williams): know that all these good names that

were coming out of Booker T. Washington High School, they weren't

there anymore because it was a junior high and suddenly he said now

that the Hispanic community is more in, now they might think about

converting it, I didn't know they were actually taking it back to

a high school until now. So now I'm seeing the importance of

having a strong high school or high school. She mentioned and it

rang out two years ago up to I believe, '90 from '93 til '96, I

believe, I have two younger sisters, they came out here, they went

to school out here. For two years we had been asking them for

books and we could not believe it, they were having any homework,

books to bring home (laughter) so any extra books in the summer to

read, nothing, their grades slipped dramatically. Finally we asked

the teachers, you know, what's going on with these kids they do not

have any homework, they're saying that they don't have any books.

The teachers explained to me that they have like 13 English classes

for two years we had been asking them for books, and I couldn't

believe it they were not having any homework. I went to the

principal and asked him about this and he confirmed it, may be not

the principal but the counsellor, I don't know his name at this

point but the thing that really drove the stake to the heart, I

picked up the newspaper at work and saw my bosses' daughter in the

newspaper, she goes to Miami Lakes Middle School and they had the

Internet and my two little sisters didn't have books to bring home

you know...that's sad and this is my experience from Booker T. and

now I'm beginning to see the importance of it. Another thing on

education is that Clinton is proposing that, if it has not already

passed that the educational level be...standards be raised...

(Mr. Davis): raised.

(Mr. Williams): ...and when I think about the fact that they

don't have books. When I think about the fact that they do not

have books and he's raising the standards, the qualifications just

to graduate and what not, it's a lost cause because you have some

schools that have Internet and some schools that don't even have

enough books for each student and now he's raising the standards so

you know, it's a broad, it's really something that we really need

to go out and get, something we really need to attach. It's not

just the political, it's everything, its everything.

(Female???) ???Dade County Public Schools and you can get it.

(Hand clapping)

(Mr. Davis): Charlie...

(Charles Johnson): My name is Charles Johnson and I graduated

from Booker T. Washington Senior High School and I was born in the

Christian Hospital also so I know where it is, where it was and

I'll make my comments relatively brief because just's

been a complete coverage of every major angle but let's perhaps try

to summarize. In this context I've indicated before, see when I

view things as a Vietnam veteran, my experiences in Vietnam at a

point in time, their were communities there and as American troops,

we had to...we were responsible for protecting the community and

the um enemy at the time, the Vietcong their efforts were directed

at controlling and destroying the fabric of a community so in the

space of one year, I was very intensely involved with people that

would kill in order to destroy the elements of a community, I saw

that destruction in a very purposeful way. Um, and was responsible

for...I mean we had American soldiers that gave their blood and

lost their lives, alright to protect communities 13,000 miles away

with names like Zwanlot that they could not even pronounce alright.

Under the flag of this United States, United States citizens died

for protecting the elements of community. Now, with

that's what's in my mind, okay. With that context, then and when

I come back to Overtown, those major elements of community by the

way, the enemy use to come into the villages in the middle of the

night and, and wake up certain people, they would be like the

mayor, teachers, the doctors, okay and they would boom, boom, boom,

kill them and then leave...and then the rest of the people would be

fragmented in confusion. So we would, we would come in and the

kind of things we did, we would put in the medical care, we would

put in, make sure the educational process continued and things like

that. We had a whole division of soldiers whose total purpose was

reconstructing and maintaining the major elements of a community

and they would train us, what had on the staff, ah an

S-1 was responsible for the personnel in the military unit, the S-2

did intelligence, the S-3 was operations and training, the S-4 was

the logistics and supplies and the S-5 was responsible for the

community and developing the plans for how they were going to

support community and civic activities and that's what the United

States military was involved in. Now when you come back and look

at Overtown like everybody said...when you come back and you look

at what you thought was your community, you see once again, that

this local government and others have been responsible for very

systematic taking this community apart so I will always compare

what is done here in Overtown with what is something called an

enemy does in Vietnam where the purpose has been the willing

destruction of a people. So it's in that context alright, that I

ask you to at least be calm with yourselves in a certain way. You

see there were other communities that were being...that this same

government was supporting and shepherding while yours was being


(Female???): That's true.

(Mr. Johnson): Now I don't know whether that entire thing was

planned, it might have been a result of poor planning but it

happened at any rate.

(Mr. Davis): Um hum.

(Mr. Johnson): While we were desegregating and quote

"integrating" and causing our community which was in a nice area,

it was very cohesive, it had a high school, it had a complete

theater pattern, um it was cohesive, okay. Um, then it, it, when

you go at a certain point in time, it's almost like somebody took

a plunger okay and pushed all the people out and distributed them

north and south in Dade County so that's why it's hard to get

together, okay. You know, we just got through saying

transportation, okay, when we were in this particular area

transportation was a problem. Okay, then when we were moved out of

the area, using the expressway as the guise for the reason that we

had to be moved, because they want the land, that's the whole nine

yards, lets not get it wrong. You know with the Indians it was the

land, with us it's the land and with them people that look like us

in Africa, it's the land, okay know bottom line that's

what we're dealing with, um in summary. So there are systems that

are working against us alright and the systems have to do with

controlling the land, you should not be...that land is too

expensive and too valuable to operate a thing called an Overtown

any more so that's been mentioned and we won't continue in that;

but we should not be displaced from the area without the equity and

all that should come along with it and certainly just because

somebody wants some land is no excuse or reason for the destruction

of a community. You see the vicious destruction of a community is

not the same asking them people to move onto Seventh Avenue. So

some people did not like you and those same people and you

have...I've been here for about 15 or 20 years and the people here

changed but these people still don't want you on this land.

In terms of trying to get back together okay what can we do?

the community high school that was really a slap in the face, this

was a dynamite high school you know so there was no reason to turn

it down but they know the benefit of a high school, you can't have

a community without a high school alright. So when they turned

this down and then remember they took the people and sent them all

over this way to make sure we would always be in that small


(Mr. Davis): Um hum.

(Mr. Johnson): You'll never be in any controlling area, we'll

integrate but you ain't gone control nothing, okay. Dade County

School for the longest had a rule that there would never be a

majority of Black administrators in a school and anybody that's

been an administrator, knows that. You never to this day...if you

go out there and find more than...there is usually a principal and

two administrators are on the staff and you're never going to see

a majority Black, if so y'all can start counting them tomorrow.

Now the place is suppose to be segregated and what have you

alright. But my only point is that continues. So let's deal with

the schools, my suggestions: We're having a PTA meeting right

after this. We have an alumni association and we have a PTA.

There is this school, Booker T. Washington High School when

somebody down there causes something to slip and up this thing

comes up with a high school again there's really a major change.

It's a signal that somebody is trying to rectify something or

there's been a terrible mistake that's been made and they still

don't want to see it come off so we invite you to participate. You

know we like the glows and what have you but we got to get down and

talk nuts and bolts and design systems and whatnot in order to

counter the systems that are operating against you. It doesn't

matter whether you live in...when we talk about this Overtown

situation, um how many African-Americans we got in Dade County

roughly? About 600,000 700,000 or something like that. You see

it doesn't matter where you live in Dade County, the system for

controlling and managing you, the spigot is right here in this

central area because the hub of the community, the economic hub of

the Dade County runs smack through here, there's the airport, from

the airport to the seaport. Now let's go back and listen to what,

listen to what we heard here today. You talked about the

commercing activity was going on right here in this corner,

corridor about entertainment but it had to do with people that were

brought here as tourist, they came to enjoy the entertainment. You

heard people comment about the people being maids on Miami Beach,

if you go find a maid on Miami Beach that look like me, alright, go

find a porter over their handling bags that look like me, they not

there alright. So if you were scattered away from the major

economic stream of Dade County you always are going to be on the

sideline. So it behooves everybody to deal with what goes on in

this area and with this particular situation. We are looking at

the other side, you've got the University School of Medicine right

next door, you've got the headquarters for Dade County Public

Schools, the fourth largest school system, over 20,000 employees

and it's sitting right next door. Again, you've got the major, the

largest port and the largest cruise industry in the world sitting

right here. It's...when you stop and turn the coin over, then you

begin to ask, Well how come African Americans who use to make it in

this community, how come they can't make it now? I'll see you

shortly. Thank you (hand clapping).

(Mr. Davis): As they said, they have a meeting coming up and

we don't want to...I don't want to take too much of their time ah,

so let me say now, let me thank everyone for coming and let me also

invite all of you, if you would please, turn in your names so we

can do individual interviews with you and get your information to

make it a part...we will be digesting this information and looking

at ways that we can help to build this community again. I know a

lot of times when I say that and I say revitalize Overtown, people

say you can't have what we had before, it will never happen but


does that mean we should have nothing? Does that mean we do

nothing and we that we should try not to have something? We don't

know just like they use to tell us, it might not be what it was

before, it could be better. It would be different, yes it's going

to be different but why should be just give up on the next

generation, why should we just let them go and not feel that we

even care about them because when we don't do anything, the next

generation, the generation of children that are growing up, think

that we don't care so they're going to find their on value systems

in their own ways. So we as the middle generation and the older

generation or what ever you want to call us, we have to try to pass

on our values to the next generation and if we have to be smarter

and better and find our own ways to do it, then I say we need to be

about the business of doing that. So I would like to thank you for

coming, thank you for sharing. Please let us know if you would

like to be scheduled for an interview and now I would like to leave

some time in this night for the Booker T. Washington Alumni

Association to meet...

(Female???): ...a public relations meeting, we're meeting

over here, we need a head count, we need members.

(Mr. Davis): ...a public relations meeting, you need members,

do you want to speak on it now?

(Female???): We have a meeting now, please we need members.

This is the only way we can go down to the school board and speak

on the things that the kids need.

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