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August 21, 2018

Arts and Culture in a Rapidly Changing Overtown Miami

Thinking of a town having the potential of being the next center for culture and arts, is first stating that the town needs to be introduced to arts and culture. A town that would have no history of music or culture that defined the neighborhood as it still stands today. The city of Overtown will be the town that will return as the thriving center of the arts focused on the Diaspora. The city has always had the potential and the opportunity because it was designed to support an artistic atmosphere.

Notice what happens when you fix your favorite article of clothing. You throw the piece to the side because at that moment you no longer had a use for it. Until you revisit the article of clothing months later to notice how it can be repaired to be worn in an eclectic style. You notice how you feel about that piece of clothing once it has revived itself to its newfound glory. Now you want to style it with multiple accessories, switch it up with different pieces of clothing, and take better care of it. In all, you grow a great appreciation for this article of clothing that you revitalized. I believe we have those same type of feelings when it pertains to redevelopment in the city. We need that type of energy when shinning the light on what’s happening in Overtown. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami that continues to cater to the lifestyle of African Americans. It was one of the only places African Americans could live, work, and play. So the potential has been there and honestly having never left. It just needs to rejuvenate just like you would your old favorite shirt.

Overtown already has the main structures to kick off its economic boom that could be solely funded by its arts and culture scene. Before we talk about the structures and organizations established to uplift the community. We can speak briefly about the location of Overtown. It’s centered in the heart of Miami. In a perfect location to attract the tourist traffic by only being ten minutes from Miami Beach, blocks away from the artistic neighborhood of Wynwood, and less than five minutes from Downtown.  The spotlight tends to pass over this city, but it will soon grasp ahold of the light. It just needs its one moment to make a loud noise. A noise so loud it will be hard for any of Miami resident to dismiss.

Take a moment to visit, when you do you’ll soon notice the historic Lyric Theater. This theater was built back in 1913 it was the main entertainment venue for African Americans to take in a musical performance. Music legends like Nina Simone, Bille Holiday and several more have performed at this theater. The Lyric has been redeveloped to be the first example of the possibilities that can come out this town. Since its redevelopment, it has been the place that has hosted several events catering to the community. Organizations such as Revolt, American Black Film Festival, and Miami CRA have curated events in this venue. With the addition of having a theater, the city also has a performing arts center, Overtown Performing Arts Center, that has hosted several theatrical productions within the community as well. Art is gaining a strong stance in the community by having an art museum only a few feet away from the Lyric Theater called Art Africa. This museum has been the leading voice when promoting the arts from the Diaspora by holding events like Art Africa Miami Fair and the Soul of Basel. The arts have been a key component in the rise of Overtown and will be the reason for its extraordinary rebirth.

Speaking of culture, the streets of Overtown should have it written on its sidewalks as we wander through the town. Several historic buildings, soulful eateries, and colorful streets add to the vibrant town. For instance, you can see D.A. Dorsey, the first African American millionaire in Florida, whose historic house is settled right across from the Ward Rooming house in the square of Overtown. Enjoy a soulful meal at Jackson’s Soul Food right before you depart or a spicy wing dinner at House of Wings, a restraint that’s gaining attention by settling in Overtown.

The potential has always been within Overtown. The city once held the name “Harlem of the South” because it was another location outside of Harlem, NYC where black creatives could thrive and be comfortable in their own skin. The best scene is seeing our past, present, and future blend together to rebirth an area where we can work, eat, and play. Join in on the arts and culture to give this historic town the economic opportunities it once had. The only thing missing is our own existence.

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