Overtown Music Project Pays Homage to The History of Music In Overtown

Miami, FL - On Saturday, May 7, 2011, The Overtown Music Project (OMP) will host a Gospel Brunch at Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church, 245 NW 8th Street, Miami, FL. The program is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will be followed immediately by a brunch catered by  Jackson Soul Food Restaurant.

Featured performers for the event include Jeanette and Philip Wright and Bobby Stringer.  Overtown was once  recognized as the epicenter and mecca of music in Miami .  Celebrities such as Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin and many other artists performed year round at the Sir John Hotel, Mary Elizabeth Hotel, the Lyric Theater and other Overtown establishments. A major tourist attraction, Overtown was truly a repository of Black culture and achievement.

OMP is a two year old non-profit organization that celebrates the music, history and spirit of Overtown. They are dedicated to the area’s rich history in music.  OMP shines a light on the different genres of music that once made Overtown's integrated nightclubs the rhythmic epicenter of musical Miami. Having created a series of successful events in the past that have attracted about 500 or more people, OMP is  in production on a documentary and is also working on the creation of a jazz and blues residency in Overtown.create opportunities for musicians who live in the area today with a blues and jazz residency.

OMP is hoping this event will also attract the community of Overtown as well as  people outside of the community and engage them bringing back the foot traffic into the Overtown area . Confirmed  program speakers include: Mayor Tomas Regalado, Commissioner Dunn,Commissioner Mark Sarnoff, Dorothy Fields, Antonia Williams-Gary, Irby McKnight, Miami Dade Mayoral Candidate Luther Campbell, Dave Lawrence, DJ Le Spam, Carmel Ophir, Ali Codina and Ruth Shack. The event is expected to attract over 800 people. Admission to the event is free for Overtown residents and $25 for general admission.

For more information about the Overtown Music Project, contact: Amy Rosenberg at 305.610.891 or visit their website at www.overtownmusicproject.org.


Stretch Ledford's Overtown Project [VIDEO]

I am frquently blown away by the people I connect with through this blog. One of my latest connections is Charles "Stretch" Ledford a currently local photojournalist and graduate student at the University of Miami. Ledford, like a few people I've met recently, are mesmerized by the people of and life in Overtown, one of Miami's poorest communities. They also want to tell the true story of Overtown. In the midst of abject poverty in Miami there is beauty, pride and a sense of community.

Check out the video below then check his presence on the web through Vimeo and his photography site. Please do read about his incident of being banned for life from the Metrorail. That story would be entertaining if it was not about an actual situation. Anyhoo, I've already typed too much. Check the video and his other work. Peace.

"This is Overtown" from Stretch Ledford on Vimeo.



History will be made in 2010 as the Art Basel festival, which annually transforms Miami and Miami Beach into a global Mecca for visual art for a few heady days in early December, will be marked by an unprecedented presence of world-class African World art (from the Diaspora and the Motherland) in no less than four locations, from December 2-5.  

The newly opened two-level art gallery in the beautifully restored historic Ward Rooming House in Overtown, at 291 NW 9th Street, will host a history-making exhibition of works by the legendary original Florida Highwaymen, a group of artists who earned fame (and later, fortune) by selling their richly colored landscape paintings of the Everglades and other Florida wild lands right from their cars.  The26 original Highwaymen, of whom several are now deceased, became known throughout the state, as art lovers vied to own these fine works of original art at then-bargain prices.  

This exhibition, sponsored in part by the City of Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), with its lush views of the beauty beyond the urban environment, is a most fitting way to put the new gallery, in the heart of the Overtown Folk Life Village, on the permanent map for art enthusiasts worldwide.  The exhibition has also earned in-kind support from the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust. Shuttle transportation will help the wider community and visitors to reach this and other venues.

No less significant is a unique exhibition of new and recent works by several Florida African World Artists entitled “African Roots/American Fruits.”   This “visual jazz concert” of paintings, drawings, sculptures and other works featuring several local artists takes place in Miami’s burgeoning Wynwood art district, at Artlab33 | Art Space, 2085B NW 2nd Avenue.  The exhibition is open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. during Art Basel, and will continue throughout the month of December, during gallery walks and by appointment.  It is also accessible by shuttle transportation during the Art Basel days.

Linking the two locations will be a third special attraction, the highly popular Kinad Mobile Museum, featuring a special educational/historical exhibition of “The Old Masters of African American Art” at the Overtown and Wynwood locations on December 3 and 4.  Kinad, Inc., a family-based nonprofit organization, which is also a co-sponsor of the Highwaymen exhibition, has become renowned throughout the state for its original displays of Black history and heritage, both aboard the Mobile Museum, which regularly visits schools and cultural institutions , and in such locations as the Florida State Capitol, Miami-Dade Government Center, and the Miami-Dade School Board.  The “Old Masters” is being unveiled for the first time during Art Basel, and is also sponsored in part by the City of Miami CRA.

The fourth exhibition is near, but yet far from the hubbub of the urban art scene, in the peaceful and  scenic location of Historic Virginia Key beach, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive, off Rickenbacker Causeway, on Virginia Key.  Entitled entitled “Ebony Beach,” this showing of acrylic paintings by minister and artist Alan Laird, enhanced by a display of rare artifacts of the segregation era from his personal collection, celebrates the history and heritage of historic Black beaches throughout the country.

Admission to all four exhibitions is open and free to the public.  These events are coordinated with other programs and exhibitions funded by the CRA, and publicity will be available at all locations.  For further information on the four exhibitions, please call 305-904-7620, or 786-260-2973.




Miami, FL - On July 9th, 2010 Socrates S. Alvarez III, founder and Executive Director of ComicED, Inc., launched a 30-day project fundraiser on Kickstarter.com that aims to raise $3,000 to fund the publication of ComicED Presents #1 - one comic, 3 heroes, 40 pages, and an innovative recount of South Florida Black history. 

ComicED Presents #1 introduces BlackMan - The Colored Crusader, a superhero who protects Overtown, Miami. The generations of BlackMan parallel the history of Overtown highlighting the 1920’s, 50’s, early 60’s and finally reaching today’s BlackMan, a hero its readers will connect to. Alvarez, hopes to preserve South Florida’s history and interest youth in discovering it’s rich culture using comic books. 

In his project's introduction on Kickstarter.com artist and creator, Alvarez says:

“Our main story first follows the journey of two special rings that grant strength and power to warrior men. From the cradle of civilization to the treacherously temperate waters of the Atlantic-Caribbean straits, the rings find their home in South Florida when Black Caesar is brought to Biscayne Bay...The legacy of heroism begins with Barry Blackman, a laborer who finds a small chest containing Black Caesar's rings. He puts on a mask and helps his community and forever more sets the standard of heroism that has been honored throughout the years by the continued use of his name.”

Kickstarter.com provides a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. ComicED is excited to share it’s story and promote creative means for education - what we like to call edutainment. Visit our project site to find out more about ComicED’s non-profit work in South Florida, ComicED Presents, and the action-packed rewards available to contributors. Want your face in a comic book? A $25 donation grants a dynamic cameo. 

Founded in 2008, ComicED, Inc. provides free comic books with accompanying reading and drawing exercises to local community centers and youth programs with the mission to improve literacy rates and encourage graphic art. Currently, ComicED provides a bi-weekly comic book rotation to two centers in Liberty City, the Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, giving over 2,000 children the novelty and excitement of Batman at their fingertips. 




Read more at The Miami New Times.


by Bradley Knoefler

The City of Miami Community Redevelopment Agency's failure to reduce slum and blight is well documented and can be seen firsthand every day in the Park West and OMNI neighborhoods of Downtown Miami.  Beginning with the 1982 Redevelopment Plan, which has never been implemented (see 2008 comparison with 1982 plan), to the wasting of millions discovered in the 2003 Audit, to a report to the Miami City Comission by the 2005 CRA Oversight Committee which again confirmed that the CRA had not fulfilled its mission of reducing slum and blight. Finally the 2009 Formal Request for Legal and Performance Audit of CRA's documented that the CRA continues with its old practices of spending money on anything but fighting slum and blight. The last straw was the refusal of the CRA to fund a neighborhood beautification project requesting a meager $25,000 grant (of a total project cost of $65,000) in order to beautify nearly 500,000 s/f of blight, prompting a frustrated e-mail to the CRA Board (Why do projects which create jobs and reduce slum and blight never get funded by the CRA?)  

So what do you do if you have invested millions in the neighborhood and the slum and blight is putting your business and property at risk? - Redevelop the neighborhood yourself!

Promoting good health in Overtown: Dr. Nelson Adams' Walk A Mile With A Child




8am - 12 Noon.
Historic Overtown, Fl
Gibson Park

401 NW 12th St.
Miami, Fl 33136

Registration begins at 7:30 AM

Adults: $10   Children: Free

 Brochure and Registration Details

Sponsors Welcome -  Please contact Dr. Holder at [email protected]

CRA continues demolition in Overtown


Late Friday evening the City of Miami Community Redevelopment Agency cut electrical service to the threatened building housing the Apostolic Revival Temple,  proceeding with the demolition process despite a Miami-Dade County Judge's temporary stay on the demolition order.  "We think it was done illegally," Pastor Allen of the Temple stated, "I called FPL and they said there was no cut off order for my service, and how can they do that - I thought there was a stay on the demolition until Friday," he said, "what if we win? - how are we going to have service next Sunday without power?"  Doris Hall, representative of the property owner said "this again shows how the CRA is manipulating the system to get what they want - they probably showed FPL the demolition order and 'forgot' to show them the Judge's stay order." she noted "we will inform the Judge first thing Monday morning of this blatant disregard and violation of her order."  James Villacorta, Executive Director of the CRA, gleefully watched as the power was cut. "he's out here all happy and jumping up and down acting like he did yesterday when they demolished Moe's garage," said a local resident, getting emotional, "it's not right - this is all we have left."  Ernest King, a well known local artist who had been looking to put a live/work art gallery in the old Moe's Garage property confronted Villacorta, who had been attempting to lobby support for the CRA.  "don't come out here all boasting about your big projects," he said, "It's disrespectful to us 'cause we know we aren't part of them."   


Ms. Hall also blasted the CRA in a letter to Jim Villacorta for refusing a $4,000 grant request to eliminate the 'crack den' stating:

" If the urgency of the demolition stems from the public liability from people entering the property and the trash strewn around the property, why would you not allocate funds on an emergency basis, as you are allowed to fund up to $4,500 without Board approval.  Would this not be considered negligence on your part, since the CRA trust fund is holding over $70 million dollars needing to be reinvested with the taxpayers and residents in Overtown to create jobs and revitalization of these properties?..  We believe that the true intent of the CRA is to demolish and acquire the properties through an eminent-domain like procedure in violation of Federal, State, and Local laws, in order to assemble the remaining parcels for a large development project."

Read more »

City of Miami CRA continues demolition of historic Overtown despite judge's orders and neighborhood outrage


by Bradley Knoefler

Despite a Miami-Dade Judge's order to stay the demolition of two historic properties, stating that she "didn't see the rush," the City of Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency continued with its plans to demolish what little is left of Historic Overtown yesterday with the demolition of the former Moe's Garage building, which was located at 163 NW 11th street.  The building, which was structurally sound and completely secured against vagrants, simply needed the roof replaced in order to revitailize the property.  Plans were underway to propose an adaptive reuse of the property, which included a live/work art gallery for local artists who currently must paint in the street as well as several apartments which would help increase the supply of affordable housing stock in Overtown, the shortage of which is another major problem for the community.

The timing of the demolition was indeed suspect and appeared to be in spite of community outrage against the demolition of the last few remaining stuctures in the "Historic Overtown" neighborhood.  The Overtown Community Advisory Board unanimously voted to request a stay on the demolitions and Irby McKnight, well known local activist in a letter to Commissionere Dunn, noted that the CRA is "charged with redevelopment as well as preservation."  In strongly worded letter to Commissioner Dunn The Black Archives, guardian of Overtown's historical legacy stated:

"There is a repeated offense being perpetuated against a once vibrant community which has done so much for the establishment of the City..what makes these structures historic is the fact that they represent the last remaining remnants of what Second Avenue once was.  While other neighborhoods are allowed to build off of its historic nature and offer house and neighborhood tours, as well as the opportunity to point to their past by hand, Overtown has been given the finger."

Frank Rollason, former Executive Director of the CRA said in an e-mail that former Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones and Chairman of the CRA had plans to demolish the historic Ward Rooming House for a big affordable housing project, even after the CRA had spent more than $600,000 to rebuild the entire building.  "What is wrong with this picture," he said, "here you are the black Commissioner representing Overtown wanting to tear down what is obviously a historic part of what is to become the Lyric Village and here I am, a white boy, arguing with you to save it!.

"It's almost like they did it out of spite to prove a point and retaliate" said Bradley Knoefler, President of the OMNI/PARK WEST REDEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION a neighborhood group concerned about the lack of preservation and affordable housing in the area.  "every time we start looking to do an adaptive reuse project on a historical structure, they pull out all the stops to demolish it to continue with their plans for big new developments."  Rosa Green, community leader and Overtown Resident for nearly 70 years said "more than 85 percent of the Overtown that I knew has been demolished.  We are losing our history."  

The groups plan to continue to reach out to elected officials, who have so far ignored Community concerns on the issue.  "Mayor Regalado campaigned on listening to neighborhoods for a change and limiting 'big projects' that destroy neighborhoods", said Knoefler, "maybe he can rein in the CRA and the City Unsafe Structures dept. to stop this outrage against one of the most historic parts of Miami."
For more info on this issue, read: Real Redevelopment for Downtown Miami