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Setting record straight about Overtown’s churches

10/17/2013, 9 a.m.

In response to your article, “Heads clash on proposed $2.5M community fund,” I would suggest your headline is a bit misleading. Your article clearly reports that the stakeholders you highlighted are not opposed to the community foundation, but are merely studying it and want to be certain that it will fulfill the aspirations of the community.

Saliha Nelson, vice president of Urgent Inc, is correct: a board of 15 members is cumbersome and difficult to work with. However, she is quoted agreeing, “if the goal is to make sure key elements of the community are represented, then size may not be a real issue.” And, it isn’t. To suggest such implies that we as a community can’t work together.

Martha Whisby Wells, a small business owner, has a valid concern as to whether all 30 of the businesses in Overtown will have a voice. We have worked with them to resolve issues amongst the businesses and their governing and membership policies. So, she is right when she stated, “there’s a new business association that was started. . . and they appear to be getting a seat at the table.”

The one point in your article that sticks in my craw, is the insult hurled at the historic churches of Overtown. Quotes that the churches have done nothing for the community; we don’t have members who live in Overtown and we don’t care about Overtown are wrong and unwarranted.

These institutions of God have been in Overtown from the very settling days of Overtown and predate the formation of the city of Miami. They have a collective stellar history of providing spiritual, social and fiscal services to the residents of Overtown. Great men and women have done wonderful works in Overtown. Recently, St. Agnes built affordable houses for homeownership in Overtown. Greater Bethel AME is working with the International Longshoreman to secure parking for those union workers. Mt. Zion is rehabbing the commercial and apartment building that once houses the medical office of Dr. Dazelle Simpson. Mt. Zion also houses the Overtown food program for the homeless in the community. Also, St. John is slated to build a wonderful apartment complex that will be affordable. Thus, any accusation that the churches are not engaged in bettering Overtown is baseless. And the truth is, as pointed out in your article, it is the churches that formed the community foundation by which this goal can be accomplished. No other community-based foundation has been formed or put on the table for consideration. Our purpose as churches is to equip people to do for themselves. We cannot do this without preparing the community to take the lead. And thus, we have formed the community foundation structure by which the community can speak for itself and do the work necessary to finally rebuild Overtown.

Overall, I thank you for so accurately reporting the structure and purpose of the community foundation and our efforts to include the participation of the residents and the various stakeholders of Overtown.

The Reverend Canon Richard L. Marquess-Barry, D.D., L.H.D.