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The Jewel of Overtown: Lyric Theater to reopen

Highly anticipated debut in the works

Carla St.Louis | 2/6/2014, 9 a.m.
When it comes to the Lyric Theater, Timothy Barber can spend hours on end discussing it’s glory days as Little ...

Kamila Pritchett, the development coordinator at Black Archives, echoed Barber’s comments. “What goes in [in terms] of funding, training and cultural arts comes right back out to the community,” she said. “I am ecstatic to be apart of this revitalization to show people what’s great about Overtown so they can invest and return to its past glory.”

Barber hopes to accomplish his goal by attracting a large pool of “new donors and sponsors” who will continue supporting the Lyric Theater. In 2009, the Black Archives launched the ‘Take Your Seat’ campaign, a philanthropic measure to raise funds for its operations where donors could purchase a seat in the name of family members for $350 to $1,000. The campaign raised over $47,000 with the assistance of 51 individuals.

The City of Miami Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency recently granted the theater a $572,000 grant to support operations and programing.

Jobs to Overtown

Another facet of Barber’s vision is to systematically bring jobs to Overtown, an issue he spoke candidly about.

“We are trying to change the perception of Overtown,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is a tourist destination.”

“We make it a priority to always start our hiring process by actively recruiting unemployed residents of Overtown,” said Pritchett.

Hence why the Lyric Theater hired 60 new employees in guest services, technical support and parking in preparation for its soft grand-opening that’s scheduled for February 6th at 7 pm. The invite-only opening will include a screening of the documentary, The Black Miami by co-director and producer Carlton Smith. Commissioner Audrey Edmonson will be recognized for her assistance in obtaining general funding.

All employees live within Overtown, and Black Archives educated them with an interactive job training workshop that included segments on professional development, stress management and resolving issues with hospitality. Skills that Barber stressed are necessary for a “customer-friendly workforce” that will assist in giving “tourists the full Overtown experience.”

Marcus Powell, 32, a resident of Overtown with a criminal background, greatly appreciates Black Archives employment initiative.

“From day one, despite me being a laborer I’ve never felt judgement from management,” Powell said during a training session. “Just because I live in Overtown it doesn’t mean that I should be labelled a First 48. The Lyric Theater is changing that dynamic. The Black Archives is basically fighting for us.”

Hired temporarily through Overtown’s Community Redevelopment Agency, Powell worked in the beautification team removing rocks and debris from the theater’s site before he was hired full-time.

“I like the fact that they’re bringing work to Overtown residents — especially jobs that normally would have gone to Spanish laborers,” he said. “Black Archives is actively fighting to bring jobs here which is respectable even for people with criminal backgrounds.”

“I believe that over one hundred years later the community continues to look to the Lyric for jobs, culture and entertainment,” said Jenkins Fields.

For 2014, the Lyric Theater will relaunch Lyric Live, a showcase event that features local performers hosted by comedian, Chello on February 7th. To buy tickets, log on to http://lyriclive.eventbrite.com

To contribute financially to the Lyric Theater, participate in its ‘Take Your Seat’ campaign by contacting Pritchett at 305-636-2390.

For more information, log on to http://theblackarchives.org