The Lyric is ready to rejuvenate Overtown
Reginald J. Clyne | 2/27/2014, 9 a.m.
The Lyric Theater was opened in 1913 by a Black man from Georgia, Geder Walker. In 1915, the Miami News described the Lyric Theater “as the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by Colored people in all the Southland.” The theater anchored the district known as “Little Broadway” an area in Overtown alive with restaurants, hotels, theaters and nightclubs. The Lyric Theater is the sole survivor of Little Broadway and is
also the oldest theater in Miami. In its day, it was the showcase for Black entertainers such as Count Bassie, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Celia Cruz, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, Ella Fitzgerald, Redd Foxx and Mary Wells to name a few. The theater has gone through its 3rd Phase of Renovation and is about ready to reopen. The third renovation was slowed by an investigation of the contractors and construction manager of the reconstruction. Katherine Fernandez-Rundle cleared all but construction manager which helped restart the project. Tim Barber, the Executive Director, an archivist, handled the construction management of this project with a lot of help from the staff of Miami Dade County including Michael Spring, Alex Peraza, Marie Denis, Jessica Berthin, and Carolina Alfonso. Others instrumental in the renovation was HT Smith, Frank Barriga, and Johnny Martinez. In addition, local political leaders were instrumental from Mayor Gimenez, Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, Commissioner Spence-Jones, and Commissioner Keon Hardemon. The Miami CRA must also be thanked for its role in the renovation. Finally, the Black Archive led by Dorothy Jenkins Field, Garth Reeves, Gwendolyn Welters, Carmetta Russell, Steve Henriquez and Ruth Clyne, by pure faith and determination brought this project to life and kept it alive.
The Lyric Theater should assume its old role as the anchor for the renaissance of Overtown. It would be glorious to see “Little Broadway” come back with restaurants, nightclubs, hotels and even more theaters. Miami needs a Black entertainment district that will provide nightlife to Black, white and Hispanic tourists and local residents. What is sad about Miami is that we are trying to regain an entertainment center that this City had from 1913 to the 1960’s. Instead of going forward and building on a longstanding entertainment district, we are trying to get back what we once had. Black Americans are powerful in the entertainment industry but we own very little. There are very few Black owned theaters, very few Black owned movie production companies, and very few Black owned TV stations. While we rule the world with Black rappers, Black musicians, Black movie stars, and Black comedians – very few of them are directors or producers. Very few of them own their own music company.
The rebuilding of Little Broadway begins with the Black community. Will it support the newly renovated Lyric Theater. Will Black investors build restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs in the area. Can Overtown become the Harlem of the South again?