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Grand jury highly critical of CRAs

More affordable housing needed, report says

On Thursday, a Miami-Dade grand jury took aim at how local CRAs – the agencies created to improve slum and blight conditions – are missing the mark, especially with construction of affordable housing. Days later, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle echoed that sentiment. However, on Tuesday supporters of the Southeast Overtown Parkwest Community Redevelopment Agency fired back, saying the agency is doing what it was created to do and more. “Southeast Overtown Parkwest has built more affordable housing and is rehabilitating more affordable housing than all of the CRAs in Miami-Dade County combined,” said Rev. James McQueen, chief of staff to District 5 Commissioner Keon Hardemon. Emphasizing that point, McQueen said, “We are in the process of building and are in process of rehabilitating more housing than all the others.”

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Hampton House seeks business

The historic building’s restoration needs more than $500,000 for completion

When the Hampton House held its grand opening May 2015, it still needed more than $1 million to complete the restoration and makeover that’s been 15 years in the making. Located at 4240 NW 27th Ave., Hampton House was a neighborhood eyesore, attracting vagrants so much that the county wanted to demolish it. Instead, after negotiations, the county invested $6.4 million through a general obligation bond (GOB) offering to preserve the building and its history. Since the opening until September 2015 when the Historic Hampton House Community Trust Inc. took it over, the space lay dormant, waiting for the voices and the people it was so used to accommodating back in its heyday. Ready for use at the grand opening was about 48 percent of the space, which included a 200-person-capacity general purpose room, the lobby, and the pool patio area. The Trust has raised more than $800,000, which it used to finish off most of the first floor. Remaining to be completed on the first floor: the museum and exhibition space, which are expected to be complete in September of this year. The Trust still needs about $548,000 to complete the second floor, which is slated to become offices. “That’s the challenge. You have to finish the space before you can rent it,” said Ron Frazier, who was elected chairman of the board at the Trust’s annual meeting on Feb. 1.

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Retelling the story of a local education pioneer

New book recounts the life of Gilbert L. Porter

At a time when Black teachers toiled in substandard structures with second- and third-hand books and meager supplies to educate children in Florida’s public schools, Gilbert L. Porter was their advocate. But teachers today don’t know the works of Porter (1909-1995), the first executive secretary of the Florida State Teachers Association (FTSA), a precursor organization to unions that fought for better conditions and pay. Most Floridians don’t know that he was a confidante of legendary NAACP field director Harry T. Moore. Porter also made history in South Florida as the first Black assistant superintendent for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. His life and works are at the focus of a new book that chronicles what family and friends say were his calling — education. The book, “Gilbert L. Porter, PhD,” is being released as part of Black History Month. A book signing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Church of the Incarnation, 1900 NW 54th St. in Liberty City. His 104-year-old widow, Willie Pearl Porter, a groundbreaking nurse and nursing educator, will be part of the celebration.

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No charges for officer who shot and killed Lavall Hall

No illicit drugs found in mentally ill man

Almost a year to the date when a mentally ill Miami Gardens resident lost his life, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office reports it will not file charges against the cop who shot and killed him. The report, released Thursday, said there is not enough evidence to criminally charge Miami Gardens Police patrol officer Eddo Trimino with Lavall Hall’s death and that Trimino was justified in using deadly force after forcefully trying to subdue Hall — even after using a Taser. The report also paints a picture of a young man who others say was either under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Medical Examiner’s and toxicological findings reported “no illicit drugs” in his urine and “no drugs were found in the blood screening.” An empty bottle of Mirtazapine, an antidepressant, was found in Hall’s room. Hall, who was 25 years old, reportedly waved a broomstick with a metal tip, and hit both officers with it causing patrol officer Peter Ehrlich -- the other officer responding to the call -- to sustain a bloody gash across his forehead. The case started Feb. 15, 2015 at 4:47 a.m., when Marsha Brown called police and told them that Hall had recently been in a mental hospital but had “snapped.”

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It’s time to lift the cone

Once again there is controversy over whether all stakeholders in the Liberty Square housing project redevelopment have been invited to the table. This time the stakeholder feeling left out is the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The last controversy involved the city of Miami, the city in which the Miami-Dade housing projects sits. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said he first heard about Liberty Square after reports in the newspaper. The county’s Public Housing Director Michael Liu said he had informed Regalado. Now we have another he said/she said between Miami-Dade mayor and the superintendent. What this is saying is that there may not be enough communication with stakeholders. Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, the school board member representative for District 2, feels like she has been left out of a process that will affect hundreds of students and families in her district. A part of the redevelopment of Liberty Square involves moving families from Liberty Square to a soon-to-be-built public housing development called Lincoln Gardens

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ZERO system can save lives in case of an emergency

UTD, others bring response system to Brownsville Middle School

If a gunman breaks past security at Brownsville Middle School, students, faculty and staff now know what to say so police and rescue officials can find them quickly and avert a situation such as the one at Sandy Hook a few years ago. On Feb. 5, the school, with help from United Teachers of Dade, launched the ZERO (Zone Emergency Response Operation) system, which helps first-responders locate the hot spots on campus that require immediate attention. Karla Hernandez-Mats, UTD secretary-treasurer, said Brownsville is a fairly open campus with several buildings that are inter-connected, which made it an ideal choice to put the system. Also, there have been police-involved shootings and other emergency situations that have occurred near the campus. The idea is to give peace of mind to faculty, staff, students, as well as their parents. “When you walk into Brownsville, you can go to one building to next. It’s an open campus,” Hernandez-Mats said. UTD, through one of their partner organizations, secured the more than $13,000 needed to place the system at Brownsville’s campus. Such a system could save lives, said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and School board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall. Along with Hernandez-Mats, they were among the district officials, county leaders and community residents who came out for the dedication of the system. Schools that participate are configured into a grid with four color-coded areas, or zones. Through the use of maps that are placed around the school and perimeter, police and paramedics can better identify the emergency location. Jeffrey Childers, the founder of Safe Compass Foundation and creator of ZERO, said the sys

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Street Talk

What would you like to see in the redeveloped Liberty Square?

On December 2014, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the redevelopment that the old Liberty Square will be demolished and replaced with a new version of the community. Developers are proposing what they think the development should look like based on some criteria the mayor put forward.

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Trayvon Martin remembered at dinner

Teen would have been 21 years old this year; ceremony honored foundation

At the dinner in Miami, the Rev. Al Sharpton spoke about the work of the Trayvon Martin Foundation and its supporters, and in particular about the work done by Harry Belafonte in the days before the modern progressive movement. On Feb. 6, the Trayvon Martin Foundation’s Annual Remembrance Dinner and Awards ceremony was held at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport and Convention Center in Miami, marking the 21st birthday of the organization’s namesake. The honoree at the dinner was Belafonte, an actor, activist and longtime philanthropist. Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump was honored at the Democratic Black Caucus luncheon the same day, an event, which also was attended by Congressmen Alcee Hastings, Patrick Murphy and Ted Deutch. Crump represents the families of Trayvon, and Corey Jones, who was shot by police in October while he waited for a tow truck for his broken down car. Crump introduced Belafonte later that evening. Belafonte, said Sharpton, was “progressive before it was fashionable.” Sharpton spoke about Paul Robeson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Diane Nash and others who transformed the civil rights movement and Black history. Looking around the room, Sharpton noted that Black men and Black women were not always welcome in fine hotels like the one everyone was in that night.

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Town Hall discusses the benefits plans for proposed Marriott hotel

Residents and stakeholders of the Overtown community attended a town hall last Wednesday to hear about the benefits plans for the Marriot Marquis Miami Convention & Expo Center. Some were in favor, but many raised concerns about jobs and economic impact. Before the presentation began Feb. 3 at Trinity CME Church, Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon addressed the crowd and gave them information on how this could benefit the community. “We’re putting our dollars back into the community,” said Hardemon. After his greeting, representatives from the company handling the development, MDM Development LLC, laid out the building and benefits plans for the hotel and convention center, which plans to open the Fall 2018. Joseph Herndon, director of Development, said their focus will be on the residents. He gave a breakdown of the plans for the development, which is slated to include a Marriott Marquis hotel and convention center. The project is expected to generate more than 2,000 temporary and permanent jobs—with a 20 percent local hiring priority for permanent jobs for Overtown residents. He also outlined the proposed benefits agreement, which is still being negotiated.

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Wolves in sheep’s clothing

The beef between Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho concerning Liberty Square and Lincoln Gardens is really troubling. Now both of these individuals have been shady with the way that they deal with the Black community. The mayor filed an Ethics complaint against the superintendent because of a phone call the sup made on Jan. 26 and wrote a letter on Jan. 27, to the mayor concerning Miami Waymark 2.0 ouster from the bidding process.

South Florida Kappas celebrate anniversary anniversary

They came from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties -- doctors, judges, lawyers, educators, and even a couple of local news anchormen. All gathered to mark the founding of their college fraternity on the campus of Indiana University on Jan. 5, 1911. The men of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. set aside their suits and ties, and even judge’s robe and once again dawned the Greek letters of their youth, in fraternity’s famed colors of crimson and cream. The Kappa’s 105th Founders’ Day celebration took place on the anniversary at the host Miami Alumni Chapter’s new fraternity house located in the West Little River area of Northwest Miami-Dade County.

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Consecration of ministers

On Sunday Feb. 7 at the 11 am service at Faith, Truth and Deliverance Church of God By Faith, Elder Cleveland Roberts III held an ordination service consecrating ministers, deacons and missionaries to go about and win souls for the kingdom of Christ. Their charge is taken from the book of 2 Tim. 4:1-2: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach

Examining the parable of the sheep and the goats today

Sometimes, the Bible makes life seem too simple: the sheep will be on one side and the goats will be on the other side. The wheat over here and the tares over there. The good people on the right, and the bad people on the left. -Matthew 25:32-34 But my life has proven to be more complicated than that. In Scripture, the length of a man's life is said to be so fleeting, as to be compared to a vapor, a puff of smoke on a cold day, seen for a moment, and then vanishing forever. - James 4:14 And just like a vapor, I have lived my life constantly swirling and cascading, doing good deeds and bad. So am I a sheep or am I a goat?

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Faith Calendar

AFLAME Ministry School classes began on Jan 30th at 10 a.m. Call 954 919-9757. St. Paul A.M.E. Church and the A.A.C.C.C. (African American Council of Christian Clergy) will honor Bishop Dennis Jackson, State Representative Cynthia Stafford, Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Wallace Aristide (Miami Northwestern Principal) Commissioner Audrey Edmondson and Darrin Smith (Former New Orleans Saints football player on Wednesday, February 10 at 7 p.m. Mount Tabor Missionary Baptist Church will celebrate it’s 115th anniversary on Sunday, February 14 at 10 a.m. Call 305-756-2584. St. Peter’s African Orthodox Cathedral invites you to their Feast of Title and Family Day Celebration on Sunday, February 21 at 9:30 a.m. Call 305-638-0106.

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Lineup finalized for Jazz in the Gardens

Get ready for a mix of jazz, soul and R&B artists at the 11th installation of Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival. The three-day event is slated for March 18-20 at Sun Life Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens, FL 33056. The music fest takes place on March 19-20.What you really want to know is who will be performing and when. On Saturday, gates open at 3 p.m. and CriStyle Renae kicks off the festival at 4:30 p.m. April Raquel Koture Funk; The Jazz in the Gardens All Stars featuring Najee, Alex Bugnon, and Regina Belle; Average White Band; Michael McDonald; Kool & the Gang all take the stage Saturday with the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin closing out the night. Sunday LaVie opens the stage

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Cooking with Chef Sian

Where do you get your soul food?

This week's column started off in a very different place to where it ended up. I originally began by inviting you, the readers, to tell me more  about what you like to eat and what recipes you wanted to see in this column. From there I began thinking ahead, trying to get a better picture of what types of food appealed to and was offered by African-American restaurateurs in and around Miami.

‘The Parker Sisters: A Border Kidnapping’ historical story

Two free Black girls are abducted in mid-19th-century Pennsylvania

Your neighbors said they’d keep an eye on your house for you this summer. They’d get the mail in, and grab the newspaper while you were on vacation. They’d do everything for you – and, as in the new book “The Parker Sisters” by Lucy Maddox, you should be glad if they watch your children, too. Along the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, Thomas McCreary “earned a reputation” as slave catcher, did jail time in 1849 for kidnapping, and was mistrusted by many, Black and white. Still, he’d managed to find work as a mail carrier in both states, which may’ve given him opportunity to observe the comings-and-goings of Elizabeth and Rachel Parker, two free Black children. Elizabeth, somewhere around 10 years old, was a headstrong, “difficult” child who’d left (or been kicked out of) her family’s home years before and had worked and lived with a series of white families. The latest was near-destitute; Maddox hypothesizes that Elizabeth ’s presence in the Donnelly household may have been on purpose, so that McCreary might have an easier chance to snatch her.

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The Social Whirl

During Black History Month 2016, there are many day to day memories that are triggered by events. On Super Bowl Sunday, I remembered the forever classic National Anthem as sung by Whitney Houston and then I thought of the many patriot songs that we were taught by music teachers in our schools and how we sang them. I remember Mrs. Pauline Dunn at Dunbar Elementary and the patriotic songs she taught us: America the Beautiful, This is My Country, My Country Tis of Thee, The National Anthem and the Negro Nationa Anthem; Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing. Pauline Dunn was a wonderful teacher. And there were other wonderful music teachers and gifted musicians, both in chorus and band, in this community including: Mable Dorsett Glover, Leila Roberts Williams, William” Billy Johnson, Arthur Evans, Cassandria Hanna, David Paschal, Jonathan Thurston, Timothy Savage and others. There were piano teachers like: Elouise Barrett Kemp, Colleen Saunders Pinder, Professor Lindsey, Agnes Jarrett Hezekiah, William “ Bill” Hanna, and you, readers may recall others and share with me. We are the sum total of our experiences and the people and places that we encountered. Here’s to music educators who laid foundations of music in our lives with such passion and dedication.

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Chatter that Matters

My column allowed me to absorb an eight-day revival with pastors coming to Greater St. James MBC. The Installation service and guests over-filled the new church with a Pastor-Elect at 4875 NW Second Avenue in Miami. Congratulations go out to Rev. Devin D. Brown, Pastor-Elect, on becoming the right person. “Tend the Flock of God that is in your charge, and you will win the crown of glory that never fades away” (1 Peter 5:2), and the 2015 with Deacon Jerome Cooper, Chairman, Sister Roberta C. Daniels, Sister Mary Dottie, Deacon Willie Mosley, Sister Eloise Washington and Deacon Terry Jones. Dr. Brown is a native of Jacksonville after completing his primary and secondary education within Duval County P.S. He later enrolled in Edward Waters and earned his Bachelors degree and Master of Divinity. He is proud of his accomplishments of organizing senior and weekly bible classes, along with the founding of Ministry in Action with an emphasis placed on crime in Liberty City. The Faith Church gave him the courage to become a case manager at Mt. Tabor MBC, director at Ebenezer UMC and Greater St. James.

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Celebrate around the world with UniverSoul Circus

Miramar Regional Park presents the show until Feb. 15

UniverSoul Circus will once again present a multicultural and multinational cast of rock-star performers in 2016, exclusively at Miramar Regional Park, through Monday, Feb. 15. Guests are invited to experience electrifying and entertaining performances, including extreme motorsports, mind-bending contortionists, fresh-faced clowns, disco-dancing pachyderms, free-flying aerial acts and more. Guests to UniverSoul Circus will experience extreme Motorcycle Daredevils from Colombia, a cross-cultural Wheel of Death act from Ecuador and Guinea, flying Trapeze and Pagoda Bowls from China, a Pole act and Contortionists from Ethiopia, Limbo Dancers from Trinidad and Tobago, Clowns from Detroit and Zebras and Elephants from the United States.

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