- Faith & Family
Overtown residents have seen their community torn apart and left to fend for itself following construction projects in the 1980s that ran highways through the heart of the once vibrant Black community. Residents who have remained say they have been patient and believed in the promises of City of Miami officials to help them rebuild their neighborhood. But those promises have consistently been delayed — their hopes and dreams deferred.
Meanwhile, other projects have gotten the green light, including the AmericanAirlines Arena and the Marlins Stadium. But when word recently got out that the city commissioners might delay their vote that would push back a $50 million redevelopment project for an indefinite amount of time, residents took to the phones and to the streets. By the time the commission meeting convened last week, the chambers were packed to capacity — mostly with men and women well over 65 years of age. Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones said she had never seen the chambers so full with interested residents — residents who remained calm, civil and took their time, when allowed, at the microphone.
“We keep seeing money go to other communities and projects — this has been going on for decades,” said Rev. Eddie Lake, senior pastor, Greater Bethel AME Church, Overtown. “My people have said that they are tired of waiting. I came today and brought a van filled with senior citizens who have supported this city for their entire lives. But there comes a time when enough is enough. Overtown deserves better. The people who live in Overtown deserve better.”
More testimonies from seasoned warriors
It’s been more than 25 years since the CRA was created with the purpose of wiping out slum and blight and we’ve waited to see a change,” said Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields. “We keep hearing that there isn’t any money — then we see money appear for parks and sports arenas and stadiums. With the bat of an eye somehow other projects get the funding they need. We don’t want to wait any longer. Our commissioners need to be statesmen not politicians and do what’s right.”
“I can go back 50 years — every time our hopes are raised we are told there has to be another delay,” said Jackie Bell. “We saw our community torn apart in 1982. How much longer must we wait to see things made right again?”
“My grandmother lived in a three-room shotgun house in Overtown,” said Lovette McGill. “I have long been a member of Greater Bethel and I have hoped to see better days in this community that I love so dearly. Many of my friends are gone. Some have moved — others have died. I am old now and too tired. I don’t care about tunnels or parks or stadiums or arts centers. I just want to see the city do right by us. We helped build Miami. We deserve to be treated like we matter.”
In a written statement sent by Bishop James Adams, senior pastor, St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church and read by his board chairman, he said, “I applaud the good work of the city commission but good work is not enough — we need your best. Now is the time to move forward.”
“History will show that there are no signs along the road that say ‘wait’ — we have waited patiently at the back of the line. But we are not willing to remain there,” said Attorney Keon Hardemon.
By Kevin McNeir