Erick Johnson

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Bond funds to replace Frederick Douglass Elementary

Project part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ effort to upgrade facilities

Benjamin Brown, 80, remembers when Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Overtown had no cafeteria. “We had to eat in the classroom,” said Brown, who attended the school in 1939. “There was a lady who sold hot dogs and hamburgers out of a small room.” The 61-year-old building that is part of many childhood memories will soon be demolished and replaced with a sleek, new one. The project is part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools' effort to upgrade facilities in nearly 270 schools with the $1.2 billion General Obligation Bond, which voters passed two years ago.

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Culture clash ends with call for unity

Dr. Smith Joseph appeals for racial harmony during induction ceremony as North Miami’s third Haitian-American mayor

One week after winning a racially charged campaign, Dr. Smith Joseph first official duty as mayor was to call for ethnic harmony. Nearly 1,000 people, including dignitaries from local and state governments, packed the plaza at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) for Joseph’s induction ceremony and first city council meeting last Wednesday in North Miami. A festive reception and marching band helped usher in new era as Joseph’s wife, attorney Patricia SaintVil-Joseph, and son Benoushkah Dominique Joseph, were by Joseph’s side as he took the oath of office.

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SkyRise developers pledge support for Black firms

Developers of the proposed SkyRise Miami observation tower last Thursday pledged their support to minority firms to quell concerns that Black contractors will not get a fair share of business from a project to build Florida’s largest skyscraper. The meeting comes as SkyRise seeks $9 million in public funding for the project, a request that has drawn opposition from city leaders.

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McCoy wins Lyric Live championships

All star finale with cream of the crop of all performers

It was a golden performance. A packed crowd jammed Overtown’s Historic Lyric Theater on Friday night and crowned three-time Lyric Live winner Arsimmer McCoy as the best of the season-ending All Star Championships. Singing Jill Scott’s funky 2004 hit "Golden," McCoy brought the crowd to its feet with a passionate performance that included her powerful vocals and stage presence. She easily beat out three other contestants who were returning champions from this season's Lyric Live, an amateur talent show in which contestants are judged by a critical crowds who boo contestants that give less than stellar performances before they are escorted off stage by the Bahamian Junkanoo Band.

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Change is coming to Liberty Square

New HUD director, community leaders renew calls to fight against crime

Michael Liu has set his sights on Liberty Square Housing Project as a place to sweep out criminals. It's a daunting task for Liu, who aims to pull off a plan to transform the public housing project that has been beset with crime for decades. He promised action last Thursday at a town hall meeting where he vowed to enforce standards with a firm but fair hand and help residents whose lives have been shattered because of gun violence. Liu was appointed to the job in August by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. He replaces former HUD Director Gregg Fortner, who steered the agency toward credibility after his predecessor, Rene Rodriguez, left the agency amid a scandal involving $40 million in housing grants to developers.

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Opa-locka’s popular art event becomes a symbol of the city's revitalization efforts

It started three years ago as a fundraiser on a runway at Opa-locka Airport. The hip hop group En Vogue entertained several hundred guests, including community leaders. The theme of the evening was called “The Art of Transformation,” a term that honored Opa-locka’s rich past and more importantly, a revitalization plan to turn the city into an urban masterpiece. In the first two years, "The Art of Transformation" included ballet performances and works of local, talented artists.

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Fighting fires with his words

Top Black fire-chief-turned author among writers to discuss racism at upcoming Miami Book Fair

Charles Phillips' first day as one of Miami-Dade’s first Black firefighters still haunts him. In 1974, by his account, Phillips was among 12 Black firefighters out of a pool of 48 minorities who were hired after they survived difficult tests and training drills that were required for the job. It was a victory for Phillips who, since a child, has a fascination for fire trucks and the sirens that blared as they sped down the streets of his Liberty City neighborhood. Phillips said he rejoiced as he embarked on his new career. But reality set in after white firefighters spoke to the first crop of Black firefighters who were hired after the county was forced to open their fire rescue squads to minorities after Jim Crow segregation was outlawed.

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Northwestern principal nominated for award

Miami Northwestern principal Wallace Aristide is a candidate for the prestigious Leonard Miller Principal Award for turning around the Liberty City high school that was for years on the brink of being closed by the state because of its poor academic performance. The achievements impressed the Council for Educational Change, a Broward organization that honors school administrators for improving academics in schools in Florida. Aristide is among three candidates who will be honored Thursday with a $5,000 award as Gold Medallion winners at a luncheon at the University of Miami's Newman Alumni Center in Coral Gables, where the Leonard Miller Principal Award will be announced.

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Jackson’s expands brand, to open Overtown bed and breakfast

Restaurant owner Shirley Ingraham was serving customers one day when two men walked in and made her an offer to buy two old abandoned buildings just within walking distance of her famous Jackson’s Soul Food restaurant in Overtown. The men offered to sell her the old structures for $125,000. She bought them without knowing what she would do with them or how she was going to pay to refurbish the old spaces.

‘Soul Basel’ to kick off Miami art season

Events pay homage to Black artists before Art Basel weekend

Hoping to capitalize on the mega success of Art Basel on Miami Beach, South Florida's Miami's Black community is holding several early events as the city prepares to take the spotlight on the international stage. But it will take more than just an early start to reap a good harvest from the world-renowned festival, according to Ludlow Bailey, a curator consultant for the University of Miami.

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