Civil rights groups, residents call for outside investigation of shooting by Miami Garden police as family prepares to bury Lavall Hall
Civil rights activists are denouncing the defacing of homes with hate speech in Miami Gardens last week. While investigators have not tied the messages of “KKK” and “Move Out KKK” spray-painted on homes and mailboxes in the city to the Ku Klux Klan, speech associated with the hate group has been directed at Black homes and churches in Florida in recent months. Last week, several homes in the Miami Gardens area — the county’s largest Black city — were defaced with letters that represent the Klan and warnings of “I’m Back KKK.” Meanwhile, the Miami Gardens police is still investigating the matter.
Prominent leaders, politicians, pay their final respects to social activist
It was time to say goodbye to Georgia Jones-Ayers. Miami’s movers and shakers came prepared to give her a grand sendoff. They came with plaques, proclamations, resolutions and a new name for an agency she founded and spent decades building up: The Georgia Ayers Alternative Program.
Calls go out for outisde investigation as family prepares to bury Lavall Hall
Tempers flared at the Miami Gardens City Council Wednesday, as residents and protesters demanded city officials to release the videotapes of the shooting of the Lavall Hall, a mentally-ill 25-year old.
New festival to help Caribbean filmmakers
The stage is set for a weekend of cultural pride and empowerment for struggling Caribbean filmmakers who will learn how to succeed in a tough entertainment industry during the inaugural Caribe Film Fest on Feb 27-28 at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Ter.
Miami's new police chief Rodolfo Llanes said Maj. Craig McQueen didn't violate any policy to be demoted to the rank of captain. But he still won't be overturning the decision. Llanes made the statement at a heated town hall meeting on Feb. 18 at Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, where 200 angry residents packed the sanctuary, seeking answers over the recent demotion of McQueen, a veteran police officer who has served the Miami Police Department for 33 years.
He spends much of his time advocating for quality education for poor youth similar to the way Booker T. Washington did for disadvantaged Blacks. Education is part of Fedrick Ingram’s vision to help youth overcome the odds to achieve the impossible. During his career as a music teacher at Miami Carol City Senior High and Booker T. Washington in Overtown, Ingram has helped more than 250 of Ingram’s students obtain music scholarships to college.
Whether it's mobilizing Blacks to the polls or honoring leaders in the community, Attorney Marlon Hill is always out in Miami’s neighborhoods championing a cause. Since he arrived to Miami from Kingston, Jamaica in 1985, community service and politics have become a part of Hill’s life.
In the family room downstairs, Georgia Jones-Ayers' children looked at their mother's numerous photos that covered the piano. Upstairs in the bedroom, the woman who worked much of her life helping Miami-Dade's troubled youth, finally took her rest.
Broadway musical takes music lovers on soulful journey down memory lane
There’s Smokey, Diana and Stevie. Then there are those songs that still move the soul with simple messages and catchy tunes. It has been 50 years since Motown introduced the soulful rhythms to America’s mainstream society and the world. Many Motown songs like “My Girl” and “I Want You Back” sold millions of copies at a time when America was experiencing social upheaval during the Civil Rights movement.
Christopher Scott joins a list of forgotten Black incorporators to be honored
He was a Black pioneer whose remains were buried in an unmarked grave for 110 years in the historic but segregated City of Miami Cemetery. But on a cool Sunday afternoon, Christopher Scott joined a list of forgotten Black incorporators of the City of Miami to be celebrated with a ceremony and headstone at the 128-year-old cemetery, located at 1800 NE Second Ave. Scott was the latest Black pioneer to be honored during the 22nd Annual Commemorative Service under a tent next to the oldest cemetery in the Miami-Dade County. The dedication was one of two ceremonies that were held and sponsored by the African-American Committee of Dade Heritage Trust.
Overtown residents, union workers criticize project that will get $88 million in public funds
The pleas and concerns from dozens of Overtown residents weren’t enough to persuade city officials who, for the second time last Thursday, voted in favor of a proposed $1.2 billion Miami Worldcenter mall that will go up near the historic Black neighborhood.
Neighborhood will need more than new buildings to solve crime, residents say
When county officials recently announced plans for a New Liberty Square housing project, they did not mention that it would include two police mini-substations that were promised to the complex last year. Nor was there talk of keeping a special task force that has swept out several criminals in the area in the past several years. So far, officials from the Miami-Dade County Housing and Urban Development (HUD) don’t have a solid security plan in place for a $200 million redevelopment plan to change Miami’s most notorious neighborhood.
Evelyn Onyejuruwa has become a model for success. In just three years, her Ankara Fashion Show has become one of the hottest tickets in South Florida during Black History Month. With attendance and interest booming, the event has expanded this year to become Ankara Miami Fashion Week, a four-day extravaganza of events that will celebrate the culture of the African Diaspora from Feb. 19-22.
Last standing Scott-Carver building crumbling as efforts to preserve Liberty Square’s project history remain uncertain
Tucked behind a wall of palmetto palms and an overgrown sea grape tree stands a beige, faded, two-story building at 7265 NW 22nd Ave. Once the home of poor Liberty City residents, the building has been vacant for at least 14 years now. Old bottles and dirty clothes litter the sweeping veranda where children once played. Plywood covering the doors and windows have been spray-painted with graffiti. Birds fly in and out of gaping holes in the building.
Woman takes on big cemeteries with her Black-owned headstone business
Gina Hankerson’s headstone business is coming alive. Since her business was founded four years ago, Hankerson has been slowly carving her niche in a challenging funeral industry that generates $15 billion a year. She often works 12-hour days to build a clientele at her business, Angelic Monument in Lauderhill. She started it as a headstone cleaning business in 2006. After learning more about the business, in 2010 Hankerson expanded her business to also create headstones for cemeteries in Miami-Dade and Broward.
To residents of the Liberty Square housing projects: pay your rent on time. Don’t commit murder or a felony, not even a misdemeanor. If you do, you are no longer in “good standing,” and when the New Liberty Square is built you may not be welcomed back. That’s the word from the top brass at Miami-Dade County Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which announced plans to demolish all of Liberty Square’s 709 units and build new ones to revitalize and rid the area from crime.
County’s newest school planetarium
After the captain spoke, the lights went out. Music from the movie soundtrack “Star Trek” blared as stars appeared on dome ceiling of the planetarium at Booker T. Washington High School in Overtown. Here, community leaders, teachers and school administrators last Thursday took a test “voyage” to Jupiter. Gasps erupted from the crowd as a former NASA scientist gave a close up view of the largest planet in the solar system. After a brief look at the sun’s photosphere, the trip returned to earth.
Residents in Liberty City propose “Slumlord fund” to purchase homes
Tenants who live in a Liberty City building deemed a slum by the state last Thursday took their frustrations to Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon at City Hall. They presented a plan to build and purchase homes as a solution to deteriorating conditions at their apartment complex, 1231 NW 61st St.
First came the speeches and the accolades. Then, community leaders from across South Florida officially dedicated the Sandy A. Sears Surgical Center at the Jackson North Medical Center Thursday to the retired hospital executive, who for decades steered the facility through segregation and tough times. At a ceremony at the facility in North Miami Beach, Jackson Health executives unveiled plans for a new surgical center that will be built and named after Sandy Sears who served the Jackson system for 39 years. Sears spent the last seven years of her career as senior vice president and chief administrative officer for Jackson North Medical Center, located at 160 NW 170th St.
Retrosource, the developer who wanted to build a Walmart Neighborhood Market in North Miami, abruptly withdrew its application to build the store in the city’s Griffin Estates neighborhood. The surprise announcement came last Tuesday at North Miami’s city council meeting, where City Manager Aleem A. Ghany read an email sent by Mr. Lee Babitt, principal of Retrosource, which was sent to him just 30 minutes before the meeting began. “My staff has received an email from Mr. Lee Babitt that he’s no longer putting in his application for Walmart and he’s pulling this item for an indefinite date,” Ghany told the council.
Low income residents find affordable housing elusive among rental developments in Black neighborhoods
People like Carolyn Boyce don’t believe the housing complexes in Miami that say they have affordable units have any that are truly affordable. A volunteer for the Miami-Dade Chapter of the NAACP, Boyce last August searched for housing for some 20 residents trapped in a building in Liberty City deemed a slum by the state. She scouted several different sites in Miami’s Black community where, over time, residential complexes have been built next to dilapidated houses and businesses. During her search, Boyce learned what many families and rental applicants in the Black community have already discovered: many of the affordable housing units are simply too expensive and out of reach.
North Miami Beach officials are asking for forgiveness after mugshots of Black men were used during target practice at a shooting range in Medley
Liberty Square resident wins chance of a lifetime
Three years ago, Denise Daniels was sitting in her home in the Liberty Square housing projects when someone slipped a paper in her door. It was a flier for a contest seeking the best idea for a business. The winner would receive a grant that would help turn their idea into a reality. Daniels tore up the flier. “I figure that I didn’t have a chance because I had bad credit,” she recalled.
Acceptance helps Haitian filmmaker find success, second chapter in life
When she was young, Miami filmmaker Rachelle Salnave wasn’t proud of being a Haitian American. A native of Harlem, N.Y., Rachelle said her parents told her that her great-great-great grandfather is Sylvain Salnave, a former president of Haiti who ruled Haiti from 1867 to 1869. Not even her heritage was enough for Salnave to be proud of her ethnic identity. Whenever someone asked her about her last name or ethnic background, Salnave fudged the truth.
Event organizers use parades to educate youth about King’s life and the civil rights era
Garbage trucks. A hearse. Church buses. The vehicles, perfect for a parade and an entertaining history lesson, may turn heads again this year at the 48th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade on Monday in Liberty City. These nontraditional entries join the colorful floats to help tell a story about the civil rights era, according to event founder Preston Marshall. “I had people come up and asked me why are garbage trucks in the parade?” Marshall said in a recent interview. “The rights of sanitation workers was the last cause King took up before he was assassinated in 1968. Many young people don’t know that.” Marshall explains the other seeming oddities.
Opponents of a proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market in North Miami celebrated last week when the city’s planning commission unanimously voted to disapprove two items that affect the development of the project. In a packed meeting at city hall, officials voted 6-0 to disapprove a proposal by Walmart’s developer Retrosource, who wants to amend the city’s land use plan and zoning ordinances. Retrosource requested the changes so that it can build a 40,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store off Northeast 135th Street between Memorial Highway and Northeast Third Court. The project also calls for a gas station and space for a another store or business.
North Miami residents tell city leaders that the discount retailer belongs in other neighborhoods, just not theirs
Amid the shouting and protests came demands to put Walmart Neighborhood Market on Northwest Seventh Avenue with the rest of the boarded up businesses and old grocery stores. That’s what residents and even a former mayor said at a contentious town hall meeting in North Miami, where a vocal, diverse crowd of 100 residents from the Griffin Park Estates neighborhood expressed opposition to a proposed Walmart in their community. The store would be located on a vacant, grassy lot off Northeast 135 Street, between Memorial Highway and Northeast Third Court. The project also calls for a gas station and space for another store or business.
Residents and clergy pulled together to find solutions to rising crime
A call for new social programs to stop the dramatic rise in drive-by mass shootings in Miami’s Black neighborhoods came at an emergency meeting Monday. It was standing room only as 300 people packed the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City. They came seeking answers to some 19 shootings that have plagued Liberty City and Overtown in just 15 days. The meeting was organized by County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, whose district is hit by the shootings.
The U.S. economy in 2014 continued its rebound from the Great Recession. Employers were on pace to add a total of nearly 3 million jobs in 2014, the most in 15 years. With construction booming once again, Florida was among three states that had the biggest employment gains with 42,000 jobs added to the state’s economy. More Americans traveled as declining oil prices cut
After the drumbeats and ancestral dedications came the protests against events that have threatened the future of Black youth in the past year: police shootings and education reforms. Those issues were addressed on the second day of Kwanzaa, when about 275 people at the African Heritage Cultural Center in Liberty City celebrated the day’s principle of self-determination. The holiday honors Black culture and heritage from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. The event was one of two Kwanzaa celebrations that were held in the Black community last weekend. On Sunday, another Kwanzaa celebration was held at the Little Haiti Cultural Arts Center.
Former North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau’s was convicted of five counts of wire fraud-related charges for running an $11 million mortgage scheme with three others. Prosecutors said the scam took place before Tondreau was elected mayor of North Miami in 2013. A jury Dec. 16 unanimously found the city’s first Haitian-American female mayor guilty of
For the second time, Design Place Apartments in Little Haiti has been sued for racial discrimination by Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence Inc. (HOPE), a housing watchdog group. The latest suit filed Tuesday alleges that Design Place again turned away Blacks seeking apartments at the complex, located at 5175 NE 2nd Court. The complaint, filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, names SPV
Complex accused of denying Black applicants reach court agreement
Elite Riverview Apartments, the Miami rental complex that was sued for discrimination in May after it allegedly denied Blacks to view rental units, has settled the case out of court, according to legal documents obtained by The Miami Times. The complaint that was originally filed in the U.S. Southern District of Florida, was dismissed Nov. 17 after Elite went into mediation talks with the plaintiff, the Housing Opportunities for Project Excellence (HOPE).
One minute Lucie Tondreau was smiling and chatting with friends just a few feet away from prosecutors. Two hours later, the former North Miami Mayor stood silent and stoic as the jury foreman told her she was convicted of wire fraud. A 12-member jury found Tondreau guilty Tuesday of committing one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and four separate counts of wire fraud in the U.S. Southern District Court of Florida, downtown Miami.
Holiday parties uplift and help heal families of murdered children and community residents
Sabrina Gordon watched while her grandson Jahkari Gordon ran around the clubhouse in the Barbara Carey-Shuler Apartments in Liberty City. Jahkari, 7, jumped for joy after he opened his gift on Saturday. It was a Superman play shaving kit. The holiday party was for Families of Murdered Children. Oblivious to Jahkari, Sabrina Gordon was invited because his father and her son was killed about a year ago. Willie James Gordon, 28, was gunned down at an apartment complex in Liberty City October 2013. He died leaving his mother to grieve and Jahkari and his sister 2-year-old Samya, fatherless.
Former North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau on trial for mortgage fraud
Her name is Kettley Alphonse. She bought a house in Miami Shores in 2007. She didn’t know the price of the house was $564,000 at the time of the closing. She just signed on the dotted line on numerous documents without asking any questions about the big purchase. That same day, Alphonse received a $5,000 check for her cooperation. The signature on check was that of Lucie Tondreau, the former mayor of North Miami who was also Alphonse's employer. After the purchase, Alphonse’s would eventually lose her job, the house and her credit.
Free lecture to help family members understand disease that afflicts Blacks more than most ethnic groups
The sacrifices are tremendous. Bathing. Feeding. Cooking. Supervising. For many, taking care of aging parents or relatives with Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming and at times unhealthy. The number of people diagnosed with the deadly disease has risen over the years, but so has the number of caregivers who experts say suffer almost as much as Alzheimer’s patients themselves.
The holiday celebration provided children with a festive spectacle
The wait was over. It was time for the biggest gift of them all at Florida International University’s (FIU) children’s holiday celebration held on its main campus last Thursday. After receiving dozens of items ranging from toy cars to laptops, every elementary school student in attendance was given a number. The winner would receive a new mid-sized bicycle. About 800 educators, administrators and volunteers knew what was about to go down in the Graham Center ballroom on the Modesto Maidique campus. Suddenly, the number three flashed on the projection screen.
North Miami museum comes out of settlement talks with edgy exhibit, hundreds of works
Hundreds of prized art. An edgy exhibit. Nigerian royalty. A new book. It's life after a bitter breakup for North Miami's Museum of Contemporary of Art (MOCA). The museum on Monday kicked off Art Basel with an exclusive reception for its new exhibit, “Shifting the Paradigm” by George Edozie, a Nigerian artist whose works have been viewed around the world. The exhibit includes stunning, fiber-metal sculptures of humans doing various things.
Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on Monday reaffirmed his commitment to resolving the economic disparity between Black and white subcontractors as work begins to upgrade and replace schools throughout the county. Carvalho met with Black leaders at a community meeting at Freedom Hall to give an update on his pledge to implement 12 policies aimed at helping more Black sub-contractors earn more contracts with the school system. The meeting was a followup to a promise Carvalho made in September to implement sweeping changes in response to a disparity study that was released by the Urban League of Greater Miami, the Florida chapter of the NAACP and the BAC Corporation.
On Tuesday, men and women who have fought and continue to fight for Black civil rights, politicians and educators shared their reaction to the grand jury declining to charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown, Aug. 9.
After exceeding expectations to hire Black subcontractors, a successful South Florida developer won a $34 million contract to build the new Miami Norland Senior High School in Miami Gardens. At a meeting last Wednesday, the Miami-Dade County Public School Board chose the James B. Pirtle Construction Co. Inc., a prominent, 45-year-old South Florida developer that has built facilities for museums, hospitals, sports complexes, libraries and cultural centers all over South Florida. The company built the Little Haiti Cultural Center and the new Miami Jackson Senior High School, according to the firm's website.
Free event is at Overtown’s Lyric Theater
They’re strong enough to lift every voice when they sing. All 32 of them. With their deep voices and charisma, the all-male choir at the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church have been pumping out notes and robust harmonies for 23 years. And when they get the Holy Spirit, look out. “People just love when a group of tough men are moved by the spirit and let it out,” said William Orange, a member of the group. Theresa Brown, a member of the church for nearly 20 years, said the group is one of her favorites. “I’ve been enjoying them for years,” said Brown. “They are just amazing.”
History was made Monday when Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime became the first Haitian-American elected as chairman of the county commission. It was one of two honors for Monestime, who prevailed along with four other commissioners in the Nov. 4. general elections. The commissioners were honored during a special installation ceremony at county hall, where family, friends and colleagues packed the room to help celebrate the occasion. It was an even bigger moment for Monestime. Commissioners voted 12-0 to elect Monestime chairman after District 12 Commissioner José “Pepe” Diaz nominated him for the role.
Rare art exhibit set to debut
His art includes everything from carpet to telephone bills that express the human condition in Miami's Black neighborhoods. From funerals to boarded-up storefronts that dot South Florida's urban neighborhoods, the murals of renowned Overtown artist Purvis Young gave the world a unique insight into Black life and culture.
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.
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.
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.
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.