Each year the members of Public Allies Miami develop Team Service Projects (TSPs) in order to complete their year of service. These TSPs are an opportunity for the Allies to learn about a particular community within Miami and strategize ways they can help strengthen that community. This post was contributed by the Overtown TSP group as a reflection on their project and an invitation to join them in celebrating the neighborhood of Overtown.
“TOWNERS…” The familiar call echoes through the streets of Overtown. Its easy to get distracted when you come into this Miami neighborhood. The celebrated memories of Overtown’s glory days cover the community like a comforting childhood blanket. Miami’s first black neighborhood at its prime boomed with businesses, night clubs, houses and, more importantly, a self-sustaining, proud group of people. Overtown has been plagued with many a hardships. Vacant lots, old buildings, and a community tired of empty promises sold to them by outsiders claiming good intentions. In fact, one cannot speak of Overtown without acknowledging the tormenting media headlines that shine a dim light on the community. Yet through it all the Towners remain hopeful. Resilient, they take each new day as an opportunity for their community to once again enter into its glory days.
When the Overtown TSP group first started this project, we weren’t sure what to expect. The first thing we had to do was learn the community. The whats, whens, whys and hows. We had heard stories of a pessimistic people who weren’t welcoming to new ideas or new people so we were cautious in our approach. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we started canvassing. We were greeted with smiles, listening ears, and telling hearts. This was not the community many hear about in the media. Statistics failed to capture the character of the Towners. Friendly smiles meet you as you walk through the neighborhood. Fast talkers and smooth walkers eased down the street. The older men of the community sit out in the park on 3rd Avenue playing checkers and telling stories.
For a community that had been taken advantage of and taken for granted we found an undying fighting spirit. Even the smallest Towner knew of the community’s rich history and culture; and for many, Overtown was still the place to be. No matter how the community changes throughout the years the people living in Overtown wouldn’t want to call anywhere else their home. Artists, cooks, mentors, writers…so much talent just waiting to be tapped into.
What are the next steps for Overtown? One of the most amazing things about the people of Overtown is that they have a wealth of knowledge about their past, but they also are aware of what they need to move forward. Many projects, developments and dedicated community organizations have been put in place to try to help the community transition back to its heyday. Yet, with so much information and so many organizations out there, how do the Towners get involved with these opportunities? More importantly, how do they share their stories with the people who need to hear them most?
Join us on June 8, 2013 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Dorsey Park, 1701 Northwest 1 Ave., as we bring together community residents and organizations to share ideas and discuss plans to help Overtown take the next steps into the future. And remember as with many things in life, when it comes to Overtown, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but if you look deeper you’ll find your fairytale.
Register here for the "Overtown Thrives" Community Extravaganza