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The Historic Overtown History and the Effect of Gentrification in A Community of Excellence

Every where I turn, communities are being gentrified. Former low-income neighborhoods full of life, art, and rising young talent is being erased to fit standards of new affluent residents. New York City, San Fransisco, Boston, Dallas, and Miami are neighborhoods being gentrified rapidly. In New York City, certain areas in Brooklyn have changed to the fullest extent. Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn are starting to resemble Soho and Wall Street. Who would of thought that millions of people would now visit Brooklyn for the Barclays Center and other sites. Gentrification forces low-income families to move out of their beloved homes into other neighborhoods with no resources. While wealthy residents enjoy their new backyards with a stunning architecture, families that used to dwell in those homes have to wonder if the have enough money to eat for the day.

Miami is one of the best neighborhoods to portray gentrification spreading in the city. In this article, I will be focusing on the historic Overtown. Overtown is an amazing community that holds history everywhere you turn. Overtown was originally called “Color Town” during the Jim Crow era of the 19th century. Even though the crime in this neighborhood is rampant, it does not mean that the beautiful history of this town should be erased.

When tourists visit Miami for a quick vacation or an Instagram moment, they would most likely be aware of South Beach, Bayside Marketplace, Little Havana, Jungle Island, and many more destinations. When people simply search up “The best destinations in Miami,” Overtown simply does not come up. There is so much more to Miami than luxury hotels, beaches, and getting a tan. The number one place in Miami, Overtown, that holds so much history is being suppressed into a hidden community. Overtown Miami is a place full of black excellence.

During the Jim Crow era, many black musicians and celebrities would visit Miami for concerts or even a nice vacation in the Magic City. These same black celebrities were forced to stay in Overtown due to Miami Beach resorts tuning an eye on them. The Lyric Theater still remains one of the major entertainment centers for black people in Miami. The theatre originally opened in the 1910’s, and it was built by a black man, Geder Walker. This staple in Overtown represents black excellence that refuses to be suffocated by gentrification. In the 1960’s, Overtown started to decline after highway interchanges. The former theatre where black musicians would perform and come together shut their doors for over twenty years. The Lyric Theatre has been reconstructed, renamed, and remains the oldest theatre in Miami history.

When millions of people visit Miami, most of them will go to Wynwood. Wynwood is known for its vibrant murals, street artists, upscale boutiques, delicious food, and their notorious late night bars. If someone was to ever put in their Google Maps Wywood Walls, they would see Overtown right next to the community. The city of Miami wants to separate these two communities because it used to reign as one community. Even though people visit Wynwood for numerous reasons, some may never know that the grounds they walk on used to be Overtown. One of the few places that honors Wynwood truly being Overtown is the World Famous House of Mac. The soon to be popular Mac ‘n’ cheese franchise gives Overtown the credit it deserves. Once you walk into the local joint, you will see employees wearing shirts stating “Overtown.” Furthermore, the World Famous House of Mac refuses to list their second location in Wynwood. Instead you will see their menu, drinks, and their doors labelled to be located in Overtown.

Dana A. Dorsey was the first black millionaire to ever exist in Miami. Dorsey was born into a family of former slaves who used his intelligence to become an excellent business man. Dana A. Dorsey launched the first black owned hotel in Miami, sold land to the City of Miami to benefit his people, and he was the owner of Negro Savings Bank. His house remains a historic place according to the United States.

Overtown during the 1960’s Picture: Pintrest

Overtown does not have many food places, but their staple restaurant is Jackson Soul Food. Jackson Soul Food serves the city of Miami mouth watering food with soul food classics. If you ever ate at Jacksons Soul Food, you would know that the food place offers food for every occasion. My favorite dish from Jacksons Soul Food is the red velvet pancakes. Even though I love me some Mac ‘n’ cheese, their pancakes are amazing. Jacksons Soul Food deserves a line around the corner every single day they open.

Picture: Pintrest

Even though gentrification seems to be inevitable in Miami, Overtown deserves to be the staple of black history. Instead of making Overtown unknown to millions of tourists, the neighborhood deserves to be a key destination for those same travelers. Overtown has many amazing places to visit, and it remains Miami’s hidden torch of history.

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