Over the past few years, Miami's historically black and multicultural neighborhoods have continued to develop — and with the opening this week of the Historic Overtown Visitor Center, the neighborhoods’ rich histories are being told.
On Saturday, people who booked early will be able to tour the neighborhoods during open-top bus tours stopping in Overtown, Coconut Grove, Brownsville, Lemon City, Little Haiti and Liberty City. But if you didn’t book early, you’re out of luck — both tours were sold out by Thursday.
Timothy Barber, executive director of the Black Archives, will lead the tours, talking about the historic landmarks and how local neighborhoods were affected by the African diaspora.
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“We’ve come a long way here in Miami,” he said.
The tours will stop at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, which showcases the Afro-Caribbean culture through activities and the arts; the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum, a former base for “colored patrol officers” that documents the history of black officers; and the Kroma Gallery in Coconut Grove, an art gallery that features perspectives that came out of the African diaspora.
“It’s an opportunity for the community to see the historic sights,” said Dorothy Fields, a historian and founder of the Black Archives. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done it, and it won’t be the last.”
But even if you didn’t get a spot on one of the tours, there will be plenty to do. The art exhibit, “A Man Among the People: A Purvis Young Homecoming Exhibition,” will be on display Saturday at the Lyric Theater, 819 NW Second Ave. Built in 1913 and recently restored, the Lyric is the oldest theater in Miami and hosted such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday, among others.
The Purvis Young exhibit runs through June. Young, who died in 2010, was known for his colorful paintings and murals, which he often painted on wood, on doors and other objects he found in and around his Overtown home.
The Lyric Theater will show historic movies from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, including WLRN’s All Shook Up, a one-hour documentary that details the rich history of the Miami music scene.
And you can check out the new visitor center, part of the Lyric Theater and Welcome Center complex in Overtown.
“There will be a lot of things going on in addition to the tour,” Fields said.
The visitor center, which opened Monday, is a partnership between the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. It showcases the heritage of Miami’s black communities and provides information about the city’s other multicultural neighborhoods.
Barber said he hopes to conduct the tours more frequently in the coming year, especially given the high demand of Saturday’s tour.
“We’re excited,” he said. “What we hope it will do is raise awareness for people as to these accomplishments. And when you raise awareness for people, you’re also raising the bar for people in how to respect other peoples’ cultures.”