On Tuesday, the Miami Herald building at One Herald Plaza in downtown Miami was added to my book of memories when it was demolished, leaving in its place a pile of rubble. That makes me sad.
The beautiful blue and yellow building (it was beautiful to me) that sat on the banks of Biscayne Bay was where I cut my journalism teeth.
But before I became a journalist, I worked in the building as a file clerk. That was a big deal to me and my family, because I’d left my job as a domestic worker to join the Herald family. My first day on my new job was the first Monday of January in 1966. Four and a half years later, I became the paper’s first black female reporter.
Five years ago when someone told me the building was going to be sold to a developer, tears welled up in my eyes. Then the memories started to flood my mind. Some were good and some were bad.
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That day, I paused for a moment to let the news sink in and then my mind wandered back to the first day I went to work there. I still remember my first-day-on-the-job clothes: I wore a light green skirt (which I still have) with a white dotted Swiss blouse and black pumps. l was nervous, yet so very happy and excited.
When I arrived for my first day on the job, Managing Editor George Beebe took me around to all the departments in the newsroom and introduced me as the new clerk in the library. I remember thinking, “Gee, this is a great place to work. ... He is giving me the red-carpet treatment!” Little did I know at the time, that the tour was Mr. Beebe’s way of letting the white newsroom employees know that as of that day, the newsroom was integrated.
As I took the “Beebe Tour” that day, I noticed that I didn’t see another black face until one morning I ran into one of the men who cleaned the building at night, as he was leaving. He smiled at me, and nodded. Years later he told me how proud he was to know that I had, in a small way, broken the segregation barrier.
When it was time to go to work, I was glad that I had the good sense to wear long sleeves. The mood in the library was as cold as ice. But I was able to weather the storm, thanks to the warm welcomes I got from Hazel Ashmore, a middle-aged woman from Alabama and from Juanita Green and Charles Whited, who welcomed me with warm smiles. It was their smiles that told me “Bea, you can make this work.”
I can’t tell the entire story of my life at One Herald Plaza in this small amount of space. I can only let you know how it felt then, breaking the newsroom color barrier, and how blessed I feel now, for taking advantage of the opportunity afforded me.
It was about two weeks before Christmas in 1965, that I gave notice to my domestic employer, that I had found a job as a file clerk at The Miami Herald.
She said, “You know things are not going to stay this way ... as soon as [President Lyndon] Johnson is out of the White House, things will go back to the way they used to be.
I told her, “That may be true. But I have this opportunity now and I’m going to take it.”
When I retired in 2001, One Herald Plaza had been my home for 35 years. l will remember those early days and the people who touched my life throughout my years there for as long as I live.
And I will always be thankful.
Teen talent show
The annual Physically Integrated Dance Performance will present “The 9th Talent Showcase” at 10 a.m. Friday (March 13, in the auditorium at Hialeah Senior High School, 251 E. 47th St. in Hialeah.
The free performance will feature 250 teens of “mixed ability” from 16 Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Produced and directed by Karen Peterson and Dancers (KPD) and four team teachers, the showcase will celebrate 25 years of physically integrated dance in South Florida, Peterson said.
The dance company is a “positive can-do role model for both the disability and dance communities in South Florida and is committed to a high artistic level of creative opportunities for all abilities through workshops and performance,” according to a news release.
The female and male students range in age between 13 and 22 and their disabilities include autism, visual, language, physical, emotional impairments and/or developmental delays. They rehearse one hour a week during a 20-week dance program that enables them to gain social, emotional and learning skills through the discipline of and preparation for the final performance.
The event is free and open to the community. For more information about the showcase, Karen Peterson and the KPD Dancers, visit www.karenpetersondancers.org or call 305-298-5879.
Bark Off fundraiser
Registration for the second annual Bark Off, an event sponsored by the Heidi Hewes Chapter of the Woman’s Cancer Association of the University of Miami, will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at Constitution Park in Miami Shores. The Dog Walk will begin at 10 a.m.
The Bark Off is organized to be a day of outdoor fun for dogs and dog lovers. It will feature the “Doggy Fun Zone,” an obstacle course for dogs to test their skills on a grand prix-style raceway. The event will feature entertainment, contests, games, prizes, rescue groups, food trucks and retail vendors.
NBC anchor Adam Kuperstein will be master of ceremonies. Admission is $25 per person and free admission for children under 10. Admission includes breakfast, coffee, a Bark-Off T-shirt and a ticket to the Doggy Fun Zone.
All funds raised will go to cancer research at the Sylvester Cancer Center and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
St. Patrick’s Celebration concert
The Greater Miami Symphonic Band will present “A St. Patrick’s Celebration” concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Gusman Hall on the University of Miami campus, 1314 Miller Dr. in Coral Gables.
The program will feature Col. Arnald D. Gabriel (USAF, Ret.) as guest conductor and Robert Longfield as conductor. Dale Underwood will be the guest saxophone soloist.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students and children over 5, and are available at the box office on the day of the concert or online at: www.GMSB.org.
Distinguished women to be honored
The Miami Commission on the Status of Women will host its annual breakfast honoring distinguished women in the community at 8 a.m. Thursday at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr. on the City Manager’s Terrace.
Following the breakfast, guests are encouraged to attend the protocol portion of the City Commission meeting in the City Hall chambers just below the terrace, where the honorees will be recognized with a commendation by the mayor, city commissioners and the Miami Commission on the Status of Women.
To RSVP, call Angela Roberts at 305-416-1990.
‘Journeys Across Florida’ lecture
Elam Stoltzfus will be the speaker at the Bea Peskoe Lunchtime Lecture series at noon Monday in Room D 112 in the Library Building of Miami Dade College, Homestead Campus, 500 College Terr. in Homestead.
His topic will be “Journeys Across Florida.” Stoltzfus, an award-winning nature film producer, will share stories about the people he interacted with in his film projects featuring the wilds of Florida. The event is free.
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