Driving through Miami Shores on any given day, you just might come across a brightly colored sign, placed strategically in somebody's yard. It is a welcoming sign. I mean, literally, a welcoming sign, with the simple message: "No matter where you are from, we're glad you're our neighbor."
The bright green, blue, orange, and red signs are printed in four languages: Spanish, English, Creole and Portuguese, and were created locally by Miami Shores Community Church, and are meant to spread the word of welcoming and inclusiveness to everyone who sees them.
The Rev. Meg Watson, pastor of the church, said it was member John Ise, who brought the idea to the church. "He first saw the signs on the internet and later while visiting in the Midwest, and said, 'We should do that here.'" And the idea took off.
Harold Marrero, the church's minister of media, "jumped right on board and designed the signs with the church's logo, and printed 100," Watson said. "The signs are a reflection of the church and our principles. We are a welcoming and inclusive community church."
Watson said Marrero created a sign of the languages spoken in the Miami Shores community, "and we put them out there and people came to buy them."
"We decided to add Port and Creole to better reflect the community we represent in South Florida," Marrero said. "I saw the sign in Maine when I visited during the summer, saw it also in some business windows. We stayed with the original colors of the sign but added the blue for our church and red because, together the colors represent the variety of people in South Florida."
The sign project started just before Easter, at a time when Watson said, "We just knew that people were getting so many negative messages. We wanted to make sure there was a positive voice out there, too."
So far, the church as sold about 30 signs at $10 each. "But we'd give them away if somebody has a need," Watson said.
The welcoming sign project is actually a part of a nationwide phenomenon that was started in Pennsylvania by the Mennonite Church, Ise said.
"I first saw the sign on the internet. Some version of the signs, with the same welcoming message, are also being displayed in Boston, Ohio and Washington, D.C. I thought it was a great idea for us, too," he said.
In a column for the Biscayne Times, Ise said, "Nobody objects to immigration restrictions and controlled borders. but using political rhetoric and levers of the state to instill fear in millions who, other than their immigration status, are law-abiding residents and hard-working employees, or to push hatred of a religious minority, is a terrible phenomenon."
Therefore, while the signs are typically done in English, Spanish and Arabic in other areas, "Our church gave the sign a local spin and added Creole and Portuguese," Ise said. "There is such an anti-immigrant vibe out there. ... We are just trying to promote the Golden Rule spirit."
Miami Shores Community Church/United Church of Christ at 9823 NE Fourth Ave. was founded in 1933 and is the oldest church in Miami Shores. It has a membership of about 200 people, Watson said.
"There is a lot of diversity here — old and young, gay and straight, people from all walks of life who really care about their neighbors," she said.
"Sometimes it's so hard to keep your head above water in the world. To have someone to stick out their neck is rewarding.
If you would like to buy a sign, go to the church's website: miamishoresucc.org/neighbors, or call the church office at 305-759-3445.
Sounds of Rain Forest
The community is invited to "Sounds of the Rain Forest" at 6 p.m. Sunday at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Rd. The event is in collaboration with Pinecrest Gardens and the Florida Grand Opera (FGO), and will start with a tour of Pinecrest Gardens, one of the only natural rain forests in the U.S.
Attendees will also hear a lecture on the history of the Amazonian rain forest, see the setting of the opera Florencia en el Amazonas as well as a performance of studio artists from FGO.
Also, at 7:30 p.m. on April 17, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens will present "Ecology of the Rain Forest" at the gardens, 10901 Old Cutler Rd. in Coral Gables.
The Fairchild staff will discuss the preservation of the world's largest and most bio-diverse tropical rain forest. The lecture will be followed with a performance with highlights from Florencia en el Amazonas by the studio artists from FGO.
Admission is free with RSVP. call 800-741-1010 to reserve your seat.
Traffic stop demonstration
If you have ever wondered how you should act if you are stopped by a police officer, you should stop by Mount Hermon A.M.E. Church from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The church at 17800 NW 25th Ave. in Miami Gardens will present a Traffic Safety Stop Demonstration program to educate citizens on what, and what not, to do when stopped by the police for a traffic violation.
Sponsored by the Sons of Allen and chairman Stanley Lewis in partnership with Councilman David Williams Jr., and Homes for Heroes, the program will have police officers on hand from Miami Gardens, Miramar and Miami to demonstrate an actual traffic stop in the parking lots of the church.
The program will feature a continental breakfast at 9 a.m., followed by the program. Following the parking lot demonstrations, the participants will reassemble in the church's H.E. Green Community Center for a debriefing.
It's free. Call Stanley Lewis at 305-781-8069 for more information.