When I was in the third grade, I used to linger for a few minutes after school, just so I could mingle with the junior and high school students walking down Northwest 13th Street from Booker T. Washington High School. I so wanted to be a part of the great BTW!
I would get my chance, a few years later, when in the seventh grade and living in Liberty City, my mom enrolled me in the school of my dreams. Dorsey High, where many of my friends attended, would have been closer and less expensive; Mom had to pay for my transportation because there were no school buses transporting black children from Liberty City to attend school in Overtown.
At the time, I didn’t know how significant Booker T. Washington Junior/Senior High School was to the Miami community and even to some other local cities in South Florida. A number of students came to Booker T. from other counties.
Back in the day, the school was the center of Miami’s black social life. It was where the all-night gospel sings were held — where its students were introduced to the opera and entertainers such as Lena Horne and so many others who stopped by when they were in town.
It was a place where, aside from the three “R’s,” students were actually taught such life skills as good manners; how to address our elders, and even how to properly make a bed. We learned in home economics (everyday living) how to bake bread, plan family meals and sew — skills that have served me well until this very day.
“Booker T. Washington, for whom the school is named, stood tall for education,” said Mary Hylor, Ph.D., chairwoman of the event. “He wanted his people to rise up … and lift the veil of ignorance from them through education. This great school has produced some of the greatest lawyers, doctors, teachers, politicians, ministers, community leaders, as well as those who fought in the armed forces to help keep America safe.”
Anyway, dear old BTW, Miami’s first high school for blacks, is celebrating its 90th birthday throughout 2016. I think it is befitting that the school will start its celebration during Black History Month, which has the national theme of “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories.”
Although the site of the original Booker T. is about a block from the present site, we former Washingtonians/Tornadoes, still referred to the site as a “hallowed ground.”
Kicking off the 90th anniversary celebration will be the annual Orange, Black and White Extravaganza at 4 p.m. Feb. 21 at the school, 1200 NW Sixth Ave. in Overtown. The fancy affair (attire is after five or formal), will also honor all former school queens, known as “Miss Booker T. Washington.”
Tickets to the event are $15 each. Reservations must be made by Feb. 15. For reservations and more information, contact Hylor at 954-551-8314 or Barbara Burrows (she is a former Miss BTW), co-chair, at 305-633-4331. If you RSVP in time, your ticket will be at the door upon your arrival.
Black History Month events
In celebration of Black History Month, Miami Shores PoC (People of Color) will present several programs to include book readings, jazz and the spoken word.
At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs, professor of history and interim chair of the Department of Social Science at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, will lead a discussion of the New York Times bestseller Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Hobbs is a social commentator and the author of the 2015 book, “Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida.”
At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, an evening of jazz and R&B will be presented by Shenita Hunt. A Georgia native, Hunt’s repertoire is steeped in gospel. She has performed at “Jazz in the Gardens,” for the NAACP, the Miami Music Festival, the city of Sunny Isles Beach Festival and at the Sunsplash Reggae Festival in Jamaica.
At 11 a.m. Feb. 20, the celebrated Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat will appear at the Brockway Memorial Library to read from her works. Danticat is the author of the books Krik! Krak! and The Farming of Bones. She will also read from her children’s book Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation and Untwine, a young adult novel about identical twins, family and loss.
The celebration will conclude at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Precision Barber Club, 9703 NE Second Ave., in Miami Shores with “Spoken Word with Marlon ‘POW’ Ferdinand and Simply Seth.” Other artists may also join.
For more information call Roni Bennett at 954-644-2534.
Alvin Ailey dance workshop
Aspiring dancers ages 13 and older, will have an “absolutely unique New York experience” on Feb. 13 and 14, when the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will offer for the first time in Miami “The Ailey Experience Workshop.’’
According to a press release, the workshop is designed to expand on the late Alvin Ailey’s commitment to making dance accessible to everyone. The workshop will give dancers the opportunity to learn from leading instructors at The Ailey Extension and former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company members, including Miami native Amos J. Machanic Jr. and Lisa Johnson-Willingham, as well as Ailey hip-hop instructor Jonathan Lee.
The workshop will include two master classes with live accompanists and provide an in-depth study of Alvin Ailey’s iconic American masterpiece, “Revelations,” featuring the traditional spirituals and gospel songs that are essential to Ailey’s masterwork. Participants will also have an opportunity to win a scholarship to the Ailey Experience Summer Workshop in New York City.
The workshop will be held at Young Contemporary Dance Theatre, 7210 NW 35th Ave. Pre-registration is required. Click here to pre-register.
Miami native Robert Battle is the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which will have its 2016 Miami engagement at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Feb. 18-21. Battle will also have his first local book-signing on Feb. 15 at the Books & Books Arsht Center location.
Celebration of black culture on stage
More Black History Celebrations: The African Heritage Cultural Arts Center at 6161 NW 22nd Ave. in Liberty City will present “Simply Simone — The Music of Nina Simone” Feb. 17 through March 13 (weekends only).
Opening night will be at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, with a reception at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 20, where attendees will meet and greet the cast and director and participate in a question-and answer-session.
The show stars Sarah Gracel, Anderson, Ja’Nia, Harden, Toddra, Brunson and Deana Butler Rahming, and is directed by Teddy Harrell, Jr.
Book sale at N.M. Public Library
The annual February Book Sale at North Miami Public Library will be Feb. 12-14 at the library, 835 NE 132nd St. in North Miami. A preview evening will be on Friday.
The public book sale is an opportunity to add to your book collection. The hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Books can be bought from $2 and $3, and $5 for specialty books. Paperbacks and audio tapes are $1 or less, while magazines range from 10 cents to $1. There will also be music CDs for $1, puzzles, 50 cents, videos and DVDs from $1 to $2.
If you would like to join the Friends of the North Miami Public Library, the annual membership is $10 per person. If you join on Friday evening, you will immediately be admitted to the pre-sale event.
For more information call Susan Neuman at 305-372-9966.
Talk on national ‘plumeria collection’
The Tropical Flowering Tree Society will meet at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd. in Coral Gables in the Corbin Building, next to the Garden House.
The event will feature Hetty Ford, curator of the Plumeria Collection at Naples Botanical Garden, as the guest speaker. She will speak on “the National Plumeria Collection,” which is recognized by the North American Plant Collections Consortium.
Meetings are held on the second Monday of the month. Visitors are welcome at no cost. Membership fees are $30 per person a year. Call 305-389-5404 for more information or go to the website, tfts.org, or Facebook.
Orchestra boot camp
The Miami Music Project will continue is mission to provide music to all children with its orchestra boot camp to take place on teacher planning days.
Miami Music Project Founder James Judd will lead the Boot Camp from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 16 at the Little Havana Chapter, Citrus Grove Middle School, 2153 NW Third St. The school is home to one of Miami Music Project’s after-school programs and helps 100 students with intensive classical music training on teacher workdays. The project was awarded a $105,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Said Judd: “I’m looking forward to conducting the upcoming Miami Music Project Orchestra Boot Camp. There was an instant connection the first time I conducted the … camp. Since then, these young musicians have impressed me with their dedication and musicianship.”
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.