When Cam Noldon stepped onto Interstate 195 last December, he and hundreds by his side knew they were making history — and sending a message — when they stopped traffic on the highway.
“That night was different,” said Noldon, who can be seen holding a shirt with the words “Black Lives Matter” in an exhibit by photographer Cendino Temé that opened Friday at the historic Ward Rooming House in Overtown.
The 2014 “Shut It Down” protest started during peak hours of Art Basel weekend in Midtown and later moved to I-195. Traffic stretched along the interstate for miles. Noldon said the disruption had its purpose. As he marched, he saw people of different races and ethnicities coming together for change.
“To see people who are not African Americans say, ‘Man, I’m with y’all, I understand, I have compassion,” Noldon said.
Temé and the Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida hope the photographs can contribute to a national conversation about race happening in Miami. The “No More Blues” exhibit will remain open and free to the public until Dec 31.
Temé’s images, each tinted in a cool shade of blue, show a city still angered by the August 2013 death of local teen Israel Hernandez, a graffiti artist who died after being shot by a Miami Beach police Taser stun gun August 2013; Mike Brown, an 18-year-old black man fatally shot in August 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri; and Eric Garner, who died July 2014 in New York during a police chokehold.
“Visuals are such a strong thing when it comes to the narrative of any group, especially ours,” said Temé, who is Haitian American.
Temé, who heard about the protest from friends within the local grassroots organization Dream Defenders, said people need to be reminded of last December’s protests.
“This is something that has to do with Black Lives Matter, but when you look at my images, you see fists and rainbows,” Temé said.
When it came to where to display the photographs, Temé said, “Why not Overtown?”
“This was the epicenter for blacks at one point,” he said.
But Nikki Jones, a lifelong resident of Overtown serving wine and hors d'oeuvres at Friday night’s reception, said the fight for black lives in Overtown needs more attention.
“Living in Overtown, getting up every day and walking out your door, you’re taking a chance,” Jones said. “There’s a lot going on in Overtown and it’s not being noticed.”
Overtown, grappling with its crime and poverty, is in the midst of a transformation. Temé’s images, Jones said, could help empower and engage residents.
Clarence Woods, executive director of the Southeast Overtown and Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, said “there’s a lot of good stuff happening.” The CRA, through the Black Archives, funded the photo exhibit and batch of other projects aimed at restoring neighborhood infrastructure.
“These types of exhibits in arts and culture have been a pivotal tool in the revitalization of communities like [Overtown],” Woods said.