Opa-locka got a boost of confidence as it celebrated its 89th birthday last week.
“When you think about survival, you think about Opa-locka,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan during the city’s celebration. “It has been demonstrated time and time again that Opa-locka always rises above everything that comes at it. The city has had various ups and down, but it is really up now.”
For the big 89, Opa-locka hosted a last-minute party decked out with displays of poster-sized photographs and nearly antique newspaper clippings documenting the city’s proudest historical moments at Sherbondy Village Community Center.
More than 200 residents crowded the orange, red, yellow and white balloon-filled auditorium as The Old Skool Gang, a Pembroke Pines-based Motown band, performed R&B and jazz favorites. Commissioner Terence Pinder suited up as a sheik, in honor of the city’s Arabian Nights theme.
Mayor Myra Taylor led the celebration honoring current and past Opa-locka residents as they sat up front as if on display. Among the admired were three “pioneer citizens of 1926” – Vera Johnson, Elliot Flanders and Shirley Bodwell.
“They were here when the city was born,” Taylor said. “And they still live in the great city of Opa-locka.”
Taylor also honored some of the city’s hometown heroes, including former and current NFL players Thaddeus “Thad” Lewis of the Cleveland Browns, and Elvis Dumervil,of the Baltimore Ravens. Jo Marie Payton, best known as the quick-witted mother on the TV sitcom Family Matters, who has roots in the city, was also recognized.
“We are small, but we are tall,” Taylor said. “And we are propelling ourselves from great to grand.”
She didn’t mention, however, that during a city workshop last month, the city manager suggested possibly cutting a few city employee jobs to fix the city’s troublesome budget. The issue will be revisited later this month.
“If 89 was this good,” Taylor said as a candle-lit replica of Opa-locka’s historical City Hall rolled out on a cart. “You should think about 90.”