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Overtown Culture: Jazz and spoken-word series

A great jazz spot in Miami is as hard to come by as a cold front. But every once in a while, a few people join forces to do what is seemingly impossible. The Black Archives and Design Group Miami are trying to resurrect Overtown’s culture by introducing Expressions, a monthly spoken word and jazz series. This month’s event takes place on Saturday, June 22, at The Historic Ward Rooming House Gallery in Overtown (249 Northwest 9th St., Miami, FL) from 7-11 p.m. The idea is, if they build it, people will attend, support and see that jazz does have a home in Miami. The $10 cover charge to attend includes fried chicken and waffles from Overtown’s famous Jackson’s Soul Food Restaurant.

Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns, a native Miami poet with international acclaim will host Saturday’s event. Other local slam poets will also perform. DJ Jody Hill’s Deep Fried Funk Band will provide soulful jazz, neo soul, and r&b tunes.

“We are bringing back the rich heritage and culture of Miami’s historically black pioneer community,” said Timothy A. Barber, executive director of The Black Archives. “We are creating the programming that will be transferred to the new Lyric Theater complex once it is completed.”

From the 1930s and into the 1950s, Overtown was the bedrock for musicians and culture. Long after Miami Beach spots came to a close for the night, Overtown speakeasies were just getting started. Musicians came from all over to hear what Miami had to offer. It was the place to be and be discovered. Residents often recall that Miami’s jazz and blues had a distinct sound that stood on its own, a part from New Orleans, Memphis and other parts of the Deep South. However, the limelight didn’t last long. In the 1960s Interstate I-95 was erected and split the thriving community and its business district in two. The area, its arts and culture collapsed.

(Learn more about Overtown’s history)

“In time, a city of rich history in the arts and entertainment will resume its place,” said Vaughns. “An evening of Expressions is ready to bring Overtown back to life.”