The Oscar-winning film ‘Moonlight’ has cast a new light on Liberty City and brought fame to the neighborhood, but long before the breakout film ever hit the big screen, Liberty City was its own shining star.
In its heyday, the neighborhood was home to the black middle class and the social hub for the black social elite. While Overtown just a few miles away was known as the Harlem of the South for hosting some of the best entertainment in black culture, Liberty City had its own crown as the Social Center of the South. Martin Luther King, Jr, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X all spent time there.
Even amidst the changes over the past few decades and in anticipation of Liberty City’s transformation, there are a few gems in this neighborhood that continue to keep the culture alive.
1. Historic Hampton House
This Art Deco-style motel in Brownsville was known for its famous jazz club, where Sam Cooke and Sammy Davis Jr. performed. It was also known for swanky tea parties and as the after party spot for black entertainers after their performances on Miami Beach. There’s even a famous photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the hotel’s pool, and it’s said to be the place where Muhammad Ali first met Malcolm X (he converted to Islam shortly thereafter).
The Historic Hampton House has since undergone more than $6 million in renovations funded by the county and reopened in 2015 after years of neglect and near demolition. It has kept its original charm, and many of the motel rooms are being converted into a museum, exhibition space and multipurpose event facility. The Historic Hampton House Community Trust currently manages the facility and promotes it as an event space. You can check out the Historic Hampton House every last Friday of the month for the Jazz in the House live jazz series.
4240 NW 27th Ave., Miami
2. African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
The African Heritage Cultural Arts Center is the heart of Liberty City’s arts and creative community. For more than 40 years, this creative space has nurtured young dancers, actors, singers, visual artists and musicians through its after school arts academy and various arts programs. It’s also the training ground for the young stars of ‘Moonlight’ and has served as a community outlet for cultural events, including the 2016 musical ‘Simply Simone – The Music of Nina Simone.’
The complex includes a black box theater, gallery space, rehearsal spaces and studios and recording studio and is available for rental, special events and for an artist residency program.
6161 NW Second Ave., Miami
3. Good Grubbin'
We can’t shout out Liberty City without also shouting out the foodie joints that have become synonymous for good home cooking. Here are a few places to satisfy your cravings.
2469 NW 62nd St., Miami
Over the years, MLK Restaurant has become a staple for good breakfasts. No frills, just good Southern cooking. You can’t go wrong with anythingon the menu, but the catfish and grits is a pretty popular item.
Bahamian Pot Restaurant
6301 NW Sixth Ave., Miami
Here’s another Liberty City staple that has been on the block for more than 25 years serving up traditional Bahamian cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’ll find dishes like stewed conch and grits, boiled fish and johnnycake, and your traditional soul food favorites.
Conch It Up Soul Food
4507 NW 17th St., Miami
Soul food and seafood is the perfect combo at Conch It Up. Whether you want a quick fixing of fried conch, fish and shrimp or a dinner plate with pigeon peas included, this restaurant won’t break the bank.