Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926. Historian Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study Of African American Life and History (ASALH), selected the week in February that contains the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln, Feb 12, 1809, the 16th president of the United States who signed the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves and Frederick Douglass, February 14, 1817, orator, journalist and anti-slavery leader.
Annually a national theme is selected for the month to guide study and reflection throughout the year focusing on the achievements and challenges of black people in United States and world history. The 2015 national black history theme is “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.” The intent is for schools, churches, civic and social organizations to start in February incorporating the theme and use it in the coming months. For more information contact: www.asalh100.org.
Again this year local activities began at Florida Memorial University with the presentation of the 22nd annual African American History calendar. Hosted by the South Florida Chapter of AT&T’s Community NETwork the following individuals were honored for their achievements: Shirley Gibson, Patricia Harper Garrett, Clarence Pittman, Jr., Kenneth R. Tolbert, Traci Young-Byron, Edwin Holland, Joycelyn M. Lee, Barrington Irving, Jerry J. Rushin, Brodes H. Hartley, Jr., Edwin Shirley, Jr. M.D., and Ralphu Williams.
During the following weeks youth and adults of all races learned about black history at school, church and community programs. One example, the Mural Dedication Ceremony at Historic Dorsey Park at 1701 NW First Ave. Formerly the South Florida home of the Negro Baseball League, by custom and law at one time it was the only park available to Blacks and Cubans.
On Feb. 17, there was a program and exhibition game at Dorsey Park, the Miami Marlins Ayudan vs. Overtown Rattlers. The sponsoring organization, Urgent, Inc., and its partners, began the program by dedicating the completion of over 6,000 square feet of full color murals painted on the back wall of the park celebrating the Negro Baseball League in Overtown. Award winning artist/illustrator Kadir Nelson lead muralist; and Alex Douyon, lead mentoring artist were recognized. Saliha Nelson, Urgent Inc.’s Vice President introduced technology into Miami’s Black History Month with the self-guided art walk. It is available at the park by downloading the free Dorsey Detector Mobile App for Android or iPhone. For information contact:www.urgentinc.org or Twitter@urgentinc.
More activities are scheduled this month. The inaugural Black Tech Week, February 23-28, will celebrate black innovators, showcase their work and create networking moments. Presented by Code Fever Miami, with a $100,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, the week will focus on entrepreneurship and encourage the wider black community to move from being consumers of social media and technology to creators. Founders Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson, a married Miami couple, anticipate that Black Tech Week will accelerate Miami as the US gateway to the Caribbean and Africa. Open to the entire community, those with an interest in growing Miami’s entrepreneurial economy are especially encouraged to participate. For a schedule of activities visit: www.blacktechweek.com.
The entire family will enjoy events sponsored by The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Multicultural Tourism Team in partnership with The Black Archives & Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc.
Beginning Feb. 23, a visitor center at the Historic Lyric Theater opens providing visitors, residents, family and class reunions information on attractions highlighting the heritage of Overtown and other pioneer neighborhoods. Offering a wide variety of maps, calendars of events, tours and special offerings throughout the year the new center is part of the GMCVB’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness and enjoyment of Miami-Dade County’s vibrant, diverse multicultural heritage neighborhoods. Hours of operation, Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm.
On Saturday, Feb. 28, a memorable, enjoyable, educational and fun experience is planned for visitors and residents to explore the history, heritage and music of black Miami. Riding on the double decker open-top bus will be tour conductor Timothy A. Barber, Executive Director of The Black Archives/Lyric Theater and adjunct history professor at Florida Memorial University. He will highlight historic landmarks and new development in culturally diverse neighborhoods populated by people of color. The tour will take place on board Big Bus Miami and may be enjoyed inside on the lower deck or upstairs on the open top deck.
Tour stops will include Coconut Grove, Brownsville, Liberty City and Lemon City/Little Haiti. Riders will learn about the historic past and current development. Tours depart at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. from The Historic Lyric Theater, 819 NW Second Ave., Miami, FL 33136. Each trip takes about four hours. Cost $10 per person, children age 5 and under free, must be accompanied by an adult. For ticket information call 786.708-4610;email@example.com or www.theblackarchives.org.
Parking for the Lyric Theater is located in the southeast lot, corner of Northwest Eighth Street and Second Avenue. Entry is on Eighth Street.
Also on Saturday riders will be able to view historic movies in the Historic Lyric Theater and visit, “A Man Among the People, A Purvis Young Homecoming Exhibition.” Designed and built by Timothy Barber the exhibition features collections donated to the Bass Museum and The Black Archives by the Rubell family.
Born in Liberty City on Feb. 2, 1943 Purvis later moved several miles south to Goodbread Alley in Overtown, a neighborhood populated by black migrant and immigrant families living in overcrowded conditions. Goodbread Alley consisted of rows of shotgun houses located off Northwest Thircd Avenue and 14th Street adjacent to Booker T. Washington Jr. Sr. High School on the west and the Dixie Park Library on the east. Later, the library was renamed the Culmer/Overtown and the park was renamed for the Rev. Theodore R. Gibson.
The exhibition features discards and trash that Purvis collected around the neighborhood and used to create art. As a result of Purvis’ ability to make beauty from rubbish his images are recognized at the Smithsonian, Morehouse College and in galleries throughout the art world.
Alma Gosier-Brown, the librarian at the Dixie Park Library in the 1970s, observed Purvis, a daily library patron, studying the works of master artists such as Picasso, El Greco and Daumier. One day while Gosier-Brown was weeding the art section Purvis requested the discards. He began placing drawings in books withdrawn from the library’s collection. In appreciation for their assistance he presented each staff member with some of his first paintings.
Decades later actress and art collector Jane Fonda discussed his work in a documentary entitled, “Purvis Of Overtown.” Famed broadcast journalist Geraldo Rivera’s segment on Purvis gives insight to Miami’s self taught urban expressionist.
In 2006, The Black Archives’ first Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Purvis Young for his ability to create something out of nothing using everyday materials. After Purvis’ death, April 20, 2010, recording artist and art collector Lenny Kravitz praised Purvis for sharing his gift with the world. Through documentaries and YouTube interviews Purvis’ legacy continues as he tells his story himself.
The Purvis Young exhibition continues until June 30, 2015 at the Historic Lyric Theater. Downloading the Dorsey Detector Mobile App for the self-guided art walk and technology learned at Black Tech Week have the potential of adding value to our quality of life in the coming months and years.
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.