Miami-Dade County

For 25 years, they’ve been teaching these children to ‘Dream Big’

URGENT, Inc., which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, was instrumental in restoring Dorsey Park. The Overtown park was once the South Florida headquarters of the Negro Baseball League, and baseball greats such as Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson played at the park.
URGENT, Inc., which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, was instrumental in restoring Dorsey Park. The Overtown park was once the South Florida headquarters of the Negro Baseball League, and baseball greats such as Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson played at the park. MIAMI HERALD File Photo

The star-studded opening of the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta earlier this month made history.

Perry, an actor, playwright, producer, director and filmmaker, is the first African American to own a major film studio alone, without corporate backing or proprietary partners. His massive studios include 12 sound stages located at Fort McPherson, which was once a Confederate army base.

Welcoming guests to his 330-acre property, Perry challenged them to dream big like he did. Filmmaker Spike Lee is reported to have said, “This is an American dream.”

On Saturday, Oct. 26, URGENT, Inc. will celebrate 25 years of encouraging youth in heritage neighborhoods to dream and dream big! Headquartered in Overtown, URGENT includes after-school programs, summer camps, Rites of Passage and FACE (Film Arts Culture Entrepreneurship Production & Arts Studio).

Henry Crespo Sr., a longtime Overtown resident, founded URGENT — Urban Renewal Greater Enhancement National Team — to transform communities through the arts and technology. He and his wife, Saliha Nelson, vice president and inducted into the Women’s Fund of Miami Dade Honor Roll, lead the nonprofit.

URGENT serves Overtown, Liberty City and communities in South Miami-Dade, including Perrine and Goulds.

It was in Goulds that Leatrice Damus was introduced to URGENT. She and her husband, Dr. Alfred Damus, relocated to Miami from Chicago over 40 years ago. (Dr. Damus had been the chief of emergency medicine at Mercy Hospital.)

As arts chair for the Greater Miami Chapter of The Links, Leatrice met the award-winning artist Kadir Nelson, Saliha’s brother.

“I was blown away by Kadir’s awesome paintings and the variety of transformational programs URGENT, Inc. offered,” she said.

The two groups worked together to beautify Dorsey Park, the Overtown baseball park that once was the South Florida headquarters of the Negro Baseball League. Kadir’s murals honoring Satchel Page, James “Biz” Mackey and Josh Gibson — stars of the Negro Leagues — adorn the park, 1701 NW First Ave.

“As co-chairs of the 25th anniversary gala, my husband and I are proud to support URGENT, Inc. . in its growth and empowering programs,” Leatrice Damus said.

The couple is heading up a $25 million capital campaign. The campaign will raise funds to develop a Film Arts Culture Entrepreneurship (FACE) Production & Arts Studio, establishing space for youth creatives to learn, produce and create digital, print and visual art.

URGENT also wants to establish the URGENT Academy, an apprenticeship center to provide opportunities for high school youth to develop an entrepreneurial mindset to pursue careers in the creative, design and technology industries.

The Royal Lion King Gala will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the historic Elks Hall, 4949 NW Seventh Ave. There will be a Golfing for a Cause fundraiser on Dec. 18.

Contact Emily Gunter for ticket information. Call 305-915-3195 or email emily@urgentinc.org .

Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Ph.D., is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History & Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to djf@bellsouth.net.

  Comments