Over the past decades, I have watched the Liberty Square housing projects go from a place where black families placed their names on a long waiting list to be able to move in, to a place where no family with a choice would want to rear their children.
I watched the area grow from a community of flats and two-story apartments where the residents took pride in their homes and front yards, and where people slept with their front doors open on hot summer nights, to a community where it is unsafe to take a stroll at night and where street bumps and fences have done little to keep out the drugs and other crimes.
It was an area that had street parties with no gang fighting and shootings, and where teenagers often danced to the music of live bands in front of the community center. Its park was a place for summer fun and games, where Overtown and Bunche Park softball teams competed peacefully with the Liberty City teams. And if, per chance, there was a fight among some of the youngsters, it was a fistfight, and by the next day all was forgotten.
It was a community where the Miami Police Department would put up barriers at the intersections of Northwest 65th Street and 13th and 14th avenues at Christmas time, making the area a gigantic, outdoor skating rink.
But something drastic happened in the Liberty Square housing project, one of the oldest in the country. The neighborhood pride died, and its name changed to the Pork ’n Beans project, a name which seemed to be synonymous with crime.
Now, there are plans under way to tear down the project and build brand-new homes. I see this as a good move. The Liberty Square area is long overdue for a refreshing face-lift. Perhaps new homes will instill a new sense of pride in the people who move there.
One can only hope that this new plan for the Liberty Square Housing Project will work.
But I can’t help but think that it seems much easier to build new homes than to instill a new sense of pride and hope in the people who will live in them.
African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
Some good things are still happening in Liberty City. And one of the nicest things to come out of the area in the past 40 years is the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center at 6161 NW 22nd Ave.
The corner property used to house a gas station and mom & pop grocery store, where neighborhood mothers could buy fresh vegetables and other staples for their families.
Then, one day the store and the gas station were gone and in their place was the Model City Cultural Arts Center, which in 1990 became the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, a name more befitting the programs offered there. Its former directors included Doran Cooper and Joan Timmons.
For the past 31 years, the five-building complex has been headed by Marshal Davis Sr., and offers a multitude of programs, including live plays in the 250-seat Black Box Theater, a 300-seat concert hall; stellar training in the performing arts, a dance studio, and a visual arts gallery, to name a few.
On March 6, 7 and 8, the African American Performing Arts Community Theatre (AAPACT) will present Sisters! A Celebration of the Human Spirit in recognition of Women’s History Month and the 40th anniversary celebration of the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center.
The Sisters! cast includes Adreana Noel, Charita Coleman, Daryl Patrice, Deana Rahming, Debi Pemberton, Sarah Graacel, Shauna Burris, Stephon Duncan and Vaughn-Rian St. James.
The play is written by Jerry Ayers and is directed by Rachel Finley. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. March 6; 7:30 p.m. March 7; and 4 p.m. March 8. Tickets are $20 each on March 6 and 8, and $25 on March 7.
Free Black History Month concert
You are invited to a free concert to celebrate Black History Month at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, at the North Dade Regional Library at 2455 NW 183rd St. in Miami Gardens.
The program will feature the Miami Oratorio Society, directed by Andrew Anderson and performing Negro spirituals, gospel and solos. The concert is the first of the musical group’s 2015 concert series.
For more information on the Miami Oratorio Society, call Gloria Christian at 954-882-2242.
‘Youth for Hope’ concert at Ransom Everglades
The Alhambra Orchestra will present a “Youth for Hope” concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ransom Everglades School, 3575 Main Highway in Coconut Grove.
The concert will showcase young local musicians who were selected in rigorous competition: Annabel Chyung, top winner and a Ransom-Everglades senior who will perform the Sibelius violin concerto with the orchestra; James Leng, a 10th-grader at New World School of the Arts who will perform a Schumann piano concerto; and cellist Roey Dushi, a senior at the Dreyfoos School in West Palm Beach who will play Tchaikovsky.
The program will include the Danzón #2 by Arturo Márquez, and a new work by young composer Anthony Arcaini.
The concert is free and so is parking. Call 305-668-9260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Greater Miami Symphonic Band performs
The Greater Miami Symphonic Band will present a family-friendly concert at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Pinecrest Gardens Banyan Bowl, 11000 SW 57th Ave.
The concert will feature trumpet soloist Robert Vega-Dowda, a Palmetto High School senior and Pinecrest resident.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for students/children over 5 and are available the day of the concert at the box office or online at www.GMSB.org. The box office opens at 2 p.m.
Documentary screening at Jewish Museum
A new documentary, Is There Room at the Inn? Muslims, Jews and the Holy Land, will deal with that question in a premiere screening at 2 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, 301 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.
The film seeks to answer the ageless question on the Middle East conflict: Are Jews and Muslims doomed to fight forever in the Middle East? Or are there ways to share the land in peace?
The one-hour film includes excerpts of a forum held at Florida International University among cutting-edge Muslim and Jewish scholars, who asked the question, “What if there were guidelines in both Torah and Quran, and their commentaries, on how to live in peace?”
The film features Nathan Katz, a distinguished professor and director of Jewish studies at FIU. He is also the founder of FIU’s Program for the Study of Spirituality and helped develop the university’s Asian Studies Program.
The film also features Aisha Y. Musa, a specialist in the Quran and Islamic law at Colgate University; Imam Khaleel Mohammed, professor of religious studies at San Diego State University; and Rabbi David Novak, chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.
A discussion will follow the screening. It’s free and open to the public.
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email email@example.com. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.