World-class city must be inclusive

What did you want to be when you grew up and why? It was a question asked in a cute little kiosk recently at the One Community One Goal report by the Beacon Council.

But I came away from this wonderful session asking, What do we — Miami and Miami-Dade County — want to be when we grow up?

Will we become a world-class city or one that did not realize its potential, aborted before its potential was fully realized? As Brickell, downtown Miami and Midtown are realizing a full birth — or rebirth — Overtown, the Black Grove, Liberty City, Little Haiti, Opa-locka and, perhaps, Miami Gardens struggle to rise above the rhetoric. And do we even look south to Richmond Heights? These communities were never given the “neonatal care,” birthed with the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck of our true urban core. Life-giving fluids were choked off by I-95, dividing a community, integration creating a falsehood. An influx of immigrants made their own magic in the Magic City.

Are we in the middle of a gestation period, leaving the landscape of haves and have-nots? Now, more than ever, the world has its eyes on the Magic City as the renaissance unfolds.

I attended two sessions on the Beacon Council’s progress report on One Community One Goal, the road map for the economic development of our community. It targets seven industries: aviation, hospitality/tourism, information technology, creative design, international banking/finance, life science/healthcare, and trade and logistics. The brain drain was the theme of one of them. The question was, “Why Miami?” The response, eloquently stated, was: “Why not Miami?”

We truly are in one of the most dynamic, diverse communities in the world. No matter where one travels, Miami is magic to the ears of people around the globe.

But that is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to opportunities for professionals from the African Diaspora. There is a lot of conversation about participation in the economic prosperity that is taking place in Miami-Dade County, and the lack of people from among the African Diaspora who are among them.

I use “African Diaspora” because we hail from the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Antigua, the African continent and all points far and in between, and America.

The debate continues throughout the Diaspora as it relates to opportunities. We talk among ourselves as we stand on the outside looking in. The disparity is economic as well. One part of our community applauds and champions our diversity, while another fights for survival. We speak about how one day the rest of America will mirror Miami-Dade County. As we laud ourselves — the mecca of diversity — it is also time for a true conversation to take place in the Magic City.

This conversation should not only be about the targeted areas identified by the Beacon Council, but the lack of economic inclusion of the African Diaspora, not only in the public sector but in the private sector, too. Our elected officials have the ability to direct policy and push to have participation in projects where public land/policy is involved, such as Bayside and the proposed SkyRise project, All Aboard Florida and the Miami Dolphins. We must have the same conversation as a community when it comes to development in the private sector. Greater Miami will not reach its full potential if everyone is not allowed to participate in the growth. It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to birth a World Class Community.

G. Eric Knowles is president of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce.