Victoria Jackson: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photo taken of Victoria Jackson in 2020. Photo by Nigel Courtney/ CC BY 4.0

Hello Everyone! My name is Victoria Jackson and I was born and raised in Miami Florida. I am junior in the Honors College at Florida International University studying English-Education. Outside of school I love travelling, reading and dancing. I am looking forward to exploring the place I have called home, seeing and experiencing the different wonders Miami has to offer and creating memories with the rest of my classmates.

Deering as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Trickle in Time”


From the moment you enter the grounds of the Deering Estate, you feel as if you are being far removed from society and entering a world from another time. We stepped into and gazed at a true Miami that was untouched and uncultivated. We were greeted by a variety of plants, an untamed wildlife environment and a rich history.

While hiking we explored the limited history of the Tequesta people, a tribe of people who existed and inhabited the land before us. Having a glimpse of their life and holding the tools they used was such a memorable experience. During our journey we came across one of their last surviving burial mounds. They were buried face down with their heads together and on top of their remains rested a large tree. We were told that it is said that their life force flows from them into the tree, providing it with life and the ability to grow to new heights.

I truly felt it. I felt not only the energy going into the tree but intertwining and exuding into the vast surrounding nature. Seeping into the soil and providing a strong foundation for the flora and fauna to thrive off of. I felt completely as one and surrounded by the spirits of our geographical ancestors. Surrounded by the spirits of the people who once occupied the land that we know today. Surrounded by the spirits whose names we do not know, whose appearance we are unaware of and whose tribe was decimated, still helping to enrich the land, and helping life to continue on. Time has continued on and their people are no more but as my mud-covered shoes hit the same trail that they walked all those many years ago I felt connected.

South Beach as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Reflection of a Shinning City”


Millions of tourists flock to the beautiful icon and staple of Miami that lies on the south part of Miami Beach. They come to immerse themselves in a community with different people and styles. They come to take part in the action on Ocean Drive and experience all the sights, sounds and smells that the area comes with. To experience this wonderful blend of art, history, and cultural heritage. An experience that a lot of us who live here in Miami take for granted.

While walking with the class I felt like I had a special lens on that was allowing me to see the streets I have traveled a couple of times before in a new and clearer way. Many people wish they could revisit something for the first time again and feel the same amazement, admiration, curiosity, and excitement as they did initially. As we went on with our journey, I felt like I was getting a chance to experience this wish. That I was seeing and experiencing South Beach for the first time through a whole different perspective.

We learned about the amazing inspirations and ideas that formed the wonderful architecture that adds to the unique culture of Miami. Viewing the great Miami Modern, MiMo, architecture and its geometric style, nautical theme, curved and open court characteristics. Looking at the beautiful and scenic concentration of Art Deco buildings graced with symmetrical and repetitive patterns of natural elements, neon colors, pastel highlights and shaped by dreams and ideas of the future.

As we continued to make our way, I could not help but think back to what we learned about the great and beneficial yet awful, segregated, and dehumanized foundation of the neighborhood that we have come to know. I was shocked that not only had it happened but also that it was information that was not well known. When I recounted the details to some family and friends they were just as taken aback as I was. It upset me that these things are not being discussed leading to not only more ignorance but a lack of honor to the individuals who built and did so much for the area without getting recognition. While we can see how times have evolved and how South Beach has become a place for acceptance for all types of people, it is instances like these that show how many steps Miami has taken in terms of justice, honor and accountability.

The idea of viewing this community from a new perspective was amplified when we saw the impact that the Coronavirus is having on the area. While it was unique opportunity to walk through the streets without much car or foot traffic and have a glimpse into a more peaceful atmosphere like how it was in the 80’s, we were brought back and given a harsh reminder of the direct results of the pandemic and collapse of the economy. Where there was so much life end energy flowing through and around every shop and restaurant is now vacant.

Downtown as Text

Phot by Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“A Paradox”


While it contains a beautiful mixture of cultures that has existed for years, Downtown Miami is no stranger to the inequality, prejudice and racism that was once ran widespread and unrestrained. The remnants and long-lasting effects can be still be seen throughout the area.

One of the places that we visited was the Miami Dade County Courthouse. A building that is supposed to endorse and represent justice and impartiality but is actually a constant reminder of the discrimination against individuals who lived here long ago. When approaching the front of the building people are greeted by a statue of Henry Flagler who helped make Miami what it is today but also utilized and then discarded and segregated individuals when they were no longer useful just because of the color of their skin. While we cannot ignore the great benefactions that Flagler provided for the development of Miami, to remain unknowledgeable about the history would be a big dishonor and disservice to the many hands who also had an important role in building the Miami that we love.

 People are also greeted by a plaque adorning the wall at the front that uses the derogatory term “negroes” to refer to some of its citizens. Greeted by its looming and intimidating structure the courthouse can already make someone who is going there unnerved, but having the statue and plaque placed proudly at the front of the building can deter anyone looking for a fighting chance. This building was built on and continues to highlight its own contradicting message of equality and representation of the innocent.

Our present system illuminates and prides itself on being a free, diverse, and progressive land that caters to its citizens and provides them with opportunity, chance, and justice. This blinding message truly blinds some into thinking that no effects of the past are present today when that is not the case. Just walking through the neighborhood, you could see such a stark contrast in the livelihood of its citizens. Many homeless people, predominantly people of color, roam the streets passing by established buildings. The wounds are still present. Yes, they have healed for those who have been privileged and provided with opportunity but for others the wounds are still raw and serve as a constant everyday reminder. These things need to be addressed and changed.

Chicken Key as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“A Veiled, Harsh Truth”


Exploring Chicken Key was truly an experience I would not change for the world. Visiting the small island in Biscayne Bay off the coast of Miami Dade County was an experience unlike anything I have done before. While throughout day we had some challenging moments that we had to work through, what we were able to accomplish as a class was truly amazing.

Along with the bustling schools of fish and the scuttling hermit crabs that greeted us as we parked our canoes and made our way on the island we were also greeted by the harsh reality of our actions. Pieces of glass, rope and strings, sections of shoes and other discarded objects littered the floor. As we explored and went deeper into the heart of the island the waste was not only becoming larger but was also becoming more prominent.

Looking at all of our canoes steadily pile up with trash saddened and angered me because I know that this land is an exceedingly small reflection of the many polluted areas across our planet. Just viewing the island at face value, it would be hard to believe that behind the scenic beauty would lie so much trash and waste. It makes me wonder why as a society we do not do more and push the conservation conversation to the forefront.

As we paddled away from the island it was a very bittersweet time. While we were not able to collect everything, we did feel good that we were able to make a dent in the growing mound of trash. The whole experience was extra special because it was our first time being together as a whole class. Though we were going to be separated again during our next meeting, we could hold onto this precious moment and use it influence our future choices.

Bakehouse as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“An Intersecting Medium”


Art is able to transcend so many barriers and serve as an amazing language of its own that has the ability to spread messages, prompt feelings, and evoke emotions. Visiting the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood served as an important reminder that individual efforts can lead to an increasing and powerful collective.

The arts have been a passion of mine from since I was smaller, specifically in dance. I loved being able to shape and mold myself as part of an ensemble to visually represent a bigger picture. While I have always held great admiration for art, I have not been given many opportunities to utilize it as a form, so getting a chance to explore the same concept through a different medium was extremely exciting.

Using a silicon-based stencil to create clay models, in a variety of colors and shapes, we were able to create, form and display a representation of the continuous problems happening to coral reefs due to climate change. Lauren Shapiro, the principal artist, does an amazing job of blending science, art, and technology to generate and produce more environmental awareness within our community and create a platform for additional information to be spread by scientists and researchers.

This was a wonderful representation of how the smallest contribution could affect the overall picture. From many different conversations I have had had with my peers, a lot of them wonder and have some degree of disbelief regarding how much of their individual effort could make a difference. It is so important to know that the little things that we do everyday can have a large impact. With amazing projects like this we were not only able to feel accomplished working as a group to help and exhibit a powerful message, but it also made us mindful of doing our own parts as we go forward.

Rubell as Text

Photo by Ahdriana Amandi/ CC By 4.0

“Comfort in the Uncomfortable”


The Rubell Art Museum is an amazing space that leaves the floor open to many hidden as well as upcoming artists to display their messages and ideas. Though I was not able to able to be there physically, I could sense the amount of feelings and emotions it prompted from my classmates while discussing the trip with them.

The museum is home to pieces by artists from all around the world spanning different eras. The artists they chose to shine a light on are overlooked and on the rise thus providing them with a larger audience to display and promote their amalgam of thoughts and ideas. Leaving their art up for interpretation while also demonstrating different things in our current society. Making visitors think beyond normal confines and venturing into topics that some people may view as unconventional and unorthodox.

Viewing the different pieces elicited such a powerful response from me. A piece by Mickalene Thomas called Mama Bush ll, Keep the Home Fires Burnin’, really stuck out to me. The piece depicts a woman who is naked and completely owning her own. There is such a push for women to step away from the roles that have been set for them and to embrace themselves but if people were to look at a painting like this, they would refer to it as too revealing, and it would serve as a tendentious topic. A picture like this would be over-sexualized instead of focusing on the empowerment of the individual. This serves as a great reminder that as a society we still have so far to go to get to the point where a woman is not put into a biased and prejudiced category based on their race and approach of sexuality.

Changing perspectives, morphing ideology and an abundant number of stories and experiences opens the floor to visitors to question the way they think. Opening up important conversations that need to be held and challenging them to deliberate. I hope in the future I am able to go visit so that I can fully immerse myself into this collective, open, inspiring, and free-thinking space. To look and take in the different textures, angles, lightings and see how they contribute to the larger narratives. To ask myself questions and to challenge my way of thinking.

Everglades as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“Moment of Stillness”


Stepping into the clear and frigid water felt like walking into a new world entirely. The hairs on my body were rising, my senses were amplified, and each step I took away from the main road brought me closer to exploring and contemplating a different existence. While I was stepping in and peering into this space that was unknown to me, it gave me a refreshing feeling. Guided by our amazing ranger, we were greeted by the many lichen decorated cypress trees, shoals of mosquito fish, and hanging spider webs along with the salutations of other animals who were a distance away.

At one point in the trip, we branched off from one another, closed our eyes and just let ourselves be immersed in the sounds of nature. Listening to the leaves shifting under the wind and the movement of the trees. Hearing the distant chirping of the birds and the croaks of frogs. Allowing ourselves to get lost in this wonderful world that was untouched by man was one of my favorite moments. For this very brief period of time, I was able to just escape all of my current thoughts and feel fully submerged in this one-of-a-kind and treasured landscape.

This reflection caused me to pause and analyze things from a new perspective. It was a great reminder that this environment has not only shaped the livelihood of the flora and fauna immediately present but has also shaped the culture and economy of all of the citizens living in Florida. It was a reminder to not overlook this amazing world in our backyard but to really analyze and deeply appreciate the beauty of this environment. It was a reminder that we should be working toward more conservation efforts to preserve this beautiful and unique place where different walks of life are intertwined.

Wynwood as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Fleeting Moment of Gold”


Our conversation held at dusk at the Locust Projects was an overture to revision, rebuilding, and rebirth. Mette Tommerup, a wonderful creator and narrator from Denmark, has carefully interwoven the many threads of this immersive installation where creation and product are able to come together to form a glorious space called “Made by Dusk”.

In this fleeting moment of gold, we were able to encounter a lasting significance. Compilation contemplation, communication, and connection are brightly illuminated. It was so easy to be captivated by the perfect merging of audio and video, tangible textures, interactive pieces, current subject matters, and mythology. It is an open space serving as a protest of power that gives society a platform to comfortably discuss a wide array of more sensitive topics like commercialism, gender, and race representation through history. The floor is open and encourages a variety of discussion to take place that reflect the displays.

While we are currently facing our own pause and separation from this world, this space provides a pause where an individual can find solace, support, and peace. Where we have been devoid of touch, we can now revel in the tactile element of the space. Where it feels like communication has been impaired, we can build up the conversation. This is where salvation, healing, and liberation for both the artist and the spectators can be found. While my eyes glazed over the canvas covered walls, the video of Mette Tommerup repeatedly tossing a large tapestry off of a roof, the gold covered floor, large structure, and uneven swings, I saw not only the beginning and the ending but the whole journey. The ambiance of the room outshone the black and white of the outside world to formulate a new visceral vision and feeling.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“The Light of Perception”


The large structure that sits on the southern tip of Key Biscayne serves as an important symbol of the place we have called home. It provides perception and awareness into the multilayered history of Miami. Serving as an illumination of the truth in multiple ways. Viewing the lighthouse that sits on the southern tip of Key Biscayne in Bill Baggs State Park was truly an experience.

Growing up I always saw the lighthouse as something that was a symbol of good and held one simple undertaking. From our day at the park, I realized it was not entirely true. It is neither good or bad, black or white, but lives in a shade of grey. While it was initially built as a way to stop the journey of the runaway slaves to the Red Bays of Andros Islands in the Bahamas by shedding a light on oncoming boats, it also provides a visual of history as it happened and not a fabricated story that favors one side. It provides representation for the unrepresented and displays perseverance and strength.

Most of the history that we are taught throughout our time in school come from one specific perspective and completely writes off those who go against these main ideals. Treating them as invalid and portraying them as the villain. They are only included if they fit the picture that others are trying to draw. An example of this was shown when viewed and learned the story behind a painting of an American Indian man and a white man. Even though the man was defending himself and his future he was portrayed as the main aggressor. History is not something that is just simple. There are multiple sides that need to be heard, understood, and acknowledged and not doing that is a disservice. The abundant aspects of American history are engraved on the coast of Key Biscayne

River of Grass as Text

Photo Taken By Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Contrast in the Same World”


Visiting the Everglades always feels like you are stepping into another world. A world where time is forgotten, moments are cherished, and you have the ability to just breathe. A world where you can see and experience the natural Miami. It is also the place where you can see both the effects of change as well as the new beginnings.

The Everglades also display two sides of a coin. During the class’s previous visit to the everglades, we were able to go slough slogging and examine an area that was generally untouched by man. A hidden world under a cypress dome that was ours to explore. The class’s visit this time to the everglades displayed a different world. A world where extreme changes were made. From unsuccessful farming attempts to the location being used to house missiles that were used as a primary line of defense, the are has been subject to a lot of transitions and adjustments which caused a decline in the growth of the area. However, because of recovery efforts that have been happening the past couple of years, the area has begun to flourish once again.

Experiencing and basking in the glow of this environment causes you to have a greater admiration and appreciation for Miami’s natural landscapes. That even though many changes have been made previously, efforts to conserve will be a beautiful beginning to a positive transformation. It sparks an urge to work harder and do more to preserve and protect places like this so that the areas continue to grow and prosper. So that we are able to keep and maintain a beautiful world that we could cherish for a long time. I hope to take what I have learned and continue to spread the message.

Frost as Text

Photo Taken By Roger Masson of Roberto Obregón’s Untitled (Snow) / CC BY 4.0

“One in the Same”


After venturing out and exploring different parts of Miami, the class was able to make its way back to campus to tour the Frost Art Museum. The Frost Art Museum is truly a gem. The museum houses a collection of over 6,000 pieces with an expanding collection of pieces from contemporary artists who have ties to the Caribbean and Latin America. The class was able to have the chance to look into the minds of Roberto Obregón and Pepe Mar through their respective collections.

The pieces by Roberto Obregón really connected with me in particular. His pieces on the rose worked through the deconstruction of its more common expression and style. He literally and figuratively peeled back the layers to view the flower objectively. He specifically observed the rose and how it decayed through a series and succession of images. It served as a physical display for the passage of time.

I feel that the class as a whole was able to resonate with this piece, especially in light of everything going on regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Learning about the exhibit and viewing the pieces caused me to really reflect and think about life itself and the concept of time. While different outside forces caused the flower to become wilted, the inner integrity stayed constant. Especially in the past year, we have all been shown that tomorrow is not promised and that the only things that are guaranteed in this world are birth and death. This should not prompt us to live in fear and uncertainty but to go through life’s journey and show love and care for other individuals in an earnest and profound way. Obregón’s work on the rose provided me with a passage to deepen my thoughts and connect them to other feelings and beliefs.

Coral Gables as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“Advancement vs Identity”


Passing by buildings like the one on the right have always struck me as odd. Especially when they are situated next to others that look like the ones on the left. Now, after our class visit to Coral Gables, they strike me as completely out of place and as a symbol of things that are making Miami lose its cultural heritage.

Our class had the opportunity to learn more about the history of coral gables and its visionary George Merrick. George Merrick was able to model the area into an image of a Mediterranean style city. From his trip to Mexico, he was able to gather inspiration to create his vision. He implemented Moorish, Rococo and Roman styles and designs along with the natural tropical feeling of the area to mold his empire. We viewed this as we walked through the area and visited building like the grand Biltmore Hotel. The construction and development of the area was also due to the labor of Bahamian immigrants who were adept craftsmen. Learning more about the history and going deeper into these wonderful constructions took me on a journey back in time. These moments were then broken when something like a commercial building came into view. Taking away from what represents the history of Miami and what shows the mixture of styles, use of natural resources and the amazing work of the Bahamian immigrants.

When I speak to friends and family who have visited Miami, the main thing they take away from the city is the beaches and the twenty plus story commercial buildings. Even some individuals I know who live in Miami view it only as this as well. While that is a part of it, it is a very small part of the interesting and rich history that this beautiful city has to offer. The meeting and merging or different styles encompass and represent everything that Miami is, has been and always will be. A place where a mixture of different elements come together in harmony to form a new collective. Conserving, protecting ad maintaining the diverse legacy and identity of the city should be the priority.

Vizcaya As Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“Embracing Identity”


Beyond walls of pink lies a masterpiece whose foundation is intertwined with the history of Miami. The Villa Vizcaya stands in all its glory; curtained and framed with the ever-growing greenery. Greeting its visitors with a passing breeze. The creation of James Deering and the canvas for Paul Chalfin and Diego Suarez serves as our brilliant emblem. Acting as a visual representation of how we are currently influence by the past. Weaving distinct and different fragments into a cohesive refined construction.

Using Bacchus, the roman god of wine, fertility, agriculture, and fruitfulness as a paragon, Vizcaya was built as a place of escape and freedom. Built by the hard and often unrecognized labor of the Bahamian people and dressed in a Mediterranean style with heavy Italian and Spanish influences with facets of the native natural elements, a new identity in Vizcaya is formulated. Watching as the rooms continuously unfolded into others and seeing the alluring paintings adorning the walls, hanging tapestries, and beautifully preserved furnishings allowed us to experience a journey so foreign yet so familiar. It was an amazing journey to walk through the passages inside, leave the main part of the house and look out at the sea and finish off by walking and weaving through the extensive and magnificent garden.

A man’s winter home has become a long-lasting symbol of our identity. Embracing ourselves unabashedly. The mixture of native as well as imported elements. Passing on fragments and information of the old world to the new world. The blending of the negative and the positive aspects of our history to all be knit together to form our elegant heirloom. To be passed down from generation to generation. To form and represent the core of our culture. This is Vizcaya. This is Miami.

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