Ahdriana Amandi is a junior at the honors college at Florida International University and is majoring in Psychology. As a newly transferred student from Miami Dade College, Ahdri is excited to finish her last two years at FIU and is hoping to attend graduate school to become a college professor. Outside of academics, she enjoys roller skating, reading, and traveling. Although she has spent most of her life in Miami, Ahdri is excited to learn more about her beautiful and historic city through this course.
In early February, Professor Bailly sent us a message in the class group chat telling us that a person named Cesar Becerra was looking for help from some students. Cesar Becerra is a historian/adventurer who spends a vast majority of his time educating others on learning to appreciate the beauty of Florida and the rich history the land holds. He published his book Robert Is Here: Looking East for a Lifetime (Becerra, 2015). He is currently writing his next book that discusses Mary Brickell, one of Miami’s unaccredited founders.
After reading the articles shared with the class, I became interested in reaching out to Cesar and assisting him with his project. My major is in psychology, but I personally believe that broadening my experiences and treating my education in a more interdisciplinary way will help me become a stronger and more experienced individual. My future decisions will depend on how extensive my horizons are and applying/experiencing things outside of my own interests and passions has allowed me to better understand the world and my place in it. Although working with Cesar was out of my major and personal career goals, taking “Miami In Miami” has sparked an interest of preserving Miami and helping someone whose passion is to preserve Miami history felt like an excellent way to make an impact.
Where & What
Because of the ongoing pandemic and Cesar constantly traveling, all of the work I did for Cesar was done remotely. He gave me a few options on what to research on. Since his book was about how Mary Brickell deserves recognition, he wanted help to look into whether other cities in the U.S. had founders that were unaccredited or heavily debated. I chose to focus on this part of the project, and I decided to work on Cleveland, Ohio and Chicago Illinois. On the 11th of February, Cesar gave me a script so I could email/contact historians and anyone else I could find to conduct a short interview on their respective founder.
I decided that I would start writing up information on the two cities I chose, and that I would eventually hear back from the people I contacted. While researching for Cesar, I learned such interesting information about the founders of Cleveland and Chicago.
General Moses Cleaveland is best remembered as the founder of Cleveland, Ohio. Despite only being in Cleveland for five months, am eight-foot bronze statue was erected in his honor by the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve on the 100th anniversary of his death. Cleaveland was one of the 36 founders in Connecticut Land Co., and was in charge of negotiating land rights with the indigenous people there, as well as leading expeditions in uncharted territories. Cleaveland supposedly promised the indigenous people their safety and gave them whiskey in exchange for exploring the Cuyahoga River (“Cleveland, Moses”, N.d.)
When you google “Chicago’s founder”, Jean Baptise Dusable’s name picture pop up as the first result. This, however, was not always the case. Author Lerone Bennet Jr. went as far as to call Dusable “the biggest secret of Chicago” in an in interview with WWTW. At the time of this interview, settler John Kinzie was considered to be the founder of the city, and even had a bridge, main street, and building named after him, and Jean Dusable and his family’s mark were nearly forgotten (“John H Kinzie”, 2021). Thankfully, due to work done by historians such as Lerone Bennet jr. and Dr. Christopher Reed, Chicago’s true founder now has a place in Chicago’s, and the United States’, history books.
During this time, I contacted over 10 organizations/Individuals in each city and included follow ups. Only one historical society answered me back, and their response was to check their database. It was frustrating to not be able to get in contact with anyone, and Cesar’s response to my reply was that it was not uncommon to have no one reach back out. It was ironic to think that the idea of the book is to encourage others to learn more about figures that help create their cities, but during this process I was unable to directly contact anyone, despite calling ad emailing. Thankfully, however, the information I found on the two founders was fairly detailed and I was able to turn in a paper about the two, which Cesar appreciated. Cesar was also in the process of writing other parts of the book and I was able to get a preview of the introduction, as well as the “behind the scenes” process of writing a book. It has been very interesting to see the process that many go through when they want to publish their writing.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed working with Cesar during this process, and I am grateful that I was able to help contribute to Miami history. My only regret or thing that didn’t work was that as a full time student and employee this semester, it was difficult to find time to volunteer and I would’ve liked to dedicate more time to this project. Thankfully, however, Cesar was very accommodating, and the volunteering was extremely flexible. Because I liked working with Cesar, I told him that I would like to continue to volunteer with him during the summer, and he even offered to pay me to help him with spreading the word about his book to different historical societies and organizations. I’m excited to see the book get published and released, and I hope that others are inspired to question the origins of their own cities.
Burr, Robert. “William and Mary Brickell – the Australian Connection”. 2020. https://www.mpnod.org/events/william-and-mary-brickell-the-australian-connection/
“Cleveland, Moses”. N.d. Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. https://case.edu/ech/articles/c/cleavelandmoses
“John H Kinzie”. (2021). Chicagology. https://chicagology.com/biographies/johnhkinzie/
Lepri, Katie. “Julia Tuttle May Not Be The Only Mother Of Miami. Could Mary Brickell Be One, Too?” 2019. https://www.wlrn.org/news/2019-03-07/julia-tuttle-may-not-be-the-only-mother-of-miami-could-mary-brickell-be-one-too