Dina Kencie Denord is a junior in the Honors College at Florida International University. Dina is double majoring in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies and loves to express herself through spoken word. Dina is a true linguaphile, speaking 5 (and a half!) languages. She hopes to one day use her ability to speak and understand these languages to assist immigrants and residents of low-income neighborhood anyway she can.
North Miami is geographically situated ten miles north of the city of Miami and is directly to the left of Biscayne Bay. North Miami runs from NW 117thAve down to Biscayne Bay and is often confounded with North Miami Beach. North Miami beach is directly above North Miami and the two are separated by a single street, NE 151stSt. In terms of landscape, North Miami is naturally lush, due to the location by the bay. Unfortunately, development has run amuck in North Miami and that beauty is slowly fading away. As far as the urban landscape, North Miami is close to Aventura, which is full of large buildings, but the two neighborhoods are vastly different. North Miami is a primarily residential area,
Map by US Census Bureau
Additionally, North Miami is surrounded by the following neighborhoods:
-Golden Glades and North Miami Beach (to the north)
– Opa-Locka to the northwest
-Sunny Isles Beach to the northeast
-Westview to the direct west
-Sunny Isles Beach, Biscayne Bay and Bay Harbor Islands to the direct east
-Westview to the southwest
-Biscayne Bay to the southeast
-Pinewood, Biscayne Park and other unincorporated parts of Miami Dade county to the direct south
Most know that Miami itself was founded by Julia Tuttle in 1896, with the help of Henry Flagler. The origins of North Miami are a bit different. Fort Dallas, originally a military post that dates back to the Seminole Wars, sat on the banks of the Miami River (it has since been moved to Lumus Park in Downtown Miami). The soldiers needed a path to go from Fort Lauderdale all the way back down to Fort Dallas, so they cut down a military trail. This trail attracted some pioneers, who saw it fit to set roots and name the area “Arch Creek”.
In 1891, the first pioneer, a man known as Mr. Ilhe began to grow crops like bananas, shallots, apples and tomatoes. As more people came to settle in the area, a general store, roughly 15-20 homes and even two tomato packing businesses all came as well. What helped spawn this growth was the development of Mr. Flagler’s railroad that ran through the area. By 1924, when the Biscayne Bay Canal was dug, the residents of the community were unable to farm due to the soil changes (the canal removed the moisture that was so beneficial), so then came the big business boom. North Miami was incorporated in 1926 as the town of Miami Shores, but when the Miami Shores Village area incorporated as well, the name was forced to be changed (by the State of Florida) to North Miami. To clarify this: the Shoreland Company, an extremely wealthy land developer lobbied with the Florida State Legislature in 1931 to take the name of “Miami Shores”.
North Miami truly developed and grew after World War II, with many veterans began to move into the area with their young families. This was incredible growth, with the town of North Miami being named the fastest growing city in America in 1951, and the name once again changed in 1953 to the City of North Miami.
North Miami is known for have an extremely large Haitian-American population. According to the last decennial census, more than 50% of the population of North Miami identifies as Black American or African-American. 33% identifies as White or Caucasian Hispanic, and the remaining percentage identifies as white non-Hispanic, Asian or other. North Miami is not a particularly wealthy community. The median income is very close to the national poverty line and roughly a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line.
Generally speaking, the city is well balanced in terms of age and gender, with about 30% of the population being under 18, 12% between 18-24, 32 % from 25-44, 20% from 45-64 and 6% being 65 or older. It is quite evident that North Miami is more family focused just from seeing the demographics.
The above photo is of Carmelita Germain, a resident of North Miami since 1975. Ms. Germain left Haiti in the early 1970s to come to the United States for a better life for herself and her children. She left her children in Haiti and came to the States to look for a job that would help sustain her family, as her husband was preparing to leave Haiti with the murmurs of the fall of the Duvalier regime. She moved around South Florida, coming to Miami first, then moving to Belle Glade (where there were more Haitians, as not many Haitians lived in North Miami back then) and up north to Maryland for a bit and back down to North Miami in 1975. Ms. Germain has lived here since, and has seen changes through the neighborhood- demographic and land development. She encouraged me to go to several local eateries to get a feel for not only the Haitian demographic of the area, but a feel for the area in general.
In North Miami are the following landmarks:
- MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) which is located very close to the city hall, on NE 125thST. MOCA was designed by an internationally celebrated architect and hosts several awe-inspiring pieces.
- St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church, which is a Spanish monastery that originated in Segovia, Spain in 1141 AD, and was shipped to New York in 1925 and then to North Miami in 1964. Today, the church is no longer a Catholic institution, but Episcopalian, and is also an event venue and tourist attraction.
- Arch Creek Park, which contains the natural stone bridge that the aforementioned soldiers used as a landmark for the trail they built, but more importantly, was a trail that the Native Americans used. The park now contains a small museum that houses many artifacts, live animals and an original coontie mill (coontie is a naturally occurring cycad in Florida, and was grown and traded by the farmers of the area). It is also a very important archeological site for Miami Dade County.
- Oleta River State Park, Florida’s largest urban park, is located directly on Biscayne Bay and is situated very close to the Biscayne Bay Campus of FIU. The river is very popular for canoeing and nature gazing.
North Miami is full of parks and greenspaces. There are roughly 10-12 parks, and many preserved natural areas. Aforementioned are the Oleta State River Park and Arch Creek Park. Both are beautiful designated areas that honestly display the natural beauty of South Florida. The rest of the parks are partially man made or completely man made, but contribute to greenspace nonetheless and serve to be a communal space for families in the area.
For the most part, transportation in North Miami is fairly balanced, with a portion of residents walking or cycling, a portion riding public transportation, and a portion who own and operate their own vehicles. On the several days that I visited North Miami, I had to maneuver how I would be able to make it to there. I drove on a few of the visits, I took the FIU Panther Express to the Biscayne Bay Campus of FIU and from there, I would walk or take an Uber to get to the heart of the city. I’ve taken the bus in North Miami, and the wait is not great, it can range between 20-30 mins. North Miami has its own transport bus, and it runs extremely well. There are also jitneys available throughout the city. Jitneys are small vans or buses that serve as transport vehicles where you can pay $1.50 (which is cheaper than the city bus) to get to different parts of the city, and it does not have specified stops, so you can get closer to where you need to be. Apart from those methods of public transport, it is very easy to get around on one’s two feet. Unlike other parts of Miami Dade County, North Miami has the right balance of suburban and city living, with everything being within walking distance from home.
As for authentic and great places to eat, North Miami is such a wonderful place to explore! The following restaurants are highly rated (by many and cosigned by myself):
- Cayard’s Bakery: A Haitian bakery that has been a staple of NoMi for well over 40 years, and it is a must go-to in my opinion. All of the meals are extremely affordable, but if you do go, expect to spend a while in line, because regardless of the day of the week, this spot is busy! Not only does the bakery have sweets galore, but they also serve bright, flavorful dishes that bring anyone’s heart home.
- Finga Lickin’: Recently converted into a chain, this restaurant has become a favorite for many, as it was the first restaurant that DJ Khaled opened in 2015, and due to its incredible success with both locals and tourists, he has opened several more all over the US.
- Chef Creole: This is a Haitian American staple in NoMi!! Serving authentic Haitian food, this spot is sure to please. From oxtail to all sorts of seafood, Chef Creole serves aptly seasoned food- that is a joy for the taste buds.
As mentioned before, there are some wonderful businesses in North Miami. From colorful artwork to a quick screen repair, there are a plethora of small businesses to support the local economy. There are many Haitian restaurants (too many to list), small delis, and even quick stop cafeterias. My favorite part of North Miami is the fact that it is simple to find a local business for everything. From dollar stores to small shops that serve as a glance back home, being in North Miami is reminiscent of living in a small town.
Some of my favorites are the Haitian barbershops, where you’ll find a heated discussion on the politics of the US or Haiti, or a vivid retelling of old country life in the outskirts of Port au Prince.
In taking a look at the neighborhood and comparing it to where I live, a lot more works here than where I live. Public transportation is much more accessible, and most stores are in walking distance. Additionally, there are more local small businesses to support, so personally, I feel like I am investing in my local economy much more. Most of the residential areas are nice, but due to so many people being pushed out of gentrified neighborhoods, not only are neighborhoods like North Miami packed, but some areas are attracting people who don’t have the best in mind for everyone. What doesn’t work is the lack of parking in some areas, and the overall cleanliness in some parts of the city. In going to one of my favorite bakeries, Cayard’s Bakery, I was not pleased to see grease and dumped water sitting on the side of the business like there wasn’t anywhere else to dispose of it. In conclusion, being able to reexperience North Miami and look at it from the scope of a visitor and not someone who is fairly used to the area was fantastic. It was a breath of fresh air to be able to speak to residents of North Miami and park my car and walk around. I truly enjoyed dipping into small businesses and investing my dollars into their economy. For Haitians, North Miami is a sliver of home. It is a glance at what Haiti could be like if the country was more organized, and most importantly, it is a vivid picture of the American Dream. The ability to come to the United States in pursuit of a better life, to rebuild and to live the way you only could imagine.
“City of North Miami.” City of North Miami Files, http://www.northmiamifl.gov/docs/BidFiles/DataInventoryandAnalysis_12-21-07_RFQ371516.pdf.
“History.” Spanish Monastery, https://www.spanishmonastery.com/history.
Legends of America, https://www.legendsofamerica.com/fort-dallas-florida/.
US Census Bureau. “Households and Families: 2010.” The United States Census Bureau, 22 May 2018, https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2012/dec/c2010br-14.html.
“ Natives For Your Neighborhood Conservation of Rare Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems.” IRC – Natives for Your Neighborhood, https://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Zamiinte.