Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen: Miami as Text 2022-2023

Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

August 24, 2022

Education

Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen is a sophomore at Florida International University majoring in International Business. Marco has lived in Denmark, Venezuela and New York before coming to Miami in 2011. Raised by his Danish father and Venezuelan mother is what makes him fluent in both languages. His passions are playing sports (especially soccer), travelling, creating content on social media and spending time with his family and friends.

Downtown Miami as Text:

“Miami: A Work In Progress” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Downtown Miami on August 31st, 2022

Kilometer Zero and Julia Tuttle Tribute. Photographs by John William Bailly and Rafael Vazquez

Miami has been my home for 11 years now and I have experienced the Latino culture, incredible diversity, amazing beaches, nature, and climate. However, my knowledge was very limited in how Miami became the city it is today. This all changed on August 31st when we took the trip to Downtown Miami.

William F. English Plantation Slave Quarters. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

One of our initial stops was Lummus Park. The first of many places we would go to that revealed the dark side leading up to the foundation of Miami in 1896. The William F. English Plantation Slave Quarters served as a reminder of the enslaved African people that resided in Miami. Touching the wall of the structure made me visualize the horrors of what the enslaved people had to go through. I felt sad and quite disappointed that I lived in Miami for so long yet have never learned about this place. These feelings were replaced later by gratitude for the chance to be able to be educated about something historically significant that is usually ignored.

Wagner Homestead. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

However, the Wagner Homestead (the oldest known house in Miami) right next to the slave quarters was the light at the end of the tunnel. Professor Bailly went on to tell us about William Wagner, a German immigrant who came to Miami as he loved a Creole woman named Everline. As interracial marriages were not legal, Miami was the ideal place to be to start a family of 15 children.

A beautiful and touching part of the Wagner story was when his family encountered a group of Seminoles. This encounter was historic as in contrast to the typical violent encounters, William Wagner invited them for a meal together and the Seminoles played with their children. As a result, the Seminole Wars ended, and peace was made thanks to the simple act of human kindness. His level of tolerance, acceptance, open-mindedness and how he treated people as equals no matter the circumstances is truly incredible. It was enlightening to learn about how the Wagner family made a positive impact in a time that was filled with hatred and division. William Wagner earned my respect and led me to reflect about how this contributed to how Miami is today.

Miami is a place where everyone is welcome and fortunately, I have met and become friends with many people from different cultures and backgrounds. That is what makes Miami unique and like no other city in the world. William Wagner showed everybody that peace and joy can be achieved when people accept each other for who they are. Unfortunately, I learned that African and Bahamian slaves were exploited by Henry Flagler who in addition to being racist was also an anti-Semite. Professor Bailly told us how he convinced black people to vote for the establishment of Miami in 1896 to then betray them by spreading segregation and segregated towns in South Florida. It was shocking and very embarrassing to see the statue of Henry Flagler by the Miami Dade Courthouse. Yet another reminder of the dark side of Miami’s history which remains in the city. However, the places we visited also serve as a reminder of how far Miami has come as a city filled with a diversity, culture, nature, architecture, and cuisine like no other. The history of Miami must not be forgotten and what I learned on that amazing day is an example of why we should continue to educate ourselves and others on the history of the place we call home.

Overtown as Text:

“Little Broadway” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Overtown on September 14th, 2022

Overtown. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Since moving to Miami, I have driven through Overtown a few times and walked around for a little once. With Overtown being on the news usually for negative reasons such as shootings, I was not around Overtown much in the 11 years I have lived in Miami. So, when Professor Bailly announced, we were going to Overtown, I was excited and curious to see what Overtown had to offer.

To be honest, I was astonished of how beautiful Overtown is. I had never walked through a town in Miami with so many places of historical and cultural significance around every block. It was gratifying to see that there still are places like these that serve as a reminder of Overtown’s prosperity from the 1930s until the 1960s. This trip reaffirmed my belief that there is beauty everywhere we go. I believe that Overtown’s reputation throughout the years has scared people away from discovering the rich history of the town.

The people of Overtown have been through a lot and it was sad to learn about the many issues including segregation, gentrification, the building of the I-95 highway which shaped Overtown into what it is today. Through our previous trip to Downtown, Professor Bailly taught us how Overtown became segregated after Henry Flagler convinced black voters to vote for the establishment of Miami, to only turn their backs on them. This in addition to Jim Crow laws during the early 1900s made Overtown become a neighborhood where blacks were forced to live in.

Lyric Theatre. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

What stood out to me was that every place we visited had such a deep historical and cultural significance. Starting off with the Lyric Theatre on NW 2nd Ave which back in the 1940s hosted shows featuring people like Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, and Bessie Smith. The Lyric Theatre contributed to the nickname “Little Broadway” as NW 2nd Ave was always filled with people, food, cars, and lights. This is something you never hear on the news or hear from anybody that is not from Overtown. It made me feel disappointment that I was not knowledgeable about such a place before with all my time in Miami.

Mount Zion Baptist Church and Greater Bethel Church. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

One of the most interesting parts of the trip was being able to go inside the Greater Bethel Church and be able to see Mount Zion Baptist Church. These are the two oldest black churches in Miami and played an extremely important role in the Civil Rights Movements and the community. We were able to stand in the place in Greater Bethel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech on February 12, 1958, for the SCLC Crusade for Citizenship. Knowing how important of a person he was, it was incredible to hear about his speech and visualize how it must have been like in 1958 in a packed church to hear him speak. Mount Zion Baptist Church serves as a reminder of one of the three historical events that negatively impacted Overtown. Professor Bailly told us about how the building of the I-95 highway forced the pastor’s house to be demolished. It was sad to learn how the interstate highways are built through black neighborhoods ultimately destroying the community. As a result of the highway congregation numbers dropped significantly from 2,000 to 200 members.

Dorsey House and Jackson Soul Food. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen and John William Bailly

Places such as the Dorsey House (home of the first black millionaire Dana Dorsey in Miami), the home of Alex Lightburn (founder of Greater Bethel Church and crucial in Miami’s establishment), the Ward Rooming House (accommodated black and native Americans that traveled to Miami), Jackson Soul Food (a restaurant open since 1946) showed what Overtown is all about. Overtown has so many misconceptions and I am grateful to be able to learn about how special this place is. The people of Overtown were very welcoming and happy to see us visiting. The assumptions made by people who have not been to Overtown, and their ignorance has contributed to Overtown’s reputation. By being able to learn about all the historical places and how Overtown was impacted by the hurricane, gentrification, and the building of the I-95 highway it made me disappointed in our education system in Miami. How in all my years in Miami were we not taken on a field trip to Overtown? There needs to be change and this can start by educating people on the places that are misinterpreted.

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