Overtown Metro Station and Deering Estate. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen
Where do I start? Eight classes in 8 different destinations in search of the authentic Miami. I remember watching the introduction video for this class and I immediately knew that I had to sign up. Even though I had gotten a general idea of what this class was about through the video, it was nothing compared to the experiences we had this semester. I have lived in Miami since 2011 and to be honest was not very knowledgeable on its history and indeed did this class take me on a ride.
Chicken Key Clean-Up and Wolfson Archives. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen
Our first visit to Downtown Miami kicked off our search in finding the authentic Miami. We visited the two oldest buildings from Miami’s pioneer era: The Wagner Family Homestead and the William English Slave Quarters. We learned about how Julia Tuttle founded Miami, yet Henry Flagler (an antisemitic and racist) man gets most of the recognition. It was the beginning of learning that Miami and its unique places were built by Bahamian people who were exploited for their labor. The first class really opened my eyes to how little I know about a place that I have lived in for so long.
Visiting Overtown for our second class left me with a positive attitude and perspective towards Overtown. For many people in Miami, Overtown is one of the most dangerous places to be at, so up until that point I had rarely been to Overtown. My perspective changed completely after our class. We learned about how gentrification, the hurricane and the building of the I-95 changed the course of what once was called “Little Broadway”. The people in Overtown were so kind and happy to see us walking around and exploring the different historical places such as the Lyric Theater and The Greater Bethel Church.
Jackson’s Soul Food and Julia Tuttle Plaque. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen
Our two trips to the Deering Estate were amazing and immersive experiences in nature. It was heartbreaking to see how much trash there was at Chicken Key, and I felt honored to have been able to participate in cleaning a lot of it up. Our hike at the Deering Estate was a glimpse into how the first people in Miami lived. We were completely immersed in nature by wading through water, looking and touching the remains of a dire wolf, passing by solution holes and really being able to visualize how people lived in one with nature.
Our Vizcaya trip taught us about how much influence the Deering family had, not only did Charles Deering own the Deering estate, but James Deering owned Vizcaya. It was interesting to hear about how Vizcaya was built, the intentions behind the different designs, statues, paintings, etc. Sadly, it was built at the hands of Bahamian people. Going to South Beach expanded my art knowledge further as we walked through the biggest Art Deco neighborhood in the world. We learned about how Barbara Capitman made this possible and how in fact women like her and Julia Tuttle are responsible for Miami’s successes. Visiting the Jewish Museum was special for my brother Nikolas and I as our grandfather is Jewish and survived the Holocaust. It was also heartbreaking to hear about the racism and antisemitism that kept blacks and Jews from living in Miami Beach. We recently ended our semester by visiting the Rubell Museum and the Untitled Art Fair where we got to see many contemporary artworks and interpret them. The experiences in this class have led me to become a more educated person and given me a new perspective on how to see the world. I have become inspired to share and take my family and friends to the places we went during class, so that they also can experience the authentic Miami.