My Miami Final Reflection

Photo taken by John W Bailly.

This semester, taking the Miami in Miami class has offered me countless opportunities to reflect on the city I live in and have lived in for a little more than 11 years now. I encountered during our first two excursions, a bulk of historical information that was extremely surprising to me. While all the excursions this semester added a new layer of depth to what I think of Miami, the excursion to Downtown Miami and to the Historical Town of Overtown, were the most eye-opening ones.

Downtown Miami was a place where I visit almost everyday because of its proximity to my own home and because it is the home of grandparents. I was aware of some of the struggles of Downtown Miami and also its easy connectivity with public transit (Metrorail, metro mover, and bus). In spite of what I thought I already knew about Downtown Miami and Overtown, we as a class visited remnants from those most vulnerable during Miami’s urbanization. Seeing Calusa and Tequesta memorials as well as encountering the Slave Quarters at Lummus Park, was surprising.

While we were constantly on every trip being provided with a variety of new information and facts that adhered to our university level. I feel like I should have learned the basics of these events or at least visited places like the church Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at, the slave quarters, the Deering estate and Vizcaya as a class when I was younger. Places like Vizcaya, I had visited on my own, but it was different to visit the place with a class. Instead of focusing on the distracting superficial elements, visiting Vizcaya among other places with a class meant I could combine both learning in depth knowledge about a place while admiring the visual beauty.

Learning about the authenticity of Miami was also empowering to a large extent. Unlike other cities like Dubai and Shanghai who have only in the last 30 years becoming global, Miami has been a global city since its beginning. The foundation of Miami by a woman, Julia Tuttle, the bravery of a jockey in the name of Diana Crump and the successes of Barbara Capitman to save Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach, were some of the examples in which I was able to recognize these special individuals from our city. Besides Julia Tuttle, none of these names would have been familiar to me if it weren’t for this class. It is unfortunate that few landmarks of Miami’s past and people like Diana Crump or William Wagner aren’t read about or visited by Miami Dade school children as often as they should.

I had somewhat previously been aware of the history of inequality present in Miami such as Overtown. It was still new for me to see D.A Dorsey’s home and the lyric theater as well as learn about Overtown’s prosperous past before the building of I-95, gentrification, and the Miami Hurricane of 1922. Eating at Jackson’s Soul Food kitchen gave a small glimpse of the sense of community Overtown had in its glorious days, where the different churches, also would get filled to the brim.

The visits/hike in the Deering Estate plus the cleanup gave authenticity and a prehistorical layer to embracing Miami’s natural side. Being there meant seeing nature at work and being in the opposite environment of what is usually thought to be Miami.

Overall, all the experiences this semester have made me more considerate in how people act, and more aware about how I act myself. I would hope that in the preview to the next semester, I can hold myself accountable of sharing the real Miami to people around me and to question certain policies or happenings in this city, if they really are benefitting the majority or not.

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