Miami — Once known as “Miami’s Little Broadway,” Overtown previously hosted music greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Aretha Franklin. In the past, the neighborhood was frequented by international guests seeking to enjoy food, music and entertainment the “Colored Town” offered.
Come July 19, Overtown will be show-biz ready when its 4th annual Overtown Music & Arts Festival (formerly named Overtown Rhythm and Arts Festival), takes off in the heart of the business district, at Northwest Third Avenue between Ninth and 11th streets.
Organizers use the festival as a way to revive the historic district’s musical past and promote economic development. With that in mind, organizers cast a wide net to draw national acts and caught three-time Grammy-nominated Raheem Devaughn, whose latest album, A Place Called Loveland, climbed on the Billboard charts, as headliner. Expect to see live performances by R&B recording artist Keke Wyatt, Case, Jaguar Wright, Teedra Moses, Sebastian Mikael, Deep Fried Funk Band and Larry Dogg.
The Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency and the City of Miami are sponsors of the festival.
“This year’s festival line-up aligns with our agency’s objectives to boost economic development and introduce new comers to the area,” said Clarence Woods, Executive Director of the SEOPW CRA. “Our goal is to provide positive revenue and exposure to local businesses and non-profit organizations here in Overtown.”
The event has attracted thousands of attendees over the past three years and plans to widen visitor demographics with its star-studded line up of musical artists, organizers said.
The event will also include a Youth Zone, presented by Teens Exercising Extraordinary Success (T.E.E.S), that incorporates fitness activities for toddlers to teens. HistoryMiami will curate youth arts and crafts.
Another highlight includes the Mavericks Tonsorial Parlor, which will transform into a visual art exhibition showcasing works of famed video director, Gil Green. Green’s One More Jig examines the frustrations felt by black actors relating to the negative portrayal and stereotypes in video, film and television. The art exhibit will also explore how images in pop culture form impressions on future generations.
Civic activities at the festival include animal adoption, HIV testing free, driver’s license renewals and IDs for kids.
Putting on the music and arts fest helps Overtown residents to understand the historic, cultural, economic, and social context of their community — one of Miami’s earliest historically black communities. Overtown, back then, known as Colored Town or Central Negro District, was home to black workmen who worked on the Florida East Coast Railroad. Henry Flagler and Julia Tuttle designated the area for black laborers and their families to live.
The area flourished and became a tourist and entertainment destination. Then many residents were forced to move in the 1960s because of the construction of Interstate 95 and later, Interstate 395. With them went the businesses and the economic life of the neighborhood.
The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.