Historic preservationists want to make sure that the monument being designed to memorialize some of Miami’s black pioneers reflects the caliber of the people it will represent. To that end, the public is asked for input.
On Monday, March 22, from 9 a.m.to noon, the Lemon City Cemetery Community Corporation will host a community meeting where residents will be allowed to voice their thoughts, opinions and ideas on how the monument should look.
Located near Northwest 71st street and Northwest 3rd Avenue, the Lemon City Cemetery is the final resting place for some of Miami’s first black families. Buried among its ranks are a World War I veteran, one of the men who signed the charter to create the city of Miami, and many Bahamian immigrants who planted roots and called Miami home.
“It is important for the people to come out and express their ideas because we want to give people a platform and opportunity to share their ideas about the monument,” said Enid Pinkney, chairperson of the Lemon City Cemetery Community Corporation.
“We want to hear their ideas. Lots of times people wait until after something has already happened then want to say it should have been done differently. Too often we all have great ideas after the fact, but we are inviting people before the fact. We’re saying come out and speak now or forever hold your peace,” Pinkney said
She said she is especially hopeful that people who have loved ones buried there will make it a point to attend.
“We really want to hear from people who have family members buried there,” Pinkney said. “We want them to attend and bring others who have a sincere interest and knowledge of the Lemon City Cemetery.”
The cemetery was first re-discovered in April 2009, when workers from Carlisle Development and Biscayne Housing Group found human remains at a construction site for an affordable housing development.
Convinced that the bones belonged to black people in unmarked graves, a member of the community called the Historic Hampton House Community Trust Office to ask for help in preserving the site.
After months of research, a lead from 101-year-old Teresita DeVeaux and some help from genealogist Larry Wiggins, Pinkney and her team produced 523 names of people buried in the cemetery, evidence that was instrumental in the site receiving historical designation on Nov. 3, 2009.
The monument is being designed by Ralph B. Johnson, an African-American architectural designer who is a preservation specialist and professor at Florida Atlantic University’s School of Architecture.
Pinkney said Johnson, who brings 30 years of experience to the project, was chosen because he assisted the group’s efforts to secure the historical preservation designation for the cemetery.
“Ralph was with us from the very beginning. He walked the road with us before we got to this destination. He is very skilled and experienced and we feel that his support helped give us status and recognition. For that reason we felt we should support his desire to do the design,” Pinkney said.
Johnson said he wanted to oversee the design because he felt that his experience as a preservation specialist and his insight as an African American will help give the monument authenticity.
“I thought it was very important to ensure that the monument reflected the culture and the heritage of the people who are buried there. Also, by this being an African-American historic site, it is even more important that there be some attention to the design,” Johnson said.
To assist with the design, Johnson has brought in acclaimed public artist Gary Moore, who created the Harrambe Room at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale.
Johnson said he is hopeful that Monday’s meeting will result in some closure for family members whose loved ones were interred and then forgotten.
“This monument is so important because the cemetery was forgotten for so long that when it resurfaced, it revised a feeling that things weren’t complete. Now that we’ve found it, we want to honorably lay it to rest and bring closure,” he said.
Photo: Enid Pinkney
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Lemon City Cemetery Memorial Park & Monument Charrette.
WHEN: Monday, March 22 from 9 a.m. to noon.
WHERE: Jefferson Reaves Park, 3090 NW 50th Street, Miami.
CONTACT: Call 305-638-5800 for more information.