The gathering will take place on the grounds of the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, 12450 SW 152nd St., in South Miami-Dade, that is home to a refurbished Jim Crow rail car that currently houses an exhibition of black railroad memorabilia assembled by artist and author Alan Laird, a founding member of the society.
“There is no recollection of the history of the railroad system in the United States without the recollection of the contributions of African Americans in it – or at least there should not be,” said Femi Folami Browne, another founding member.
The society is partnering with other organizations to make the weekend a historical and festive success, including the Miami-Dade Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI).
APRI Chapter President Lovette McGill says it is important for people, especially those with ties to black “railroaders,” whether porters, maids, mechanics or others, to attend this event. “It is so important for all black history to be recognized,” McGill said. “Many people have forgotten or don’t know the history of blacks on railroads. Many in Miami, and probably other places, don’t remember that many people worked on the trains that ran through Miami and not just Amtrak but others. We have forgotten the history that blacks helped build from laying tracks to repairing trains.”
The weekend will begin with an installation breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday for officers, including board chairman state Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, hosted by Miami Dade County Commissioner Chairman Dennis Moss at the Biscayne Bay Marriot, 1633 N. Bayshore Drive, Miami, The breakfast will be capped with a lecture on the black influence on American railroad history by author Theodore Kornweibel.
An art exhibition chronicling black railroad history prior to Word War 1 will follow to show railroad history through various trains. Then a gala dinner will be held that evening, also at the Biscayne Bay Marriot, in collaboration with the local APRI chapter, that will include recognition of society inductees.
The attendees will include former Pullman porter Sollie Mitchell, who will celebrate his 96th birthday as part of the reunion; community activist Georgia Ayers, whose family was among several displaced from the “Colored Railroad Shop” area in Miami; Pamela Beckford, a member of the first all black female conducting and engineering crew with Amtrak; and Carlyle Smith, the Obama campaign train conductor.
The celebration will then move to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum – at the entry gate just before Metrozoo – which will feature works by area artists, train rides, exhibit tours and talks on railroad history.
Sunday’s program will include a wine tasting event by South Miami native Gwenda Kenon, who will discuss her soon-to-be-released book, Wines and Collard Greens. This session will include a sampling of collard greens.
For more details, visit www.blackrailroaderssociety.weebly.com.