People of African descent have always played key roles in the development of South Florida. These roles should be celebrated not only in February, but also throughout the year. Here is a short list of places to experience black culture and heritage at any time.
The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum is housed in the former residence of the late Solomon D. Spady, the most prominent African-American educator and community leader in Delray Beach from 1922 to 1957. In this historic, two-story, mission-revival styled home completed in 1926, learn about Palm Beach County’s early history makers of African descent through exhibits, films, artifacts and lectures. There are also children’s programs, monthly “ride and remember” trolley tours of Delray Beach’s historic black sites. The museum is at 170 NW 5th Avenue in Delray Beach. For information and museum hours, call 561-279-8883 or visit www.spadymuseum.com.
Virginia Key Beach Park was established in August 1945 as the only public beach and recreation facility for the “exclusive use of Negroes” in what was then known as Dade County. The establishment of the Negro beach was a significant victory during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. Closed since 1982, the 82.5 acre property was restored and reopened last February with amenities including 86 picnic tables, eight with handicap access, 30 barbecue grills, and a concession stand. Take one of the park’s daily tours or enjoy the beach, experience Florida’s eco system by taking a train ride through the freshwater wetlands. The original carousel opens in March. The park is open every day, sunrise to sunset, and is accessible by public transportation. It is located at 4020 Virginia Beach Drive in Miami. For more information call 305-960-4600 or visit www.virginiakeybeachpark.net
Old Dillard Museum, housed in the Old Dillard School (originally named “The Colored School”), explores the rich heritage and influence of the Old Dillard community, and is dedicated to preserving the history of Fort Lauderdale, the community and African-American heritage. Built in 1924, Old Dillard was placed in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1991. Explore art and cultural artifacts, view documentaries, participate in lectures, attend book signings and enjoy a night of jazz, poetry or scholarly commentary. The museum is located at 1009 NW 4th Street in Fort Lauderdale. For information on programs, museum hours or
to schedule a group tour, call 754-322-8828 or visit www.broward.k12.fl.us/olddillardmuseum.
The Lyric Theater, the oldest legitimate theater in Miami (1913), serves as a symbol of black economic influence, as well as a social gathering place free of discrimination, and a source of pride and culture for Miami’s Overtown residents. The lone surviving building in what was once Overtown’s Little Broadway district, the Lyric was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The 400-seat theater, once described by the Miami Metropolis newspaper (1915) as “possibly the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by Colored people in all the Southland,” closed its doors in 1960 when Overtown began to deteriorate. The theater reopened in 2000 after extensive rehabilitation. The Lyric is currently used as a rental facility. The theater is located at 819 NW 2nd Avenue in Miami. For more information, call 305-636-2390 or visit www.theblackarchives.org/lyric.htm.
The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, founded in 1977, is committed to the preservation of the history of the African-American experience in South Florida. This includes manuscripts, letters, photographs, articles and other documented materials; all recorded history of the African-American experience in South Florida since 1896. Teachers, students, researchers, historians and the community are, for educational or personal research, encouraged to take a walk through the Archives’ documented history by viewing and copying theses resources. Take a historical look at family albums, photographs, documents, souvenir programs from churches and organizations, news articles and other source materials that have been preserved. The foundation is located at 5400 NW 22nd Avenue, Building C, in Miami. For more information and hours of operation, call 305-636-2390 or visit www.theblackarchives.org.
African Heritage Cultural Arts Center is a haven for South Florida’s performing and visual artists, and provides inspiration and encouragement to young people in the community. The center boasts a 300-seat music hall with rehearsal and practice rooms; and the Wendell A Narcisse Performing Arts ; a 1900-square-foot dance studio Theater. View exhibits of artists’ works in the Amadlozi Gallery or participate in ceramics, photography, band, painting or chorus in one of its multipurpose classrooms. Year-round arts enrichment classes are offered to people of all ages. The center is located at 6161 NW 22nd Avenue in Miami. For more information on programs, current exhibits, or hours of operation, call 305-638-6771.
African American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC), a general-service library, research facility and cultural center, contains more than 75,000 books and related materials focusing on the experiences of people of African descent. The Harambee Room, one of AARLCC’s most elaborate features, offers intricately designed panel artwork comprising digital prints on canvas, showcasing the people of Broward, Civil Rights struggles, the Black National Anthem and the African Diaspora. Visit AARLCC and enjoy select items from the literary collections of African-American authors, books and artifacts from Africa, the Caribbean, North and South America. Enjoy the exhibits in the 5,000-square-foot museum, view the private collections of Esther Rolle, Hewitt Haitian Arts, Alex Haley, Charles Mills and many other noted black artists, scholars and educators. The library is located at 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., near Fort Lauderdale. For more information about AARLCC’s programs, to view its special collections, programs,
exhibits or hours of operation, call 954-625-2800 or visit www.broward.org/library/aarlcc.htm.
The Haitian Heritage Museum highlights and preserves the rich culture and heritage of Haiti locally, nationally and internationally. The museum has created a cultural mecca where individuals are welcome to experience exhibits of Haitian art, historic artifacts and Haitian music. Enjoy a diverse collection of Haitian literary works and view films. The museum is at 3940 N Miami Avenue in Miami. For more information on exhibits, programs films or hours of operation, call 305-371-5988 or visit haitianheritagemuseum.org.
Diaspora Vibe Gallery promotes, nurtures and cultivates the vision and diverse talent of emerging artists from the Latin and Caribbean Diaspora through its artists in residence program, international exchanges, community and youth activities that celebrate Miami’s rich cultural and social fabric. Enjoy an evening of art, live music, poetry and Caribbean cuisine as a means to become more familiar with the gallery’s artists and mission. Take advantage of this unique and culturally charged atmosphere, at 3938 North Miami Avenue, Madonna Bldg. in Miami. For more information, details on shows, events and hours of operation, call 305 573-4046 or visit www.diasporavibe.net.
The Bernice Steinbaum Gallery first opened its doors in New York City in 1977, where it was considered a pioneer for galleries showcasing women artists and artists of color. In 2000, the gallery moved the center of its operations to Miami. Today’s global climate is what prompted the gallery to be a microcosm of this multi-cultural, visual environment. Exhibiting artists include Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (Afro-Cuban), Edouard Duval-Carrié (Haiti), Beverly Buchanan, (African American) and Pablo Tamaya (Columbia). New openings each month held on the second Saturdays. Located at 3550 North Miami Avenue in Miami. For information on exhibiting artists and hours of operation, call 305-573-2700 or visit www.bernicesteinbaumgallery.com.
The Historic Jenkins House promotes and displays the creative works and contributions of Artists of Color through the visual and performing arts. Built in 1946, the Jenkins House was home to Dr. Joseph Wiley Jenkins, one of the first African-American pharmacists in Palm Beach’s northwest community. The City of West Palm Beach purchased the house in 1966, thereby paving the way for the property to be designated as a historic site and future home of the Artists Showcase of the Palm Beaches. Currently, areas of the house are in need of repair, programs are run offsite. The Jenkins House is at 815 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach. For more information or to schedule a tour, call 561-832-1323 or visit www.artisticshowcase.org.
The Historic Hampton House was once the Liberty City Hotel that hosted affluent African Americans, including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali. Opened in 1954, the two-story building was a major center for social and political activities during the Civil Rights era. The hotel lost its niche following the 1964 Civil Rights Act allowing black people to stay at formerly “whites-only” establishments and subsequently fell into disrepair. It has since undergone major reconstruction. The house is at 5400 NW 22nd Avenue in Miami. For information on the house or to schedule a tour, call 305-638-5800.
Photo: Lyric Theater