Sometimes in our communities, things happen right under our noses – hidden in plain sight – and nobody notices. Maybe that’s because those who make the most noise often accomplish very little, except for making noise.
Several months ago, the media focused on the devastating blight in the Liberty City area of Miami while millions of taxpayers’ dollars allocated to correct this situation had been wasted on lavish living.
The Miami Herald’s “House of Lies” series uncovered unconscionable criminal behavior in the supposed development of affordable housing for the low-income residents of the area. Yet there was no mention of the 132 units of affordable housing being developed by the Urban League of Greater Miami, transforming a drug-infested area of Liberty City into a jewel. This is already causing an unbelievable ripple effect in terms of urban revitalization.
A few blocks east of the Urban League’s development is another urban redevelopment project developed by Kwaku Designs International/Architecture and Community Builders Holistic Development Corporation. It’s a quiet storm.
Chief Nathaniel B. Styles, a Miami businessman otherwise known as the Nana Kwaku Ankobeahene II of the Ashanti kingdom of Ghana, and his partner, Harlan Woodard, created the Osun’s Village and the African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor some two years ago. They made use of legislation passed by then-state Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall (D-Miami). There was also a companion bill sponsored by state Sen. Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami) and co-sponsored by state Sen. Frederica Wilson (D-Miami).
Osun’s (pronounced Oh-shoonz) Village is “a celebration of the art, culture, and heritage of people of African descent throughout the Diaspora.”
The African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor and Osun’s Village are the first of many initiatives designed to promote workforce development in the cultural industry; social change by creating access through transportation; cross-cultural awareness that will stimulate economic growth throughout urban communities; and international trade and commerce, according to a press release issued by Bendross-Mindingall’s office on March 24, 2006.
The goal of the project is to “establish international trade and cultural exchange linkages with Osun State in Nigeria,” ultimately establishing a Sister City relationship. Osun’s Village will run from Northwest 54th Street to Northwest 79th Street on Seventh Avenue in Liberty City. The African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor will run from Northwest 36th Street to Northwest 79th Street on Seventh Avenue in Liberty City and will “provide a much-needed boost to revitalizing the economy” of that community.
Styles, who traced his ancestry to the Yoruba and Nupe tribes, showed a deep interest in Nigeria during his studies in Rome over 20 years ago. He is currently in Nigeria preparing to bring a delegation of more than 30 to 45 Nigerian dignitaries to Miami within the next two weeks to establish an official relationship between Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida and Osun State, Nigeria.
Styles, Harlan Woodard and I established a relationship just after Styles began dreaming of creating this wonderful cultural and tourism destination in the heart of the urban core. In fact, they graciously welcomed the Kenyan delegation when I brought them here in 2006.
The Kenyan delegation was headed by the daughter of the then-vice president of Kenya, who had bestowed upon me the title of trade and travel goodwill ambassador to Kenya.
When we welcome the Nigerian delegation, it will be another step forward in developing relationships with the African Diaspora and stimulating economic growth in Miami.
Many have complained about the seeming lack of concern about the poverty-stricken urban core, while right under their noses there is a flurry of activity. This activity is soon to bring opportunities to those with enough vision to know that the train has not passed by them.
While conflict and sensationalism sells media space, just underneath the surface of overexposed stories of crime and poverty, a dream has taken root, and the resultant palm tree will soon blossom for all to see, thanks to a handful of visionaries.
Let’s hope that the media can see what we see: that there are millions of little bright lights in the midst of the darkness.
Barbara Howard is president of Barbara Howard & Associates and the Florida state chair for C.O.R.E. (the Congress of Racial Equality).