addonis-web.jpgMIAMI — Central Negro District. Washington Heights. The Sticks. Live in Miami and none of these names ring a bell? Don’t worry. These predecessors for the name of the community we now call Overtown were just a few of the many tidbits discussed during the Community Conversations series hosted monthly by the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida.

On Dec. 30, the last conversation of 2012 drew a standing room only crowd into the Historic Ward Cultural Tourist Gallery where guests were treated to hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, smooth jazz and a compelling presentation from 85-year-old Miami pioneer Edna Johnson Williams about life as she knew it in Overtown between the years of 1925-1946.

Joining Williams on the program were famed Miami artist Addonis Parker and South Florida Times’ Executive Editor Mohamed Hamaludin. Parker discussed his experiences as a black artist in South Florida, including the relationships he had with late iconic local artists Purvis Young and Oscar Thomas. Hamaludin received a milestone tribute for his notable 28-year journalism career at some of South Florida’s best known newspaper organizations.

The conversations are dedicated to focusing on Black Miami from 1896 to the present while simultaneously celebrating milestone birthdays and anniversaries of individuals and organizations.

“We are just so excited that there are so many pioneers and new people who have come to this community that have stories to tell,” said Black Archives founder Dorothy Fields. This is a chance to share those stories and provide an opportunity for young people to know more about their community as they help shape the future.”

Past conversations have featured Marian Shannon – a former teacher at Booker T. Washington who was the last standing president of the Black Parent Teacher Association for the state of Florida before integration – and Floyd Jordan, the first black fire chief for the city of Miami and author of the book TRIUMPH.

Tim Barber, executive director of the Black Archives, said the lecture series was developed to provide a platform where scholars and pioneers could come together with community members for stimulating discussion about Miami’s black history.

“This is one of many things we wanted to do. We wanted to provide a space where people could come together and share a moment and spur activity in the Overtown area as we wait on the Lyric to be completed,” Barber said. “We try to stay with current events taking place in the black community at the time of the conversation, identifying hot spots and hot points we can feature.”

Barber also said Black Archives’ initiatives such as Community Conversations, Overtown Walking Tours and their Take a Seat Campaign – through which individuals can pay to sponsor a seat at the Lyric –  are being used to drum up an audience and raise finances to support their mission and help operate the Lyric.

“We’re anticipating that the Lyric will be open in the fall of 2013, but we didn’t want to wait until then to start developing an audience. By having events like this, we can already have an audience once the Lyric opens,” Barber said.

According to Barber, the series is drawing a larger crowd every month and is a good segue into other components they will introduce in 2013.

“It’s really growing. We are seeing more and more people come out and bring others. They are enjoying coming back to Overtown to talk about Overtown. People are starting to see the vision that Dr. Fields had so many years ago as to what (Overtown) could be. It is really expanding and we really appreciate that,” Barber said.

Fields agreed with Barber and said she is pleased with where her successor is taking the organization she founded in 1977.

“It’s one thing to have an idea and have others show interest. It’s another thing to have someone come in and move it to the next level. Tim Barber has done that. Each time it gets better. We’re excited that so many people have come and we encourage more people to support our efforts,” Fields said.

The next community conversation is set for Jan. 27 from 2 – 4 p.m. at the Historic Ward Cultural Tourist Gallery. It will feature Delta Sigma Theta Sorority as they celebrate their centennial anniversary, and ICABA, a global multimedia organization connecting accomplished black professionals and entrepreneurs. It is free and open to the public.

For more information visit or call 305-636-2390.